During Richard Milhous Nixon’s presidency as the 37th President of the United States of America, Nixon faced several foreign and domestic challenges, but what ultimately caused his downfall was his character. During his presidency, Nixon had found much success in his policy making as well as establishing a great name for himself in foreign affairs; however, his unethical behavior and his obsession with control led to his shameful resignation.
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Early on, President Nixon was seen as unwavering and relentless, but his leadership abilities lacked confrontation and slowly lost the trust of the people. Nixon was known for his “dogged determination” (Blum) that gained favor from the American public. Elected in 1946 to the House of Representatives, Nixon had risen to a prominent position through the investigation of Alger Hiss, a government official who had been accused of a soviet spy. Nixon had bet his entire national career “on his instinct that Hiss was guilty” (Blum). His continual determination that had led to Hiss’s arrest for perjury gained him the favor of the people. He was an incredibly formidable opponent in any situation; he was a master of “negative campaigning” (Hughes). Nixon was known for attacking his opponent with whatever means necessary, some even unethical means. In his campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas, he has no hesitation to release documents about her voting record, which indicated her with one of the communist leaning members of the House of Representatives, Vito Marcantonio. As a consequence, his unethical and dishonest behavior had earned him the nickname “Tricky Dick”. Nevertheless, his determination and relentlessness has allowed him to accomplish several great things during his presidency. Despite the ever-present Cold War, he opened talks with the People’s Republic of China and began peace talks with the Soviet Union. He put asides his own anti-communist position to bring about peace instead of conflict. He had also sacrificed conservative position to propose liberal policies that he believed would benefit the nation. Unfortunately, Nixon had other traits that would make his presidency more difficult than expected. Unlike presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy who were sociable and charismatic, Nixon was awkward and introverted. He was described as non-confrontational and awkward towards everyone except his closest advisors; he even communicated important decisions through memos, instead of person. Nixon had always felt paranoid that someone was out to get him. He lacked the trust and honesty needed to be a great leader. He carried his unethical means of dominating opponents with him into his presidency. In response to the Pentagon Papers, Nixon organized his secret police “The Plumbers” to create a stronger means of control. His dishonest means for controlling the country led to scandals that only reduced the trust of the people. Although his determination and intelligence allowed him to achieve many accomplishments in office, Richard Nixon’s failure to regain the trust of the people brings his grade down to a “C” for this section.
As a leader of legislation and policy, Richard Nixon was surprisingly successful, despite the economic trouble and Democrat-dominant congress. Nixon had struggled to deal with the massive inflation left from Johnson’s economic boom in 1968. Nixon’s policy of “Gradualism” hoped to limit the growth of the money supply. Unfortunately, his policy was extremely slow and failed to solve the inflation problem. Another issue that he had to face was the Democrat-controlled congress; however, Nixon took a liberal stance on several issues, receiving the approval of Congress. One of Nixon’s bigger priorities was the reform of welfare. He hoped to address the failures of the Great Society program from Johnson. The administration under Nixon had created the Family Assistance Program (FAP) to set nationwide standards and establish automated payment procedures. The FAP would have provided financial aid “not just to the unemployed poor, but to the working poor” (Barber). Although the FAP had managed to pass through the House of Representatives in 1970, it had been shot down twice by the Senate Finance Committee due to the opposition from the Southern Conservatives. One part of the place, the Supplemental Security Income that provided an income for the elderly and disabled, was passed and became “a lasting part of the system” (Hughes). The whole reform, however, would have significantly damaged the Nixon Administration due to the 13 million people who would have become eligible for federal assistance. Despite these failures, Nixon endured and pushed through several successful policies in area like health care and safety, civil rights, and environmental protection. While his Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan never made it through congress, Nixon managed to increase both Medicare and Medicaid benefits significantly. He also sought the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Safe Drinking Water Act to create a safer environment both in the home and the workplace. In terms of civil rights, Nixon insisted that congress “broaden the U.S Civil Rights Commission mandate to include sex discrimination” (Hoff). Nixon signed off on all civil rights legislation, most notably being Title IX, which furthered civil rights in the area of education. Starting by creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Nixon’s administration saw significant pieces of legislation passed to protect the environment. In 1970, an amendment to the 1967 Clean Air Act called for a reduction in automobile emissions. In 1972 Noice Control Act and the Marine Mammal Protection act were passed to protect nature and environments. Later the Endangered Species Act was enacted. Nixon’s expanse of domestic policies was a huge success to his administration, and it was arguably more important that his foreign policies. Although he faced difficulty with Congress, Nixon was able to overcome his own party’s views in order to fight for the best policies and his determination and successful policies earn him an A in this area.
Despite some unexpected economic obstacles during Nixon’s presidency, Nixon had managed to address some of the country’s economic issues temporarily, but he ended up destroying his promising grade through his handling of domestic events. Nixon’s first economic plan focused on “Gradualism”, which was made to counter the continuing stagflation from Johnson’s economic policy. Gradualism was intended to suppress the growth of inflation and the growth of unemployment gradually; however, “gradually” was a lot slower that Nixon had anticipated. From his inauguration in 1969 to the middle of 1971, unemployment had risen from 3.3% to 6.2%. In the August of 1971, Nixon and his economic advisors emerged from the Camp David meeting with the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was a complete switch from the previous economic plan. Nixon announced as 90-day wage-and-price freeze, tax cuts, and a temporary closure of the “gold window” to prevent other nations from purchasing American gold with American dollars. He also initiated a 10% import tax to improve the nation’s balance of trade. By autumn of 1972, the recession had ended. Inflation was now under control and unemployment began to drop once again. Nixon had managed to create an economic boom just in time for election season. In 1973, however, the effects began to wear out. The wage-and-price controls began to unfreeze causing inflation to rise once again. Even more, the oil shock, caused by the Arab oil boycott in October of 1973, dramatically raised the price of oil. Inflation increased by 3.4% in Nixon’s last year of presidency, beginning a decade of price instability from increasing inflation rates. Although Nixon’s presidency established a period of strong and consistent economic growth, he ended up leaving the economy in a worse shape than before, regardless of his intentions. As for his domestic policy, Nixon struggled with maintaining control over the American public. Nixon entered the presidency knowing that he would have to deal with the Vietnam War, which he eventually did; however, he failed to quell the unrest of the American public. By Nixon’s presidency, the American public believed that the Vietnam War had gone on long enough. Nixon faced several violent antiwar protests calling for the end of war. Nixon, with his untrusting personality, began to think of himself as “a man under siege… and he was prepared to strike back” (Blum). He expanded Operation CHAOS, a domestic espionage project established by his predecessor, President Johnson, to use physical surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to root out possible threats. One major target for this operation was the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which carried out several violent protests across college campuses. Nixon also created The Plumbers as his own Special Intelligence Unity to root out dirt on his political enemies. Not only was this group extremely unethical for a president to involve himself in, but it was also illegal and would ultimately cause Nixon to be forced to resign. On June 17, 1972, 5 men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex. These men were soon connected to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, Nixon’s Campaign organization. Further investigation revealed that Nixon had a tape-recording system in place throughout his office, and he was ordered to give them up. His refusal in hope of covering up the tapes left to the complete loss of trust from the American people to Nixon. 14 months after the break-in, Nixon resigned from presidency. Nixon’s lack of trust in the public caused him to do more and more unethical procedures which led to the complete loss of trust from the American people. Paired with his failure to heal America’s suffering economy, Nixon’s rating for his economic and domestic policy is a D.
Richard Nixon is probably most notable (besides the Watergate Scandal) for his foreign policy against Communism. “There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation,” wrote Nixon. Despite his strong anti-communism position, Nixon saw a chance to restore peace with Communist china and the Soviet Union to bring about the end of the Cold War. To begin the healing process with China, Nixon understood that he must first recognize and establish diplomatic relations. He began to refer to the Communist state as the People’s Republic of China. Soon Nixon, along with his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, began to hold secret meetings with Chinese officials. “Only Nixon could go to China” became the popular saying. In February 1972, Nixon took an unprecedented trip to Beijing where he met with Chairman Mao, which became the first, decisive step towards rapprochement with China. Nixon became the first president to visit Beijing, and shortly afterwards, the first president to visit Moscow as well. The Beijing summit directly led to an invitation for Nixon to meet with Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev in the Soviet Union. The fear of strong relations between China and the United States led Brezhnev to better their own relations with the United States. In hopes of initiating the peace talks to end the Cold War, the two leaders signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to limit the growth of nuclear weapons. Nixon initiated Detente with the U.S.S.R to set the stage for the end of the Cold War less than a decade later. Despite Nixon’s successful peace talks with China and the Soviet Union, he struggled to end the war in Vietnam, an area that he based most of his campaign promises on. Nixon hope to settle the war quickly an on favorable terms, but his means of doing so were flawed. Through secret talks with the North Vietnamese, Nixon threatened to take “measures of the greatest consequence” (Hughes), nuclear bombing, if major progress was not made; however, the North Vietnamese refused to comply and Nixon did not carry out his threats. Publicly Nixon’s strategy was Vietnamization, the process of training up the South Vietnamese to take control of the situation themselves. After a coup in Cambodia established a pro-American military government, U.S. troops were ordered to temporarily invade Cambodia, causing huge anti-war protests and riots back in America. Nixon didn’t seem anywhere close to withdrawing troops and ending the war. Nixon soon ordered Operation Menu, a secret bombing of the North as a desperate attempt to keep the North from invading South Vietnam. Finally, Nixon reached a incredibly flawed settlement with the North Vietnamese to end the conflict and withdraw U.S troops. The settlement allowed the North to preserve all the territory it held at the time, and it allowed the North to easily invade and conquer the South shortly after Nixon’s resignation. Nixon’s resolution of the Vietnam War was a massive, prolonged failure. Later that year, America recognized a conflict in the Middle East between the Israelites and the Arabs. In the October War of 1973, Nixon supported Israel, causing the Arab nations, which held a majority of America’s oil, to impose an embargo, causing the oil shock that shook America’s economy. In Chile, Nixon took more desperate unethical measures to oppose Salvador Allende, the Socialist candidate for the Chilean presidency. He ordered the CIA to prevent him from taking the office whether “by hook or by crook” (Blum). The CIA recruited Chilean soldiers to plot a coup. The result was the death of General Schneider, the Chilean army chief of staff, and a military coup overthrowing and killing Allende on September 11, 1973. Allende was soon replaced by General Augusto Pinochet who began rule Chile as a military dictator. Pinochet’s regime resulted in over a thousand deaths, including two americans. Nixon, once again, intervened in a foreign government through unethical means and failed to establish peace; in fact, he made it worse. Although Nixon Administration saw failures in the affairs of multiple countries, his meetings with the Communist world powers were extremely significant in creating peace for the future of the United States and the world, so Nixon receives a B in foreign policy.
Under and after Nixon, the Republican Party did quite well despite the Watergate scandal. The democrats held the majority in Congress; however, the republican party became the dominant political party in presidential elections, winning 4 out of the next 5 elections (the one loss was most likely an effect of Watergate). One reason for its success in that American believed the Republicans were “better equipped to deal with foreign policy and the Soviet Union” (Sides). The Republican Presidential run ended in 1992, a year after the end of the Cold War. Another reason is the so-called Southern Strategy, an electoral strategy orchestrated by Nixon to appeal to white voters. The Southern Strategy was said to have successfully “wooed white racists” (Risen) because the democrats began to focus on civil rights and the African American Vote. Although many people denounce Southern Strategy as a myth, the Republican Party did gain the white majority vote, most likely for their economic preferences. The Republicans appealed to the voters by “embracing deregulation, passing business-friendly tax cuts, and turning away from its long-standing support for labor” (Sides). Policy-wise, the Republican presidents did surprisingly well with a Democrat majority Congress, especially Nixon and Reagan. Although the Republican Party was ideologically conservative, it was “largely operationally liberal” (Sides). Nixon and Reagan both proposed liberal policies like preserving Social Security, protecting the environment, and expanding the welfare state. This allowed the Republican Party to appeal to both the Democratic voters and the Democratic Congress to pass several beneficial policies. In addition, Nixon was able to appoint 4 conservative Supreme Court Justices and 231 other federal judges. Only experiencing a minor setback from the Watergate Scandal, the Republican Party saw huge electoral and legislative success in the years subsequent to Nixon’s presidency giving Nixon an A as Chief Party Leader.
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A remarkable man who made some unfortunate choice, Richard M. Nixon was a capable and unique president up to his resignation. Nixon was a president who was determined to change the future of America. Aside from his unethical means, Nixon successfully appealed to a Democratic-controlled Congress to create policies that would benefit and ensure a bright future for the American citizens. He was the first president to take a step towards ending the Cold war, the conflict that kept the whole world on edge. He was able to temporarily heal the failing economy even though it eventually fell harder afterwards, and he ended the unnecessarily long Vietnam War. Longing for control, he made some irreversible decisions that he wasn’t able to atone for. Unfortunately, his downfall overshadowed his accomplishment, and he suffered greatly. After careful deliberation and research into each aspect of his presidency, Nixon got a C for symbolizing and leading American, an A for legislative ability, a D for economic and domestic policy, a B in foreign policy, and an A for leading his party during and afterwards. As a result, Nixon got an overall grade of a B, a middle grade that sums up his amazing legislative ability with his not-so-great damaging scandal.
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