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FROM CAMELOT TO WATERGATE. John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s image of youth and vigor his administration prided themselves on being the best and the brightest in reality, however, neither the president nor his administration lived up to the image. The Cuban Crises

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from camelot to watergate
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s image of youth and vigor
  • his administration prided themselves on being the best and the brightest
  • in reality, however, neither the president nor his administration lived up to the image
The Cuban Crises
    • Kennedy believed that his chief task was to stop the spread of communism
    • in a departure from Eisenhower’s reliance on America’s nuclear deterrent, Kennedy proposed to challenge communist aggression wherever it occurred
    • not long after taking power, he authorized an invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles
    • the landing at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 was a complete fiasco
the affair exposed the United States to all the criticism a straightforward assault would have, and it failed to overthrow Castro
  • Castro moved toward the Soviet orbit
  • in June 1961, Kennedy and Khrushchev met in Vienna, where Khrushchev blustered about taking West Berlin
  • in August, Khrushchev ordered construction of the Berlin Wall
  • both sides resumed nuclear testing and built up massive nuclear arsenals
Kennedy also instructed the CIA to initiate “massive activity” against Castro’s regime, which included attempts to assassinate the Cuban dictator
  • in October 1962, Khrushchev placed Soviet troops, bombers, and nuclear missiles in Cuba
  • Kennedy forced a showdown by ordering the United States Navy to halt the shipment of offensive weapons to Cuba
  • the world held its breath for several days until finally Khrushchev backed down
although Kennedy’s supporters regarded this as Kennedy’s finest hour, in retrospect it appears that he overreacted
  • both Kennedy and Khrushchev seem to have been sobered by the missile crisis
  • however, the humiliation Khrushchev suffered contributed to his overthrow by hardliners two years later
The Vietnam War
    • after the French defeat in 1954, the parties agreed to general elections in 1956
    • fearing that Ho Chi Minh would defeat him, Ngo Dinh Diem, the American-backed leader of South Vietnam, cancelled the election and, with American assistance, attempted to build a new nation
    • Viet Minh units that remained in the south (later known as Viet Cong) formed secret cells and waited
    • by the late 1950s, they had gained strength and become more militant
in May 1959, Viet Cong guerrillas began an insurgency that gave them control of large sections of the countryside
  • as a senator, Kennedy had backed Diem; moreover, he wanted to demonstrate his toughness after the Bay of Pigs
  • thus, he began to expand the American commitment to Vietnam
  • by 1963, there were over 16,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam, and 120 American soldiers had been killed
  • in spite of that effort, Diem’s regime was faltering by 1963
a devoted Catholic, Diem cracked down on Buddhists, who resisted
  • Kennedy sent word to dissident Vietnamese generals that he would support them if they ousted Diem
  • the generals took power on November 1 and killed Deim
  • some have argued that Kennedy would not have continued the course on which he embarked
  • the evidence indicates otherwise
“We Shall Overcome”: The Civil Rights Movement
    • Kennedy initially approached the question of race with extreme caution
    • his narrow victory in 1960 depended on votes of both African Americans and white southerners
    • in the post-World War II years, America’s southern blacks embarked on a grass-roots campaign for equality
when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white and was arrested for violating Montgomery, Alabama’s segregation ordinance, the black community responded by boycotting the city’s buses
  • the boycott began in December 1955 and ended with a Supreme Court decision striking down the city’s segregation laws
  • Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a charismatic and gifted orator, emerged as leader of boycott
  • the success in Montgomery inspired blacks across the South
King formed a new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to further the struggle for civil rights
  • in February 1960, four black students staged a “sit-in” at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • this inspired similar actions across the South
  • blacks and whites tested federal regulations prohibiting discrimination on interstate transportation in the “freedom rides” of 1961
  • the protracted struggle gradually broke down legal racial barriers in the South
some African Americans became impatient with the pace of change, and black nationalism became a potent force
  • Elijah Muhammad, leader of Black Muslims, called for the establishment of separate black and white nations and rejected nonviolence
  • in 1963, King and the SCLC staged massive demonstrations in Birmingham, during which King was arrested
  • in jail, King wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
the brutal response to the demonstrations in Birmingham pushed Kennedy to change his policy and lend his support to a modest civil rights bill
  • when the bill stalled in Congress, civil rights groups organized a massive demonstration in Washington, at which King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech
Tragedy in Dallas: JFK Assasination
    • while visiting Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated
    • police apprehended Lee Harvey Oswald, and a mass of evidence linked him to assassination
    • before he could be brought to trial, he was murdered by Jack Ruby
    • investigation headed by Chief Justice Warren concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone
Lyndon Baines Johnson
    • from 1949 until his election as vice-president, Johnson served in the Senate, for most of that time as Senate Democratic leader
    • a master of manipulation, Johnson could use both heavy-handed and subtle approaches to gain his objectives
    • he modeled himself after Franklin Roosevelt and had a commitment to social welfare legislation
in this, he differed markedly from Kennedy
  • Kennedy’s innaugural address made no mention of domestic policy
  • when Congress blocked his modest domestic agenda, Kennedy reacted mildly
  • Johnson sought power because he “wanted to use it”
  • on assuming office, he exploited the atmosphere surrounding Kennedy’s assassination to push an expanded version of Kennedy’s legislative agenda through Congress
The Great Society
    • Johnson pushed through passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an expanded version of Kennedy’s bill
    • aspiring to be a great reformer in the tradition of FDR, Johnson declared war on poverty in America and set out to create a “Great Society” in which poverty would no longer exist
    • the war on poverty intended to give poor people the opportunity to improve themselves
the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created the Job Corps, provided for education for small children, and established work study programs for college students
  • after his sweeping victory over the unabashedly conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964, Johnson pressed for further reforms
  • under his leadership, Congress passed the Medicare Act (1965), the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), and the Voting Rights Act (1965)
other programs provided support for the arts and for scientific research, highway safety, crime control, slum clearance, clean air and water, and the preservation of historic sites
  • while the scope and intent of the Great Society programs were truly remarkable, in practice they often failed to have the impact the president had desired
Johnson Escalates the War
    • after Diem’s assassination the situation in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate
    • in spite of a series of military coups, Johnson believed that he had no choice but to support the regime in South Vietnam
    • alarmed over the growing successes of the Vietcong, President Johnson engaged in a gradual buildup of American forces in Vietnam
Johnson used the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to justify escalation of the Uunited States’ role in Vietnam
  • by the middle of 1968, more than 538,000 Americans were engaged in a full-scale war that Congress had never declared
Opposition to the War
    • some Americans opposed their country’s involvement in Vietnam
    • they objected to the repressive nature of the government of South Vietnam, the massive aerial bombings, the civilian casualties, the cost of the war, and the loss of American lives
    • Johnson refused to ask Congress to raise taxes to pay for the war, which caused inflation
    • his statements about the war were often disingenuous
nevertheless, he and his advisers believed that they were defending freedom
  • although it eventually became evident that military victory was impossible, American leaders were slow to grasp that fact
The Election of 1968
    • opposition to the war grew; it was particularly vehement on college campuses
    • in 1967, Senator Eugene McCarthy, a Democrat from Minnesota, launched a bid for his party’s nomination based on his opposition to the war
    • the Tet Offensive in 1968 and news that the administration was considering a request to dispatch an additional 206,000 American troops to Vietnam dramatically altered the balance of power in the Democratic party
McCarthy won 42 percent of Democrats who voted in the New Hampshire primary
  • after McCarthy’s strong showing, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy entered the Democratic race
  • after much soul-searching, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection
  • Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey then entered the contest
  • McCarthy and Kennedy each won primaries. After winning a narrow victory in California, Kennedy was assassinated
the Democratic party’s convention in Chicago, racked by great turmoil, nominated Humphrey
  • former Vice-President Richard M. Nixon won the Republican nomination and chose Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland as his running mate
  • although far behind in the early stages of the campaign, Humphrey gained ground, and Nixon won the 1968 election with a popular margin of less than 500,000 votes
  • the Independent candidate, George Wallace of Alabama, ran an antiblack, anti-intellectual, and hawkish campaign
  • he received 46 electoral votes and about 13.5 percent of the popular vote
Nixon as President: “Vietnamizing the War”
    • Nixon projected the image of calm, deliberate statesmanship
    • Nixon considered his major challenge to be finding an acceptable solution to the war in Vietnam
    • as a candidate, he pledged to end the war on “honorable terms”
Nixon proposed to build up the South Vietnamese armed forces so that American troops could withdraw without the communists overrunning the South (Vietnamization)
  • United States had failed for 15 years to make South Vietnamese capable of defending themselves
  • at home, the peace movement grew in size and militancy
  • in October and November 1969, hundreds of thousands of peace marchers converged on Washington, D.C., during Moratorium Days
on November 3, in a televised statement, Nixon announced plans to bring home all U.S. ground forces
  • the withdrawal of American troops continued, and a new lottery system for drafting men eliminated some inequities of the old system
  • however, the war continued, and the human costs of a stalemated war along with revelations of atrocities committed by American troops gave new momentum to the peace movement
The Cambodian “Incursion”
    • in April 1970, Nixon announced the withdrawal of another 150,000 American soldiers and declared that Vietnamization was proceeding ahead of schedule
    • one week later, he authorized an incursion into Cambodian territory to destroy communist bases there
    • the nation’s college campuses erupted in protest
    • at Kent State University in Ohio, after days of demonstrations, National Guardsmen killed four students
state police killed two students at Jackson State University in Mississippi
  • a wave of student actions closed hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation
  • faced with this turmoil, the president increased the pace of troop withdrawals, but escalated American bombing raids over North Vietnam
  • he also ordered the mining of Haiphong and other northern ports
Détente With Communism
    • in the midst of his aggressive actions in Vietnam, Nixon and his foreign policy advisor, Henry Kissinger, embarked on an epic diplomatic venture
    • rather than treating communism as a monolith, Nixon and Kissinger dealt with Russia and China as separate powers
    • in February 1972, Nixon became the first American president to visit the People’s Republic of China
he followed this unprecedented move by meeting with the Soviet leadership in Moscow
  • Nixon returned from Moscow with a treaty calling for limiting of strategic arms (SALT)
  • this new policy, known as détente, meant a relaxation of tensions
  • it enabled the United States to play off the two communist superpowers against each other
  • by October 1972, Kissinger had negotiated a draft settlement with the North Vietnamese
  • shortly before the election, he announced that “peace was at hand”
Nixon in Triumph
    • Nixon won a landslide victory over Democratic nominee, George McGovern, in 1972
    • McGovern’s campaign had been hampered by factionalism within his party, his bumbling oratorical style, and his tendency to advance poorly thought out proposals
    • Nixon blew huge holes in Democratic coalition
    • he won in the South and among northern blue-collar workers
with his anti-inflationary policies, détente, and prospects of peace in Vietnam, Nixon appeared to be a successful and powerful president
  • however, Kissinger’s agreement with the North Vietnamese fell apart when Nguyen Van Thieu, South Vietnam's president, refused to sign it
  • after attempting to extract more favorable terms from the North Vietnamese by ordering extensive bombing of the North, Nixon finally reached a settlement with the North Vietnamese in January 1973
  • the United States lost more than 57,000 lives and spent more than $150 billion in Vietnam
The Economy Under Nixon
    • the most serious issue Nixon faced was the high rate of inflation caused primarily by the large military outlays of the Johnson administration and its refusal to raise taxes
    • Nixon balanced the 1969 federal budget, and the Federal Reserve Board raised interest rates
    • prices continued to rise, however, and in 1970 Congress passed legislation giving the president power to regulate wages and prices
    • although Nixon did not favor this legislation, he implemented it the following year
phase II of his anti-inflationary policies involved the creation of a pay board and a price commission to limit wage and price increases after the freeze ended
  • inflation slowed but did not stop
  • Nixon did not pursue a rigidly conservative course
  • he proposed a bold plan for a minimum income for poor families, which alarmed his conservative supporters and failed to pass Congress
the president signed the Clean Air Act of 1970 and legislation creating the Environmental Protection Agency
  • on the other hand, Nixon’s southern strategy sought the support of southern conservative Democrats by pulling back on the federal government’s commitment to school desegregation and by appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court
  • his attempts to effect a conservative shift in the Supreme Court were less than successful
while the new Burger Court was somewhat less liberal than its predecessor, it did not mount a conservative counterrevolution
  • after his triumphant reelection and withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, Nixon attempted to change the direction in which the nation had been moving for decades
  • while strengthening the presidency vis-a-vis Congress, he sought to decentralize administration by returning various functions to state and local government
he also set out to reduce the role of government in people’s lives
  • these aims brought him into conflict with liberals of both parties
  • in an effort to combat inflation, Nixon set a limit on federal spending
  • to keep within that limit, he impounded (refused to spend) funds Congress had appropriated
  • Critics began to grumble about an “imperial presidency”
The Watergate Break-in
    • on March 19, 1973, James McCord, an employee of the Committee to Re-Elect the president (CREEP) and accused burglar, wrote a letter to Judge John Sirica revealing that high level Republican officials had prior knowledge of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972
    • Nixon denied the involvement of anyone in the White House
soon after, however, Jeb Stuart Magruder, head of CREEP, and John W. Dean III, legal counsel to the president, admitted their involvement
  • subsequent to these revelations, Nixon dismissed Dean; and most of the president’s closest advisers, including H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Richard Kleindienst, resigned
  • Dean then charged that the president had participated in an attempted cover-up of the affair
subsequent grand jury investigations and the findings of a Senate investigation headed by Sam Ervin of North Carolina revealed that the president had acted to obstruct investigations into the matter
  • investigations also revealed that the president and his staff had abused the powers of their offices and orchestrated a vast array of illegal and unethical practices during the election campaign
  • the Senate Watergate committee learned of the existence of tapes Nixon had made of White House conversations
Nixon refused to surrender tapes to committee
  • this led to calls for his resignation, even impeachment
  • in response, Nixon appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the affair
  • Archibald Cox, the prosecutor, soon aroused the president’s ire by seeking access to records, including the tapes
  • Nixon ordered Cox fired
rather than dismiss Cox, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, resigned
  • Robert Bork, the solicitor general, carried out Nixon’s order
  • the “Saturday Night Massacre” outraged public
  • the House Judiciary Committee considered impeachment
  • Nixon backed down; he named new prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, and turned tapes over to Sirica
  • however, some of the tapes were missing, and an important section of another had been deliberately erased
More Trouble for Nixon
    • as the Watergate drama unfolded, a number of unrelated crises emerged
    • food prices soared, in part because of grain shortages caused by massive sales to the Soviets
    • Vice-President Agnew, champion of law and order, resigned after pleading nolo contendere to charges of accepting bribes and committing tax fraud while serving in public office in Maryland
Nixon nominated, and Congress confirmed, Gerald Ford, a congressman from Michigan, as vice-president
  • Nixon’s integrity was further tarnished after revelations that he had taken huge tax deductions on the donation of his vice-presidential papers to the National Archives and that millions of dollars of public funds had been used to renovate his private homes in Florida and California
The Judgment on Watergate: “Expletive Deleted”
    • in March 1974, a federal grand jury indicted Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and four other White House aides on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Watergate investigations
    • Nixon was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator”
    • Nixon released edited transcripts of the White House tapes to the press
    • not only were the tapes incriminating, they also exposed a sordid side of Nixon’s character
even some of his strongest supporters demanded Nixon’s resignation
  • moreover, once Judiciary Committee obtained the tapes, it became clear that the transcripts had excluded material adverse to the president
  • in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee, in televised proceedings, voted to adopt three articles of impeachment against the president
  • Nixon was charged with obstructing justice, abusing the powers of his office, and failing to comply with the committee’s subpoenas
on the eve of the debates, the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to turn over 64 additional tapes to the special prosecutor
  • Nixon considered defying the Court but, in the end, complied
  • the tapes proved conclusively that Nixon had been in on the cover-up from its earliest stages
  • virtually all of his remaining support in Congress evaporated
The Meaning of Watergate
    • facing certain impeachment and conviction, on August 9, 1974, Nixon became first president to resign; Gerald Ford became president
    • shortly after taking office, Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he had committed in office
    • Nixon’s policy of détente marked an easing of cold war tensions; failure of his interventionist domestic policies signaled growing disillusionment with Johnsons Great Society