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’s Men Essay, Research Paper

All The President’s Men

Richard Nixon’s first term as president will always be connected with the Watergate scandal, the biggest political scandal in United States history. Various illegal activities were conducted including burglary, wire tapping, violations of campaign financing laws, sabotage, and attempted use of government agencies to harm political opponents to help Richard Nixon win reelection in the 1972 presidential elections. There were about 40 people charged with crimes related to the scandal. Most of them were convicted by juries or pleaded guilty. Watergate involved more high-level government officials than any previous scandal. It has been etched in the minds of millions and is still being recalled today when faced with the present day scandal of President Clinton. In All The President’s Men, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, former Washington Post reporters, recount, illustrate, and analyze the Watergate scandal time and their work in reporting and revealing these events for the newspaper.

The story begins on “June 17, 1972. Nine o’clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone (13).” The telephone rings to awaken Bob Woodward. His editor wakes Woodward to inform him about a break-in at the Democratic headquarters that occurred late the previous night. The authorities arrested five men, one White House employee and four Cuban-American Miami citizens. They were found to be in the possession of high-tech surveillance and communication devices, along with hundreds of dollars, mostly in $100 bills in sequential order. In addition, the authorities also discovered two address books, a telephone number for Howard E. Hunt, consultant to the White House. The listing had small notations “W. House” and “W.H. (22).” This was the first indication that the President and his cabinet might be involved in this burglary. Woodward and Bernstein investigated this White House connection. As they delve deeper into this lead, they continuously discover larger crimes where more of the prominent White House staff was involved.

Woodward and Bernstein print all their findings in their articles in the Washington Post. The tremendous pressure on Nixon through their in-depth articles, along with the FBI’s investigations of him and his cabinet, ultimately led to the President’s resignation.

When Bernstein and Woodward were writing this book and their articles, they must have had some idea of the significance of their work. After all, they were printing a series of articles that pointed straight to the President. At this time, only one other impeachment inquiry existed, so Bernstein and Woodward’s work had to be as accurate as possible. They made sure of this through a few precautionary measures. First, they agreed never to let an article go to print unless they both fully agreed the article was worthy of printing should. When they were investigating the truth of a fact or statement, they always made sure that they checked it with at least two sources. When they made a large implication, such as that of H.R. Haldeman, Assistant to the President, they investigated with as many as four or five sources. To make sure that they were not overly ambitious or biased, they frequently ran their story ideas, topics, and facts, over with their editors, Sussman and Rosenfeld.

All The President’s Men was fair and detailed, which adds significantly to their credibility, which was the purpose they protected and looked out for. Woodward and Bernstein had a motivation driving their investigation and reporting that was very unlike any that could be found today. They seemed to be enticed by their love for writing and strife for the truth. Today, some journalists seem to be motivated by fame, wealth, or politics. Many people would have written those articles simply to go down in history books or to bring down high officials for personal gain. This aspect did not appear to be present in All The President’s Men. Bernstein and Woodward are acknowledged as being the ones to uncover Nixon’s “dirty tricks.” The authors did not present Watergate as a scandal or an attempt to smear President Nixon’s image. While they were uncovering these events, they must have been considering the political uproar Watergate would cause as well as the political precedent it set. Comparing today’s investigations of Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon, Woodward and Bernstein must be a little reluctant for immediate removal. In comparison, Nixon covered up his rigging of elections and destruction campaigns. Clinton covered up his inappropriate affair.

Introduction. It led to the conviction of former Attorney General John Mitchell and two of Nixon’s top aides, John Erlichmen and H.R. Haldeman, in 1975. Former Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans, a leader of Nixon’s reelection campaign pleaded guilty to Watergate criminal charges and was fined $5000. Watergate also resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Richard Kleindienst in 1973. The Beginning Watergate really began in 1969 when the White House staff made up a list of enemies. This so-called “enemies list” was kept of people the president’s men wanted retribution on. Nixon had adversaries that included 200 liberal politicians, journalists, and actors. When people made public speeches against Vietnam, agents found out secret information about them that would harm them. The Nixon campaign routinely engaged in unethical “dirty tricks.” These deceptions were led by White House staffers Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President; Deputy Campaign Director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) Jeb Magruder; Dwight Chapin, Deputy Assistant to the President; and Donald Segretti, an attorney. These corrupt antics included following Democratic political candidates, assembling reports on their personal lives, forged letters on candidates’ letterheads, altering schedules of campaign appearances, placing harassing phone calls, and manufacturing false information then leaking it to the press. The goal of these tricks was to help eliminate the strongest candidates from the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire the campaign of front-runner, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine was ruined. False rumors were circulated to newspapers. The day before election s Muskie lashed out at the press. This damaged Muskie’s even-tempered reputation and contributed to his failure to win the 1972 Democratic nomination for the president. Special Investigations Unit The Special Investigations Unit, better known as the “plumbers unit,” was created as a result of the Pentagon Papers being leaked to the New York Times in June of 1971. The Pentagon Papers were secret defense department documents on the American involvement in the Vietnam War. They revealed a pattern of government deception related to Vietnam. Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the staff of the National Security Adviser, leaked the Papers to the New York Times Henry Kissinger. The Nixon administration responded by stopping publication of the papers and charging Ellsberg with espionage. The plumbers were to block news leaks and control public knowledge of Vietnam policy. President Richard Nixon ordered domestic policy advisor, John Erlichman, to streamline leak plugging by creating this plumbers unit. Erlichman’s deputy, Egil Krogh, Jr. and David Young, a member of the National Security Council staff, hired former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy and former CIA operative E. Howard Hunt to run their illegal secret operation. Plumbers set wiretaps, opened mail, and conducted break-ins in order to gain information about leaking. They targeted political enemies of the Nixon administration for harassment. Ellsberg was at the top of that list. In September of 1971, the plumbers unit broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. They wanted to find degrading information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial. The case against Ellsberg was dismissed because of this burglary. The Break-In On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The men were adjusting electronic equipment that they had installed in May. The police apprehended a walkie-talkie, forty rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-sized teargas guns, and bugging devices. Four of the men who were arrested came from Miami, Florida. They were Bernard Barker, Frank Sturgis, Virgillio Gonzalez, and Eugenio Martinez. The other man was James McCord, security coordinator for CRP. The two co-plotters were Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt. Their arrest eventually uncovered a White House-sponsored plan of surveillance of political opponents and a trail of conspiracy that led to many of the highest officials in the land. A secret fund that contained more than $300,000 was designated for sensitive political projects. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, Herbert Porter (Scheduling Director, CRP), H.R. Haldemen (President’s chief of staff), and Herbert Kalmbach (Deputy Finance Chairman, CRP) had control of the fund. All were principal assistants of John Mitchell, Campaign Director, CRP. This money was kept in a special account at CRP. They were funds for Watergate espionage. A $25,000 cashier’s check intended as a contribution to the Nixon reelection effort was deposited into a Miami bank account of Bernard Barker in 1972. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, ordered an immediate audit of the Nixon campaign finances. The audit report concluded that former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, the chief Nixon fund-raiser, had an illegal cash fund of $350,000 in his office safe. The $25,000 from the cashier’s check and another $89,000 from four Mexican checks passed through that fund. This cash supply was used, in part, as an intelligent-gathering fund. Campaign Contributions The Watergate money trail exposed a multitude of Nixon administration financial crimes and illegalities. The serial numbers on the money the Watergate burglars carried (as well as the name of their paymaster, Howard Hunt, found in the address book of one of the burglars) led investigators to a Miami bank and an account set up by the Campaign to Re-elect the President. Eventually investigators would examine the records of the activities of Maurice Stans, former attorney general John Mitchell, and Secretary of the Treasury John Connally. They discovered a host of unethical and allegedly illegal campaign fund-raising operations. Major corporations were told to contribute at least 100,000 dollars each. It was understood that the donations could easily buy the companies influence with the White House. Many large corporations went along. Connally accepted bribes from a dairy organization eager to have the Nixon administration increase price supports. There were also efforts to pressure corporate contributors by threatening investigation by the Internal Revenue Service or Environmental Protection Agency, attempts to avoid contributor disclosure laws, and offers of favorable legislation in return for campaign contributions. Eighteen corporations and twenty-one corporate executives admitted making illegal contributions for the 1972 campaign. Kalmbach acknowledged raising and distributing large sums of money that were later used for illegal purposes. He promised an ambassador a better assignment in return for a $100,000 contribution. The International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation made a $400,000 campaign contribution in return for a settlement of an antitrust suit. Maurice Stans later pleaded guilty to charges relating to illegal handling of campaign funds. Cover-up Immediately following James McCord’s arrest, members of the Nixon administration began a cover-up of McCord’s connection with the White House. Memos and written files connecting him and his superior, Hunt, to the White House were destroyed. More than $187,000 in bribes – “hush money” – was paid to Hunt, McCord, and the other burglars to keep them from discussing their ties to the White House. Jeb Magruder and John Mitchell denied any association to Hunt and McCord before a grand jury. A cover story was made up by White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, domestic policy assistant John Erlichman, and the president’s lawyer John Dean. They were to say that the burglary was part of a CIA operative, vital to national security. On June 23, 1972, President Nixon authorized the cover-up, but the CIA refused to cooperate. So the Nixon administration successfully applied political pressure to delay several trials and investigations of the burglary until early 1973. Nixon ordered his aides to block any information to investigators. Magruder and others destroyed incriminating documents and testified falsely to official investigators. L. Patrick Gray, acting director of the FBI, destroyed documents given to him by Ehrlichman and Dean. Collapse of the Cover-up In January of 1973 seven indicted men were tried before Judge John Sirica in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C. Four of the men arrested the night of the burglary plead guilty along with Howard Hunt. James McCord and Gordon Liddy were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping. The United States Senate then voted to conduct an investigation of political espionage. During hearings on his nomination to be permanent director of the FBI, L. Patrick Gray revealed that he had given FBI Watergate files to John Dean. His testimony suggested that other top White House aides were involved in confidential activities. In March and April Nixon met with top aides to plan responses to the Gray announcements and to prepare for investigations. Howard Hunt issued a threat to tell about the plumbers’ activities unless he received hush money. $75,000 was advanced to Hunt that night. White House involvement in the Watergate burglary did not become evident until James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica. In this letter McCord explained that he wanted to disclose the details of Watergate. The letter made charges that witnesses had committed perjury at the trial and that defendants were pressured to plead guilty and remain silent. McCord implicated Dean and Magruder in the break-in. They accused other White House and CRP officials in return. Investigators were told that Mitchell approved the break-in. They also learned that transcripts of conversations taped at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters were given to Gordon Strachan, staff assistant to Haldeman, for delivery to Haldeman. Erlichman ordered the destruction of documents. On April 30, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Dean resigned. The White House Tapes Alexander Butterfield, a former White House official, testified in July 1973 that Nixon had taped conversations in his office. Special Prosecutor Alexander Cox immediately subpoenaed tapes relevant to the investigation. Nixon refused to release them. Judge Sirica directed Nixon to let him hear the tapes. Nixon appealed the order, arguing that a president was excused from judicial orders enforcing subpoenas and that under the concept of executive privilege only he could decide which communications could be disclosed. The U.S. court of appeals upheld Sirica’s decision, but Nixon then proposed that Senator John Stennis (Democrat from Mississippi) listen to the tapes and verify an edited version that Nixon would submit to the grand jury and to the Senate committee. Cox rejected this proposal and Nixon’s order that he make no further attempts to obtain tapes. Attorney General Richardson, having assured Congress that the prosecutor would be free to pursue the investigation, resigned rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire Cox. On October 20, Nixon dismissed both Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus and Cox. This “Saturday night massacre” ignited a rush of criticism, and triggered serious moves to impeach Nixon. Nixon then agreed to give the tapes to Sirica, and he appointed Leon Jaworski, a Texas attorney, to succeed Cox. Nixon guaranteed that Jaworski would be free of White House control. One shocking disclosure followed another. The White House said that two of the subpoenaed conversations had never been taped. One tape contained an eighteen-minute gap. White House officials and Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, gave confusing testimony on how the gap might have occurred. Six court appointed electronics experts said that at least five separate erasures had caused the gap. Many people concluded that someone had deliberately destroyed evidence. On March 1, 1974, seven former aides of the president – Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Colson, Strachan, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson – were indicted for conspiring to botch the Watergate investigation. Colson later pleaded guilty to charges concerning the Ellsberg case and was dismissed of the cover-up charges. Charges against Strachan were dropped. The remaining five went on trial and all but Parkinson were found guilty. Evidence against Nixon, given to Judge Sirica by the grand jury, was turned over by the judge to the House Judiciary Committee, which had begun its impeachment investigation. When the committee subpoenaed forty-two more tapes, Nixon agreed to release publicly and to the committee the edited transcripts of forty-six conversations. Jaworski asked Sirica to subpoena sixty-four tapes and documents. Nixon refused to honor the subpoena, and Jaworski took the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court rejected Nixon’s claim that he had absolute authority to withhold material from the prosecutor, and ordered him to obey the subpoena. Nixon finally did. On July 29 and 30 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. The first one said that the president knowingly covered-up the crimes of Watergate. The second said that he used Government Agencies to violate the Constitution of the United States. The third asserted that he would be impeached because of the withholding of evidence from Congress. Nixon’s Resignation Nixon’s support in Congress and popularity nationwide steadily eroded. On August 5, 1974, three tapes revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to stop investigation of the Watergate break-in. The tapes also showed that Nixon himself had helped to direct the cover-up of the administration’s involvement in the affair. Rather than face almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, the first United States president to do so. A month later his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him for all crimes he might have committed while in office; Nixon was then immune from federal prosecution. Conclusion Many Americans expressed relief and exhilaration that the national nightmare was over. Many were relieved to be rid of Richard Nixon, who had lost virtually all the wide popularity that had won him his landslide reelection victory only two years before. And many were also exhilarated that the system had worked. But the wave of good feeling could not obscure the deeper and more lasting damage of the Watergate crisis. The Watergate burglary and the scandals associated with the burglary were about more than Nixon’s fall from power. Watergate was a symptom of the times, an age of war and deep national division. Watergate was about the constitutional balance of power, the limits of power, and the abuse of power. Watergate was about a seamy side of politics that before the scandal most Americans scarcely imagined existed. Watergate was about ambition overriding good judgment and fair play; but it was also about a political culture and political system that often rewarded just such ambition. Watergate was contradictory, controversial, and ultimately, compelling.