The presidency of the United States of America is often said to be one of the most powerful positions in the world. But of all the U.S. presidents accused of misusing that power, only one has left office as a result. Does Richard Nixon deserve to be remembered for more than the scandal that ended his presidency? Find out as we put this disgraced president’s legacy on trial in History vs. Richard Nixon. “Order, order. Now, who’s the defendant today, some kind of crook?” “Cough. No, your Honor. This is Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, who served from 1969 to 1974.” “Hold on. That’s a weird number of years for a president to serve.
” “Well, you see, President Nixon resigned for the good of the nation and was pardoned by President Ford, who took over after him.” “He resigned because he was about to be impeached, and he didn’t want the full extent of his crimes exposed.” “And what were these crimes?” “Your Honor, the Watergate scandal was one of the grossest abuses of presidential power in history. Nixon’s men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters to wiretap the offices and dig up dirt on opponents for the reelection campaign.” “Cough It was established that the President did not order this burglary.” “But as soon as he learned of it, he did everything to cover it up, while lying about it for months.” “Uh, yes, but it was for the good of the country.
He did so much during his time in office and could have done so much more without a scandal jeopardizing his accomplishments.” “Uh, accomplishments?” “Yes, your Honor. Did you know it was President Nixon who proposed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law? Not to mention the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, expansion of the Clean Air Act.” “Sounds pretty progressive of him.” “Progressive? Hardly. Nixon’s presidential campaign courted Southern voters through fear and resentment of the civil rights movement.”
“Speaking of civil rights, the prosecution may be surprised to learn that he signed the Title IX amendment, banning gender-based discrimination in education, and ensured that desegregation of schools occurred peacefully, and he lowered the voting age to 18, so that students could vote.” “He didn’t have much concern for students after four were shot by the National Guard at Kent State. Instead, he called them bums for protesting the Vietnam War, a war he had campaigned on ending.”
“But he did end it.” “He ended it two years after taking office. Meanwhile, his campaign had sabotaged the previous president’s peace talks, urging the South Vietnamese government to hold out for supposedly better terms, which, I might add, didn’t materialize. So, he protracted the war for four years, in which 20,000 more U.S. troops, and over a million more Vietnamese, died for nothing.” “Hmm, a presidential candidate interfering in foreign negotiations — isn’t that treason?” “It is, your Honor, a clear violation of the Logan Act of 1799.” “Uh, I think we’re forgetting President Nixon’s many foreign policy achievements.
It was he who normalized ties with China, forging economic ties that continue today.” “Are we so sure that’s a good thing? And don’t forget his support of the coup in Chile that replaced the democratically-elected President Allende with a brutal military dictator.” “It was part of the fight against communism.” “Weren’t tyranny and violence the reasons we opposed communism to begin with? Or was it just fear of the lower class rising up against the rich?”
“President Nixon couldn’t have predicted the violence of Pinochet’s regime, and being anti-communist didn’t mean neglecting the poor. He proposed a guaranteed basic income for all American families, still a radical concept today. And he even pushed for comprehensive healthcare reform, just the kind that passed 40 years later.” “I’m still confused about this burglary business. Was he a crook or not?”
“Your Honor, President Nixon may have violated a law or two, but what was the real harm compared to all he accomplished while in office?” “The harm was to democracy itself. The whole point of the ideals Nixon claimed to promote abroad is that leaders are accountable to the people, and when they hold themselves above the law for whatever reason, those ideals are undermined.”
“And if you don’t hold people accountable to the law, I’ll be out of a job.” Many politicians have compromised some principles to achieve results, but law-breaking and cover-ups threaten the very fabric the nation is built on. Those who do so may find their entire legacy tainted when history is put on trial.