The so-called “Nixon Presidency” is often seen as a period of chaos, as the administration lurched from one scandal to another. This was only part of the story. The other side to the Watergate scandal is seen in how it uncovered numerous cases of abuse and illegal activities at Nixon’s campaign headquarters during the 1972 election.
These revelations helped turn the tide against him in the long run, especially his growing support for isolationism and anti-communism. One of these revelations came from Daniel Ellsberg, who released the so-called “Pentagon Papers.” This revealed high-level plans to expand America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, not just by sending conventional troops but also by using covert operations.
This was an attempt to undermine Communist rule in South Vietnam to strengthen America’s regional allies there. It also showed that Nixon had encouraged risks at all costs about this war effort, even if it meant putting American soldiers at risk too. Watergate was just one of many scandals that dogged domestic politics during Richard Nixon’s presidency.
The anti-Communist sentiment was growing across America at this time and Nixon capitalized on that for his benefit. He began speaking out more frequently about how Communism threatened American interests abroad and how it could be used by enemies within the country too. His use of Executive Order 11915 marked an escalation in his efforts to crack down on dissenters and anyone suspected of being a subversive element
The Watergate Scandal
Watergate was an illegal break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Washington DC area, which led to the downfall of the Nixon presidency. Nixon’s campaign officials had been paying DNC operatives to collect information on political opponents and use these to try to derail the election of Nixon’s opponents.
Nixon’s chief of staff was involved in this, but it was hardly the only incident of illegal conduct by campaign officials. Nixon’s reelection campaign was riddled with scandals, but he took no real part in the DNC break-in. This incident and the illegal activities it uncovered made it easy for the media to portray Nixon as a weak, lily-livered president, who did not dare to face down his enemies.
Nixon’s Enemies List
Once Nixon was in office, many people became increasingly concerned that he was a threat to American democracy. Many people believed that Nixon had a team of enemies, who might pose a serious threat to him if they somehow got access to government files.
This led to the so-called “enemies list,” which was a series of top-secret documents that named around 200 people as enemies of the state. It is not clear how these people were supposed to pose a threat to the presidential office, but it had a chilling effect on many of them. There were also allegations that the FBI had tried to use the list to blackmail its subjects.
The Huston Plan
Alexander Haig was Nixon’s main military adviser during the second term of his presidency. He was also his chief of staff. Haig was widely seen as incompetent, and Nixon finally got rid of him after the Watergate scandal broke.
Haig was replaced by the more competent James R. Schlesinger. Schlesinger wanted to end the war in Vietnam, but he had little support in the White House for this. So he had a novel idea. He proposed that Nixon would order a full US troop pull-out from South Vietnam, but then the US would promise to send a lot more troops there instead.
Nixon and his advisors quickly dismissed this. Why would America be so stupid as to make a promise they would not be able to keep? Nixon’s advisors knew that would make an enemy of the Vietnamese, and so they simply ignored Schlesinger’s proposal.
The Colson White House
Many of Nixon’s political problems stemmed from his efforts to secure Chinese cooperation in the Korean crisis. Nixon had concluded that he could not rely on the Chinese to help out the US against North Korea when they were under the threat of a Soviet attack.
So he began encouraging Chinese leaders to bomb North Korea themselves, as a way of reducing their dependence on Moscow. This led to an angry reaction from the Soviet leadership, who began arming the North Koreans themselves.
Such actions would be illegal under international law, but Nixon had a strong support base among many anti-Communists in the US. He had a novel idea for how to deal with this problem. He would use his powers as president to stop American citizens from suing the government.
The Advancement of Chinese Language in US Schools
Nixon’s main domestic policy objective during the second term of his presidency was the promotion of his “New Directions in American Language Policy.” This was a policy to encourage the teaching of Chinese and other foreign languages in American schools.
The Nixon administration had a deep suspicion of America’s traditional allies, especially the British. Nixon’s New Directions in American Language Policy was an attempt to promote the use of Chinese in American schools, to reduce the influence of British-based cultures. Nixon was also keen to reduce the influence of the French and the Italians, both of which had strong diplomatic bases in the UN.
The Depository Provisions Program
This was a major campaign finance scandal. Nixon’s campaign staff had been involved in accepting large sums of money from wealthy donors. These funds were not used to fund Nixon’s campaign directly. Instead, they were channeled through a series of dummy organizations. These were set up by CREEP and other administration officials.
These were illegal in several ways. First, they were very clearly designed to hide the true source of campaign funding from the public. Second, they were very clearly designed to hide their illegality from the public. This led to a long investigation by the FBI and a series of trials and appeals from the Watergate defendants. The Depository Provisions Program was a major scandal that showed Nixon’s team was willing to break the law at every turn to keep the president in power.