The Watergate Conspiracy Essay, Research Paper
The Watergate scandal of the early 1970’s was a scandal of such great proportion that it could have caused our capitalist government to collapse like the Roman Empire. Watergate left the American people feeling used by all politicians. Since their trust was violated, cynicism stayed with the American people for years afterward. It has been proven that Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, hired seven men to break into the Watergate hotel and bug the Democratic headquarters to find out damaging information. When an elusive character named Deep Throat leaked vital information about the break in to the Washington Post, the major investigation that was launched upon the President received more solid evidence to go on. What was thought to be a third rate break in ended up exposing a “vote greedy” president and eventually led to his resignation.
One of the most mysterious characters in the Watergate scandal is the elusive Deep Throat. Deep Throat helped Bob Woodward, a reporter for the Washington Post, expose the scandal to the American people. So the major question, the best-kept secret in American politics is, what is the real identity of Deep Throat? Only four people in the world know the answer; (a) Bob Woodward, (b) his partner Carl Bernstein, (c) executive editor of the Post, Ben Bradle, (d) and the elusive Deep Throat himself (Sussman 43). According to Woodward, Deep Throat wished to remain anonymous, but wanted the American people to know some things about himself.
He is one person, not a composite of several sources. Aware of his own weaknesses, he readily conceded his flaws. He was, incongruously, an incurable gossip, careful to label rumor for what it was, but fascinated by it. He could be rowdy, drink too much, and overreach. He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly for a man in his position. (qtd in Graham 1)
What Deep Throat wanted the American people to know is that he was one man who dared to expose the government for their immoral actions.
On June 17, 1972, 5 men broke into the Watergate hotel where the Democratic National Committee headquarters was. The five men, wearing surgical gloves and carrying wire tapping equipment and other spying devices that would be used in police surveillance were arrested (Boyer 906). Soon after the arrest, it was discovered that these men were receiving funds from CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President). Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, speaking for the organization denied all accusations quoting, “This incident is a third-rate burglary. Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it is (Graham 2).” With help from the unknown source of information, Deep Throat, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, exposed the organization with reports that they hired 50 agents to sabotage the Democrats’ chances to win the 1972 election. Reacting to the Post, Nixon made subtle threats against them.
The Post is going to have damnable, damnable problems out of this one.
They have a television station and they’re going to have to get it renewed [T]he game has to be played awfully rough. I wouldn’t want to be in Edward Bennett Williams’s position after the election. We are going to fix the son of a bitch, believe me. (qtd in Price 2)
With a 77-0 vote, the Senate formed a committee to investigate these reports and bring the truth out.
Even with Deep Throat’s help, Woodward and Bernstein could not prevent the reelection of Nixon in 1972 (Boyer 906). Unfortunately for Nixon, the investigation of his role in the break in began in the spring of 1973 headed by Senator Sam Ervin (North Carolina). Wasting no time in the investigation, Ervin called James McCord, and ex-CIA agent who had taken part in the break in (Matthews). McCord testified that top White House officials had helped to plan the break in and later pay money to have it covered up. With this testimony, the case had blown wide open (Boyer 907). Nixon never saw this bombshell coming, and he never saw the bigger bombs coming at him in months to come.
Starting in May, the Senate hearings began live coverage on television. Millions of Americans were glued to their sets as witnesses gave damaging testimonies against some of the top White House officials (Graham 3). With these testimonies, several officials were sent to jail, but how Nixon was involved was still undetermined. “What did the President know and when did he know it (Boyer 906)?” This was the question Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee asked. In June, Senator Baker got his answer. John Dean, Nixon’s former White House counsel shocked the world with the shocking answer: the president himself had ordered the cover-up (907).
Outraged, Nixon denied the charge, but there was no way to prove him wrong. This was the stalemate the hearing came to until witnesses revealed the truth that Nixon tape recorded his conversations in the White House. Knowing that the truth of the scandal lay in the tapes, the Senate ordered Nixon to give the tapes up (Price 3). Using his constitutional power, Nixon, refusing to give the tapes, cited the separation of power and the need to protect confidential presidential conversations (Sussman 143). He continued later quoting, “Releasing the tapes would endanger national security.” Knowing the President was hiding something, Special Prosecutor Cox dug deeper.
On April 30, 1973, Nixon announced that there had been an effort to conceal him from the facts in the Watergate case and denied any personal knowledge of the cover-up (Matthews). He fully accepted responsibility for Watergate, but he maintained his own innocence in the case.
With all the controversy, the Justice Department gave the White House another punch in the gut. It charged Vice President Spiro Agnew with income-tax evasion (Boyer 907). Knowing that he had no way out of this, Agnew pleaded no contest and resigned from office to suffer minimal punishment. Nixon then nominated Gerald Ford, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, as vice president.
In July 1973, Alexander Butterfield revealed that there was a voice activated recording system in the White House (Matthews). Ironically, the vast majority of conversations the president had were on tape. Just a short amount of time before Agnew resigned, a federal judge ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes or face charges of withholding evidence. Nixon, invoking executive privilege, refused to give the tapes up, but Special Prosecutor Cox demanded that he obey the federal order (Graham 4). Still refusing to give the tapes up, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox (Boyer 907). Knowing that this would cost him his political career, Richardson resigned his office. Nixon then turned to Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to do what Richardson didn’t. Going with the same logic Richardson showed, Ruckelshaus resigned his position as well. The third person Nixon turned to was Solicitor General Robert Bork (Sussman 174). Three times must be a charm because Bork complied with Nixon and fired Cox. This series of events led to what is known as the Saturday Night Massacre and already outraged Americans demanded Nixon’s impeachment.
With his time short, Nixon gave the White House conversation tapes up. One tape was found to have an eighteen-minute gap (Sussman 230). Electronic experts analyzed the tape and testified that the gap was a result of at least 5 different erasures (231). Nixon’s Secretary Rose Mary Woods denied any charge of deliberately erasing the tape. November 17, 1973, Nixon quotes at a press conference the line that people would remember him for; “I am not a crook!” Getting another federal order to give the entire set of tapes up, Nixon refused again. Only months later, the whole truth was given to the American people. The tapes gave strong evidence that Nixon had ordered the cover-up and had authorized illegal activities (Boyer 907). Under pressure, Nixon stayed cool and refused to step down as President. Responding almost immediately, Congress recommended that impeachment charges should be brought up (Graham 5). Accepting his fate, Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974.
The Watergate case spanned over 2 years, but brought a lot of truth to the American people about their government. What this case showed them is how corrupt and power hungry the government officials they elect can be. Following the case, many Americans felt betrayed and used by Nixon (Sussman 265). Trust is one of the most important things a politician can gain from his terms in office. Without trust, a political figure is nothing. Luckily for Nixon, his political reign was just about over, but he lost all respect he gained from his terms in office. Nixon did achieve 2 out of 3 of his goals though. His first goal was to win an election by a landslide. He did this in the election of 1972. This also shows that he would try and sabotage the Democrats’ campaign by illegal acts. His second goal was to be remembered as a peacemaker. With the controversy of the Watergate scandal, many Americans probably won’t remember him for that. His last goal was to be the most memorable president. For this reason, a theory that he was the elusive Deep Throat character was created. It is believed that Nixon leaked the information to the reporters at the Post so that generations to come would learn about Nixon and the Watergate scandal.