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The Watergate Scandal: Did the System Work?. How the Watergate Scandal upheld the principle no man is above the law, and led to a series of reforms to restrain executive power, but also produced unintended consequences for American politics. Please turn your Cells Phones Off.

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The Watergate Scandal: Did the System Work?

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The watergate scandal did the system work l.jpg

The Watergate Scandal: Did the System Work?

How the Watergate Scandal upheld the principle no man is above the law, and led to a series of reforms to restrain executive power, but also produced unintended consequences for American politics

Please turn your cells phones off l.jpg

Please turn your Cells Phones Off

Senator Ervin says

turn off your cell

phones or face

impeachment from

the class!

Senator Sam Ervin, Jr.

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Themes and Topics

  • Role of Government

    • Presidential Leadership Methods for Conducting Foreign Policy: Nixon's "realpolitik" and Detente Foreign Policies

    • Political Impact of Watergate on American Politics

    • Congressional Challenges to the "Imperial Presidency"

  • Cultural Change

    • Growing Skepticism toward Authority and Tradition in 1970s

    • Role of the Media in Challenging Authority*

*New Topic

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The Election of 1972

George McGovern v. Richard Nixon      

TV ads: View the Political Ads for Nixon and McGovern: - 4037

Nixon's landslide: View the Electoral Map

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The Watergate Affair

  • A presidential resignation, the first and only one in US history

    • Richard M. Nixon

    • August 9, 1974

  • What caused it? Three resolutions of impeachment passed by the House Judiciary Committee in late July 1974

    • Obstruction of Justice

    • Abuse of Power

    • Violations of the Separation of Powers

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Historiography on the Watergate Scandal

  • Points of view on the Watergate Scandal

    • Liberal interpretation

      • Democracy versus Despotism

      • Lesson: No Man is Above the Law

    • Conservative interpretation

      • National Security State versus Détente

      • Lesson: Nixon was destroyed by the Establishment

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CREEP, The Nixon Team

John Mitchell,

Head of

Committee to

Reelect the


Maurice Stans,

Sec. of Commerce

and Finance

Chairman for

Nixon’s campaign

(R) Robert (Bob) Haldeman

and (L) John Erlichman,

White House Chief of Staff

and Domestic Advisor

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The Plumbers

  • Nixon set up the plumbers to investigate leaks in his administration

    • Secret Cambodian Bombing, 1969

    • Pentagon Papers, 1971

    • Watergate Break-in, 1972

G. Gordon Liddy

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Republican Dirty Tricks

  • Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP)

    • Donald Segretti manages “ratfucking” campaign during Democratic Primaries

      • Object: to influence candidate Nixon would face in November

    • Extortion and Shakedowns

Donald Segretti

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Watergate Break-In

  • On June 1, 1972, during the National Democratic Convention, a team of five burglars placed listening devices in the offices of the Democratic National Headquarters

  • The team was discovered and arrested

  • Who were they and why were they placing bugs?

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Journalists Investigate

  • Two Beat reporters for the Washington Post metro section

  • Aided by a Whistle-blower Woodward called “Deep throat”

  • 1976 published “All the President’s Men”

Bob Woodward and Carl

Bernstein, Washington Post

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Plumbers Go To Court

The five burglars

  • Role of Judge John J. Sirica

  • The bribery of the Plumbers to not talk

  • The Trial of the Watergate Burglars

  • Grand Jury indictments

All the President’s Men

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Congress Investigates

  • Mike Mansfield, Senate Majority Leader pledge to investigate

  • Senate creates a special Senate Select Committee on Campaign Practices

  • Hearings begin May 17, 1973, dominated news May-July 1973

Led by North Carolina Senator Sam

Ervin, the Senate Watergate

Committee linked CREEP to the

White House and revealed Tapes

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The Nixon Tapes

  • Alexander Butterfield revealed Nixon Tapes to Senate Judiciary Committee

  • What did the Tapes reveal?

    • Burglary

    • Bugging

    • Extortion

    • Pattern of lying

    • Cover-up

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Nixon Resigns

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Critical Thinking Question

  • Did the system work to bring a rouge President to heal?

    • Yes

      • The Congress, the Judicial system, and the media demonstrated the power of the rule of law to check abusive power

      • The reforms enacted to restrain power restore separation of powers and sunshine to government conduct

    • No

      • The investigation and punishment of wrong-doing was limited and ineffectual

      • The reforms enacted to restrain power were ineffectual

      • The long term consequences of what was revealed by the Watergate Scandal set the stage for lasting cynicism toward Americans leaders

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Final Mystery: Who Was Deep Throat?

  • Deep throat, the most famous whistle-blower in US history

  • Source of insider information on Watergate affair for two Washington Post reporters

  • Best kept secret in Washington history

Mark Felt, Former FBI Official

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  • The Watergate Scandal helps explain Nixon’s success in the 1972 election

  • Nixon’s resignation demonstrated the vitality of the Congress, the judiciary, and the media as checks on unrestrained power

  • The long term consequences of the scandal were muted by ineffectual reforms, the loss of media independence, and a growing cynicism about politics and leadership

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