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Unemployment and inflation both continued to rise. Nixon began to consider deficit spending, or spending more money in a year than the government receives in revenues. In this way he hoped to stimulate the economy.
Finally, in an attempt to slow the high rate of inflation, the President imposed a 90-day freeze on wages, prices, and rents in August 1971, and a 60-day general price freeze in June 1973. Pressure from business and labor, however, led him to lift these controls, and inflation again soared.
At the time, Americans depended on cheap, imported oil for about a third of their energy needs.
Unrest in the Middle East turned the energy problem into a crisis. In 1973, Israel and the Arab nations of Egypt and Syria went to war. The United States backed its ally Israel. In response, the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo, or ban, on the shipping of oil to the United States. OPEC, a group of nations that cooperates to set oil prices and production levels, also quadrupled its prices. The cost of foreign oil skyrocketed.
Higher oil prices, in turn, worsened inflation. A loaf of bread that had cost 28 cents earlier in the 1970’s now cost 89 cents. Americans had paid 25 cents a gallon for gas but now paid 65 cents. Consumers reacted to the higher prices by cutting back on spending. The result was a recession.
President Nixon hoped to halt the growth of government spending by cutting back or shutting down some of the social programs that had mushroomed under Johnson’s Great Society.
On the one hand, he wanted to please conservative voters who demanded cutbacks. On the other hand, he hoped to appeal to traditionally Democratic blue-collar voters and others who favored social programs.
Nixon called for a new partnership between the federal government and the state governments known as the New Federalism. Under this policy, states would assume greater responsibility for the well-being of their own citizens.
Nixon believed he had little to gain by supporting advances in civil rights. Few African Americans had voted for him in the 1960 race against John Kennedy, and in 1968, he had won just 12 percent of the black vote. Besides, he reasoned, any attempt to appeal to black voters might cost him the support of many white southern voters.
Another controversial racial issue was the use of busing to end school segregation. In several cities, federal courts ordered school systems to bus students to other schools in order to end the pattern of all-black or all-white schools. Particularly in northern cities, such as Detroit and Boston, some white students and their parents responded to busing with boycotts or violent protests.
In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the Court agreed, saying that busing was one possible option for ending school segregation. Nixon, who had long opposed busing, then went on t.v. to say he would ask Congress to halt it. Nixon’s refusal to enforce the Court ruling did not halt busing in the country, but his opposition did limit it.
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong of Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m.
The Apollo 11 crew included Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., who landed with Armstrong in the Eagle, and Michael Collins, who remained in the Apollo 11 command module circling the moon.
Aldrin joined Armstrong in the two-hour walk, during which they collected rock and soil samples and set up scientific instruments to monitor conditions on the moon. They also photographed the landing sit, a dusty plain in an area called the Sea of Tranquility.
The Eagle and its crew stayed on the moon for 21 hours and 36 minutes before lifting off to rejoin Collins for the return trip. After a safe splashdown, the astronauts were quarantined for 18 days to ensure they had not picked up any unknown lunar microbes.
While Nixon had a keen understanding of foreign policy, he relied heavily on Henry Kissinger in charting his course. By the time Nixon appointed Kissinger Secretary of State in 1973, he was a dominant figure in the administration.
Kissinger’s efforts in ending the Vietnam War and easing Cold War tensions made him a celebrity. He shared the 1973 Nobel peace prize with North Vietnam’s Le DucTho (who refused it).
Nixon and Kissinger’s greatest accomplishment was bringing about détente, or a relaxation in the tensions, between the United States and the world’s two Communist giants. China and the Soviet Union were sworn enemies of the United States.
In April 1971, an American table-tennis team accepted a Chinese invitation to visit the mainland, beginning what would be called “ping pong diplomacy.”
In July 1971, after extensive secret diplomacy by Kissinger, Nixon made the dramatic announcement that he planned to visit China the following year. He would be the first United States President ever to travel to the country.
Several months after his 1972 China trip, Nixon visited the Soviet Union. He received as warm a welcome in Moscow as he had in Beijing. In a series of friendly meetings between Nixon and Premier Leonid I. Brezhnev, the two nations reached several decisions. They agreed to work together to explore space, eased longstanding trade limits, and completed negotiations on a weapons pact.
The first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, known as SALT I, included a five-year agreement that froze the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) at 1972 levels.
While Congress approved SALT I and the treaty went into effect, some government officials were troubled by the agreement. They worried that the treaty’s limitation on missiles might leave the U.S. unprepared to defend itself in an emergency. One solution was to improve conventional weapons, which were not limited by the treaty. Therefore, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird made the Pentagon’s approval contingent on a commitment to move ahead with plans to build a better bomber and a larger submarine.
At the same time, both the United States and the Soviet Union began to develop a new technology that used multiple nuclear warheads on a single missile, and was correspondingly more destructive.
SALT I was a triumph for the Nixon administration and an important step forward. Yet it did not reduce the number of warheads the two nations possessed. Nor did it stop them from improving nuclear weapons in other ways. SALT I paved the way for more progress in the future.
The Enemies List- One result of this mind-set was what became known as the “enemies list.” Special counsel Charles W. Colson helped develop a list of prominent people who were seen as unsympathetic to the administration.
In 1969, someone in the National Security Council appeared to have leaked secret information to the New York Times . In response, Nixon ordered Henry Kissinger to install wiretaps, or listening devices, on the telephones of several members of his own staff.
Determined to ensure Nixon’s victory in 1972, the Committee to Reelect the President used similarly questionable tactics. Headed by John Mitchell, who resigned as Attorney General to assume command, the Committee launched a special fund-raising campaign. It wanted to collect as much money as possible before a new law made it necessary to report such contributions. The money would fund both routine campaign activities and unethical actions hidden from the public.
In 1972, people on the Committee payroll made up a letter attempting to discredit Edmund Muskie, a Democratic senator from Maine and a leading presidential contender. Then they leaked the letter to a conservative New Hampshire newspaper.
Charging Muskie with making insulting remarks about French Canadians living in the state, the letter was timed to arrive two weeks before the New Hampshire primary. The letter also claimed the Muskie’s wife was an alcoholic. The normally composed Muskie broke down in tears in front of TV cameras, seriously hurting his candidacy.
Attempts such as this to sabotage Nixon’s political opponents came to be known as “dirty tricks.” They included sending hecklers to disrupt Democratic campaign meetings and assigning spies to join the campaigns of major candidates.
One scheme called for wiretapping Democrats to try to find damaging information about delegates at their convention. Finally, in March 1972, he approved a different idea, Liddy would oversee the wiretapping of phones at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C.
The first break-in to install illegal listening devices failed. A second attempt early on the morning of June 17, 1972, ended with the arrest of the five men involved. One suspect was James McCord, a former CIA employee working as a security officer for the Committee to Reelect the President. The Wategate burglars carried money that could be linked to the Committee, thus tying the break-in directly to Nixon’s reelection campaign.
When the FBI traced the money carried by the Watergate burglars to the reelection committee, Nixon contacted the CIA. He authorized that organization to try to persuade the FBI to stop its investigation on the grounds that the matter involved “national security.” This action would come back to haunt the President. Although he had not been involved in planning the break-in, Nixon was now part of the illegal cover-up. The break-in and the cover-up became known as the Watergate Scandal
In the months following the Watergate break-in, the incident barely reached the public’s notice. Behind the scenes in the White House, some of the President’s closest aides worked feverishly to keep the truth hidden.
In the summer of 1972, Nixon advisors H.R. Haldeman, John Ehlrichman, John Mitchell, and others launched a scheme to bribe the Watergate defendants. They distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal “hush money” to buy their silence. Also, to shield the President, Mitchell and other top officials coached the defendants about how to commit perjury by lying under oath in court.
The trial of the Watergate burglars began in January 1973 before Judge John J. Sirica. All the defendants either pleaded guilty or were found guilty.
In March 1973, just before the judge handed down the sentences, Nixon personally approved of the “hush money” to defendant E. Howard Hunt.
To prompt the burglars to talk, Sirica sentenced them to long prison terms, up to 40 years. Their sentences could be reduced, he suggested, if they cooperated with the upcoming Senate hearings on Watergate.
In February 1973, a Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities had begun to investigate the Watergate affair. James McCord, one of the convicted Watergate burglars, responded to his lengthy prison sentence by testifying before the committee in secret session. He gave members a vague sense of what had gone on, and he suggested that Nixon staffers were involved.
As rumors of White House involvement grew, Nixon tried to protect himself. In April 1973, he forced Haldeman and Ehrilichman, his two closest aides to resign. In May 1973, the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, began televised public hearings on Watergate.
John Dean, the President’s legal counselor, sought to save himself by testifying that Nixon knew about the cover-up. Other staffers described illegal activities at the White House.
The most dramatic moment came when Alexander Butterfield, a former presidential assistant, revealed the existence of a secret taping system in the President’s office that recorded all meetings and telephone conversations. The system had been set up to provide a historical record of Nixon’s presidency. Now those audiotapes could show whether or not Nixon had been involved in the cover-up.
In an effort to demonstrate honesty, Nixon agreed in May 1973 to the appointment of a special Watergate prosecutor. A special prosecutor works for the Justice Department but conducts an independent investigation of claims of wrongdoing by government officials. Archibald Cox, a Harvard law professor, took the post and immediately asked for the tapes. Nixon refused to release them. When Cox persisted, Nixon ordered him fired on Saturday, October 20, 1973. This action triggered a series of resignations and firings that became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”
Leon Jaworski of Texas, Cox’s replacement as special prosecutor, also asked for the tapes. Nixon then tried to demonstrate innocence by releasing edited transcripts of some of his White House conversations. He carefully cut out the most damaging evidence.
Vice President Spiro Agnew stood accused of evading income taxes and taking bribes. Early in October 1973, ten days before the “Massacre,” he resigned in disgrace. To succeed Agnew, Nixon named Gerald R. Ford, the House minority Leader.
After the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Congress had begun the process to help them determine if they should impeach the President-to charge him with misconduct while in office.
In July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee, which included 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans, began to hold hearings to determine if there were adequate grounds for impeachment. This debate, like the earlier hearings, was broadcast on national television.
By sizable tallies, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach the President on charges of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and refusal to obey a congressional order to turn over his tapes. To remove him from office, a majority of the full House of Representatives would have to vote for impeachment, and the Senate would then have to hold a trial, with two thirds of the senators present to convict.
On August 5, after a brief delay, Nixon finally obeyed a Supreme Court ruling and released the tapes. They contained a disturbing gap of 18 ½ minutes, during which the conversation had been mysteriously erased. Still, the tapes gave clear evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the cover-up.
Three days later, Nixon appeared on television and painfully announced that he would leave the office of President the next day. On August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned, the first President ever to do so.
When Nixon resigned in August 1974, Ford became the first nonelected President. To fill the vice-presidential vacancy, Ford named former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. This created the unique situation of having both a President and a Vice President who had been appointed, not elected.
All too quickly, Ford lost popular support. Barely a month after Nixon had resigned, Ford pardoned the former President for “all offenses” he might have committed, avoiding further prosecution.
Many of Nixon’s loyalists were facing prison for their role in Watergate. The former President, however, walked away without a penalty. Some people suggested that a bargain had been made when Nixon resigned. Many also criticized the new President’s judgement.
Usually, federal policymakers had to deal with either inflation or unemployment. Most economists believed that each of those trends could balance out the other. For example, a moderate rise in inflation would help lower the rate of unemployment. Now, however, inflation and unemployment both rose, while the economy remained stalled and stagnant. Economists named this new situation stagflation.
By the time Ford assumed the presidency, the country was in a recession, a period in which the economy is shrinking.
Early in October 1974, he sent Congress an economic program called “WIN,” or “Whip Inflation Now.” The President asked Americans to wear red and white “WIN” buttons; to save money, not to spend it; to conserve fuel; and to plant vegetable gardens to counter high grocery store prices. The WIN campaign depended on the people voluntarily changing their everyday actions, but it had no real incentives. It soon faded away.
Unemployment soared to over 8 percent in 1975. Congress then backed an antirecession spending program. Despite his belief in less government spending, Ford backed an increase in umemployment benefits; he also supported a multibillion-dollar tax cut. While the economy did recover slightly, inflation and unemployment remained high.
Ford met with European leaders and was the first American President to visit Japan.
In the Spring of 1975, North Vietnam began a new offensive against the South. Ford asked for military aid to help South Vietnam meet the attack, but Congress rejected his request. Most Americans had no wish to become involved in Vietnam again, and Congress was willing to do anything-including using the War Powers Act if necessary- to make sure the United States stayed out of the war.
By late April, the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon was about to fall. Ford agreed to an American airlift that helped evacuate thousands of Americans and Vietnamese.
In the late 1970’s, more than 40 percent of the oil used in the United States came from other countries. OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, had been raising oil prices steadily since 1973. In April 1977, Carter presented his energy program to Congress and the public. He asked people to save fuel by driving less and using less heat and air conditioning in their homes and offices. He also created a new Cabinet department, the Department of Energy, to coordinate the federal programs promoting conservation and researching new energy sources.
Representatives from states that produced oil and gas fiercely opposed Carter’s energy plan. Many proposals were stalled in Congress for months. In 1978, though, the National Energy Act finally passed.
Israel and Arab nations had fought several wars, most recently in 1967 and 1973. In 1977, though, Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat made a historic visit to Israel to begin negotiations with Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The two men had such different personalities, however, that they had trouble compromising. Carter intervened, sending Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to invite them to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland hills.
At Camp David in September 1978, Carter assumed the role of peacemaker. They finally agreed on a framework for peace that became known as the Camp David Accords. Under the resulting peace treaty, Israel would withdraw from the Sinai peninsula, which it had occupied since 1967. Egypt, in return, became the first Arab country to recognize Israel’s existence as a nation.
Carter’s stand on human rights angered Soviet leaders, undermining the efforts of the two nations to work together. The Soviets were especially annoyed when the President spoke in support of Soviet dissidents-writers and other activists who criticized the actions of their government. Soviet citizens were denied the right to speak freely or to criticize their political leaders. Carter believed that such right were essential and was outspoken in defending them, even when such a defense caused international friction.
In spite of the discord, a sound round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) led Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to sign a new treaty in June 1979. More complicated than SALT I, this agreement limited the number of nuclear warheads and missiles held by each superpower.
Late in 1979, before the Senate could ratify SALT II, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, a country on its southern boarder, to bolster a Soviet-supported government there. Carter telephoned Brezhnev and told him that the invasion was “a clear threat to the peace.”
A United Nations resolution also called for Soviet withdrawal. Carter halted American grain shipments to the Soviet Union and took other steps to show United States disapproval of Soviet aggression. Realizing SALT II surely would be turned down, he removed the treaty from Senate consideration.
Carter also imposed a boycott on the 1980 summer Oympic Games to be held in Moscow. Eventually, some 60 other nation joined the Olympic boycott.
In January 1979, revolution broke out in Iran. It was led by Muslim fundamentalists, who wanted to bring back traditional ways, and by liberal critics of the shah, who wanted more political and economic reforms. As the revolution spread, the shah fled the country. He was replaced by an elderly Islamic leader, the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, who had been in exile. Khomeini and his followers were aggressively anti-Western and planned to make Iran a strict Islamic state.
In October, out of concern for the shah’s health, Carter let him enter the United States for medical treatment. Many Iranians were outraged. On November 4, 1979, angry followers of Khomeini seized the American embassy in Tehran and took Americans, mostly embassy workers, hostage.
For 444 days, revolutionaries imprisoned 52 hostages in different locations. The prisoners were blindfolded and moved from place to place. Some were tied up and beaten. Others spend time in solitary confinement and faced mock executions intended to terrorize them.
President Carter tried many approaches to secure the hostages’ freedom. He broke diplomatic relations with Iran and froze all Iranian assets in the United States. Khomeini held out, insisting that the shah be sent back for trial. In April 1980, Carter authorized a risky commando rescue mission. It ended in disaster when several helicopters broke down in the desert. In the retreat, two aircraft collided, killing eight American soldiers. The government was humiliated, and Carter’s popularity dropped further. Even after the shah died in July, the standoff continued. Carter’s chances for reelection appeared dim.