Watergate scandal

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The Watergate office building

The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal in the United States involving the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon from 1972 to 1974 that led to Nixon's resignation. The scandal stemmed from the Nixon administration's continual attempts to cover up its involvement in the June 17, 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Washington, D.C. Watergate Office Building. After the five perpetrators were arrested, the press and the U.S. Justice Department connected the cash found on them at the time to the Nixon re-election campaign committee. Further investigations, along with revelations during subsequent trials of the burglars, led the U.S. House of Representatives to grant its judiciary committee additional investigation authority to probe into "certain matters within its jurisdiction", and the U.S. Senate to create a special investigative committee. The resulting Senate Watergate hearings were broadcast "gavel-to-gavel" nationwide by PBS and aroused public interest. Witnesses testified that Nixon had approved plans to cover up administration involvement in the break-in, and that there was a voice-activated taping system in the Oval Office. Throughout the investigation, the administration resisted its probes, which led to a constitutional crisis.

Several major revelations and egregious presidential action against the investigation later in 1973 prompted the House to commence an impeachment process against Nixon. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to release the Oval Office tapes to government investigators. The tapes revealed that Nixon had conspired to cover up activities that took place after the break-in and later tried to use federal officials to deflect the investigation. The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. With his complicity in the cover-up made public and his political support completely eroded, Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974.


  • Now the leaders are more deadlocked. If they can’t decide, nothing happens. In America, if you’re corrupt you have to resign. Look at Nixon. He had Watergate and had to resign. In China does that happen? No. Why? Because everyone is in one boat. If that boat turns over, everyone ends up in the water. When I say “everyone” of course I mean the people in power. So in China everyone helps each other out. If you are in trouble, I’ll help you out and if I’m in trouble you help me out. So only in an extreme case like Bo Xilai can someone be pushed out.
    • Bao Tong, as quoted in Johnson, Ian. “'In the Current System, I'd Be Corrupt Too': An Interview with Bao Tong.” The New York Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, 14 June 2012, 12:40 pm, www.nybooks.com/daily/2012/06/14/china-corruption-bao-tong-interview/.
  • The most positive thing that is happening in this country is Watergate... Because white Americans-you see, there was a period when white Americans were marching in Selma and marching to Washington, for the blacks they thought, you see. But the struggle due to Watergate is for the whites. It's for their morality, for their integrity. It's the first time since the early part of the nineteenth century that a great mass of whites have really been concerned about their own morality. In the early part of the nineteenth century there were whites who became Abolitionists and supported the Underground Railroad, not because they loved blacks but because they loved truth. And not since that time-I mean all the World War II business, where we all got together and balled up string, and so forth, was for somebody else. It was for the Jews and Europe. But suddenly-not so suddenly in the United States the people are concerned about their own morality, their own continuation. And it's very, very-and that, I believe, will reflect in turn and in time on the black American struggle. I think that white Americans will freely, once they clear up their own backyards, will be able to-that is to say their own internal selves about integrity and honesty, will have no out, no recourse, except to deal with the race question, which, as Dr. Du Bois said at the turn of the century, "The problem for the Twentieth Century will be the problem of the color line." And that will be dealt with not from a paternalistic point of view, I hope. This is what I expect. Not at the sufferance of their time, their energy, or when they have-at somebody's whim, but because it is right to do. And if the country is to continue, if it is to continue to grow to be what it hopes to be, then certainly people will move because it is right to do so.
  • In 1972, Americans watched in disbelief as the Nixon Presidency was virtually brought to collapse, not because of the Watergate "break-in," but by the cover-up and its entanglements. What if the Watergate Scandal had been handled differently? The illegal activities of a few bungling second-story men pale in comparison to the colossal management blunders by the White House inner circle.
  • The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It's over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.
    • J. G. Ballard, as quoted in an interview in Metaphors No. 7, (1983); also in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993) by Robert Andrews, p. 937.
  • So let me turn now to how the Executive is presently faring in these inter-branch battles. I'm concerned that the deck has become stacked against the Executive, and that since the mid-60s, there's been a steady grinding down of the Executive Branch’s authority, that accelerated after Watergate. More and more, the President’s ability to act in areas in which he has discretion has become smothered by the encroachments of the other branches.
  • Watergate was thus nothing but a lure held out by the system to catch its adversaries - a simulation of scandal for regenerative ends.
    • Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (1981), "The Precession of Simulcra,MÖBIUS - SPIRALING NEGATIVETY
  • What an age of innocence it was, the Watergate era... way back in the halcyon days when the US could be contrasted with totalitarian regimes on matters of surveillance.
  • Each time our nation has made a serious mistake, the American people have been excluded from the process. The tragedy of Vietnam and Cambodia, the disgrace of Watergate, and the embarrassment of the CIA revelations could have been avoided if our government had simply reflected the sound judgment and the good common sense and the high moral character of the American people. It’s time for us to take a new look at our own government, to strip away the secrecy, to expose the unwarranted pressure of lobbyists, to eliminate waste, to release our civil servants from bureaucratic chaos, to provide tough management, and always to remember that in any town or city the mayor, the governor, and the President represent exactly the same constituents.
  • We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.
  • As a young man, Bill Clinton was one of thousands of leftist students who benefited from KGB funds, earning one of those trips to the USSR which were the preferred means for the recruitment of Soviet agents in the universities of the West. In the 60s, that would be deterrent enough for any application for town mayor of the interior. In the 90s, after three decades of Gramscian cultural revolution, the dangerous links did not prevent Clinton from being elected US president with the support of the American Communist Party. Thanks to a well-calculated "politically correct" speech, the new ruler became an idol of the left, which moved heaven and earth to keep him in office despite a range of charges, including sexual frivolities, financial imbroglios and a multitude of small Watergates, including something perfectly serious and terrifying: the suspicion of favoring Chinese nuclear espionage. The well-thinking press resisted any investigation of the matter.
    • Olavo de Carvalho, Censored article, originally to República Magazine - Clinton, a guerra e a China (2 May 1999)
  • In the post-Vietnam War era the need for Communist abuses has been no less pressing than before. More facts have come to light on the scope of U.S. violence in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the extent of which U.S. officials lied to the public with regard to their programs and methods, and the brazenness with which these officials defied treaty obligations and international law. Much as the government and the media tried to isolate the scoundrelism of Watergate from the much more profound immorality of the “secret” devastation of Cambodia, the linkage between the two could not be entirely concealed and therefore tended to discredit still further the campaign to bring “freedom” to South Vietnam. Counterrevolution, torture and official murder in Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, and other U.S. satellites was also reaching new peaks. Thus, if Cambodian terror did not exist, the Western propaganda systems would have had to invent it, and in certain respects it did […].
  • I have tender feelings for Nixon, because everybody has warm feelings about their childhood. Actually, I didn't like the Watergate trials 'cause they interrupted The Munsters... Nixon was the last liberal president. He supported women's rights, the environment, ending the draft, youth involvement, and now he's the boogeyman? Kerry couldn't even run on that today.
  • Twenty-five years ago, in the darkest days of Watergate, you read about all of my sins -- those of you graduating now. Younger students at least read about them in your history books. I am always appalled when people come up to me and ask for my autograph on airplanes because they read about me in their history book. But what I realized that night, twenty-five years ago, the toughest of the Nixon tough guys, the White House "Hatchet Man," was that it was true that I could be set free, and I realized what was in my heart -- not the stuff you read about in Watergate, but much worse. And I tell you I would suffocate in the stench of my own sins today if I did not know that Christ took them away. And what does that do with me? That inspires in me what Chesterton said is the "mother of all virtues." That inspires in me a sense of gratitude that I will do for my God whatever He calls me to do. And what he calls us to do is to live for him in biblical fidelity to the kinds of commands I read to you from the Holy Scriptures, and to be men and women of character who exalt virtue and go into a society which has disdained character, which is laughing at honor, which is mocking virtue, and saying, "No, we believe in truth, and we’re going to live our lives that way no matter what the cost." Be those kind of men and women.
  • The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.
  • My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy. As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.
  • One of the great weaknesses of the Republican Party is we recruit middle-class people. Middle-class people, as a group, are told you should not shout at the table, you should be nice, you should have respect for other people, which usually means giving way to them. You want to go to the beach, they want to go to the movie, well, you ought to go to the movie, cause otherwise they'll get mad at you. So what do you do? We ended up going to Watergate because we didn't want to offend Richard Nixon. We ended up allowing Gerald Ford to do some things that were incredibly dumb, just unbelievably dumb. Gerald Ford personally cost me a congressional seat.
  • You may choose, if you wish, to parrot the line that Watergate was a "long national nightmare," but some of us found it rather exhilarating to see a criminal President successfully investigated and exposed and discredited. And we do not think it in the least bit nightmarish that the Constitution says that such a man is not above the law. Ford's ignominious pardon of this felonious thug meant, first, that only the lesser fry had to go to jail. It meant, second, that we still do not even know why the burglars were originally sent into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In this respect, the famous pardon is not unlike the Warren Commission: another establishment exercise in damage control and pseudo-reassurance (of which Ford was also a member) that actually raised more questions than it answered. The fact is that serious trials and fearless investigations often are the cause of great division, and rightly so.
  • The first time that I went to the United States was in 1974 ... I was 20 years old. America was in crisis. The dollar was at a low. The Watergate scandal had already erupted. And I still remember this vision I had of New York, which was a huge, fascinating city, dirty and violent. And I’ve been to the U.S. regularly, but what impresses me most in this large nation is its capacity to overcome hardship and return to the heights.
  • The revelation that American companies were making payments to foreign political parties and government officials touched a sensitive nerve in the post-Watergate era. Although most knowledgeable people were aware of the bribery of domestic government officials, they felt more keenly about the payment of millions of dollars to foreign officials.
    • Neil H. Jacoby, Bribery and Extortion in World Business with Peter Nehemkis and Richard Eells (1977) p. xiv
  • Faking the Moon Landing is easy. You need dirt, wardrobe, a sound stage, a lot of black paints, and some stupid suits. The hard part is shutting people up. It's been 36 years! You think the technicians, and prop people, camera people, directors, everyone who works at NASA, and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, and all the nice folks at Cape Carnaval in Florida, plus members of the U.S. Congress and the White House all shut up about this amazing cover-up for all that time? The Government couldn't even fucking cover up a break-in to a psychiatrist's office in a fucking cheesy hotel! Watergate is the answer to all this shit. If they couldn't cover that up, they fucking can't do anything.
  • We are not strangers to change. Twenty years ago, we changed the whole tone of the nation at the Watergate abuses. We did that twenty years ago. We know how to change. We have been the instrument of change in the past. We know what needs to be done. We know how to do it. We know that we can impact policies which affect education. We calmed the national unrest in the wake of the Watergate abuses and we, The Democratic Party, can seize this moment. We know what needs to be done and how to do it. We have been the instrument of change in policies which impact education, human rights, civil rights, economic and social opportunity, and the environment. These are policies which are embedded in the soul of the Democratic Party. And embedded in our soul, they will not disappear easily. We, as a Party, will do nothing to erode our essence. We will not.
  • Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy ... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.
  • Let us take a look at a couple of specifics. There is not one iota of evidence that the President had any prior knowledge whatsoever of the Watergate break-in. And I don't want to get into quoting half a passage. But I guess we could do that on each one, one would be quoting something and the other to the contrary and that's my point. So much contradicting evidence. The President himself, in the transcript of March 13, referred to the Watergate break-in like this. “What a stupid thing, pointless. That was the stupid thing.” The President did not participate in the Watergate coverup. True, he did not immediately throw all possibly involved immediately to the wolves. Would you, without knowing all of the facts [dismiss] your principle aide? But, upon learning from Dean on March 21 the real seriousness of what was happening, he started taking a series of actions to find really what the truth, the whole story, was. The President on March 22 said that Hunt could not demand blackmail money, they just wouldn't go along with that, and he instructed Dean to prepare a report for him of what had really gone on. He never got that report. The Attorney General was advised to report directly to the President. Members of the White House were instructed to go to the grand jury and to tell the truth. I think it is important that you have got to look at what eventually happened. I think that you must consider the fact that the President waived executive privilege for his closest aides, including his counsel. That is what really happened. And we could go on, and on and on. With regard to Ellsberg's psychiatrist break-in, Charles Colson testified before this committee that he was convinced that the President did not know in advance of the break-in. I will make no comment on the part of the article that deals with the contempt of Congress charge because I think it is so ludicrous that it deserves no comment.
  • The two-party system has given this country the war of Lyndon Johnson, the Watergate of Nixon, and the incompetence of Carter. Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life-rafts.
  • Americans saw Watergate as a threat to their republic. They countered by following constitutional and legal procedure to the letter. In [South] Korea, many people appear unwilling to separate the political system from the wrongdoings of politicians.
  • We must maintain the integrity of the White House, and that integrity must be real, not transparent. There can be no whitewash at the White House.
    • Richard Nixon, address to the nation about the Watergate investigations (April 30, 1973), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1973, p. 332.
  • There are these and other great causes that we were elected overwhelmingly to carry forward in November of 1972. And what we were elected to do, we are going to do, and let others wallow in Watergate, we are going to do our job.
    • Richard Nixon, remarks to members of the White House staff on returning from Bethesda Naval Hospital (July 20, 1973), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1973, p. 657.
  • Mr. Speaker, and Mr. President, and my distinguished colleagues and our guests: I would like to add a personal word with regard to an issue that has been of great concern to all Americans over the past year. I refer, of course, to the investigations of the so-called Watergate affair. As you know, I have provided to the Special Prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material. I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the innocent. I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.
  • In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me. In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future. But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged. I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations.
  • From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require. I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.
  • From the Teapot Dome to Watergate, history tells us we should always be vigilant and demand that our public servants follow the highest ethical standards.  But the truth is that the kind of corruption that is blatant, of the sort that we saw in the past, is much less likely in today’s politics.  And the Justice Department and the media work hard to keep it that way.  And that’s a very good thing.  So we don’t want to romanticize the past and think somehow it’s a difference in the people being elected.
  • When the commander in chief of a nation finds it necessary to order employees of the government or agencies of the government to do things that would technically break the law, he has to be able to declare it legal in order for them to do that.
    • Ronald Reagan, Response to the Frost-Nixon interviews on the Watergate scandal, UPI (21 May 1977)
  • Maybe [Watergate] is like the Old Testament. It was visited upon us and maybe we're going to benefit from it.
    • Nelson Rockefeller, speech to the State Broadcasters Association, Cooperstown, New York (July 17, 1973), as reported by The New York Times (July 18, 1973), p. 20.
  • Assassinations, cover-ups, political blackmail, public relations image-making, are all examples of para-politics; they all represent deviations from the model of constitutional government in which public affairs are handled by public debate and rational analysis. The cumulative effect of this government by hidden process can be to demoralize the average citizen, who may simply accept that the world, and even the universe, will be dominated by occult and capricious powers. [...] For to us who are spectators, the events of Dallas and of Watergate have appeared like meteors in a night sky, suddenly and without warning. Not even the events themselves have been always discernible, only the trail they leave behind in our sometimes cloudy media. It is not easy from the ground to pick out the true shape of a meteor. Nevertheless, as they become more frequent, one can begin to discern in what quadrant of the sky they find their origin. [...] [W]e should not be terrified by meteors, even if the night sky reminds us of our frailty and ignorance. For to scientists meteors are no longer symbols of mystery or portents of disaster: they are needed clues to the nature of the physical universe. And as Socrates remarked so long ago, if we can find reason behind the phenomena of the skies, we should look for no less in the affairs of men.
    • Peter Dale Scott. Crime and Cover-Up: The CIA, the Mafia, and the Dallas-Watergate Connection (1977), pp. 48-49
  • When I meet people who say, "Oh, there's no hope, Peter, look at the things that are going wrong, and those stupid people in Bosnia, there are going to be things like that all around the world, power-hungry people says I know how to handle this, just give me the bomb. There's no hope." But I say to them, I said, "Did you ever think that our great Watergate president would leave office the way he did?" "No, I guess I didn't think that." I said, "Did you think that the Berlin Wall would come down so peacefully?" "No, I didn't think that would happen, yeah." I said, "Did you think Mandela would be president of South Africa?" "No, I didn't predict that." "Well, if you couldn't predict those three things, then don't be so confident that there's no hope." And I give them a bumper sticker. It says, "There's No Hope, But I May Be Wrong."
  • It should also be clear to us by now who the real criminals are. Nixon and his crime partners have murdered hundreds of Third World brothers and sisters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa. As was proved by Watergate, the top law enforcement officials in this country are a lying bunch of criminals. The president, two attorney generals, the head of the FBI, the head of the CIA, and half the white house staff have been implicated in the Watergate crimes.
    • Assata Shakur, Shakur, Assata. "To My People By Assata Shakur (written while in prison)". Articles/letters. 4 July 1973.
  • I think what's happening now is people want to forget. There was Vietnam, there was Watergate, there was Iran – we were beaten, we were hustled, and then we were humiliated. And I think people got a need to feel good about the country they live in. But what's happening, I think, is that that need – which is a good thing – is gettin' manipulated and exploited. And you see the Reagan reelection ads on TV – you know: "It's morning in America." And you say, well, it's not morning in Pittsburgh. It's not morning above 125th Street in New York. It's midnight, and, like, there's a bad moon risin'. And that's why when Reagan mentioned my name in New Jersey, I felt it was another manipulation, and I had to disassociate myself from the president's kind words.
  • In Birmingham, they love the governor (Boo boo boo) Now we all did what we could do Now Watergate does not bother me Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth
  • The slow-rising central horror of "Watergate" is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it.
  • How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
    • Donald Trump, 2017-03-04 7:02am, quoted in Bandy X. Lee (19 March 2019), The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin's Press), ISBN 1250212863
  • In the wake of the US defeat in Vietnam comes an unprecedented governmental crisis. Watergate is a magnificent victory of the struggle of the 60's, a reflection of the war coming home. Crisis chases crisis as state leaders search for a consolidating strategy. The turmoil is indicative of serious and fatal weakness in the system. It offers an unparalleled opportunity for revolutionary and popular movements.
  • What made Stone stand out in that tawdry scene was his utter shamelessness. He bragged about being a 19-year-old bit player in the Watergate scandal and about his friendship with Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy’s notorious henchman. Along with his partners, among them Trump adviser Paul Manafort, he engaged in campaign tactics no one else would admit to and took lobbying clients no one else would represent, including murderous foreign dictators.
  • Richard Nixon's resignation abruptly ended the nation's gravest constitutional and political crisis since the Civil War and Reconstruction. The misdeeds collectively known as Watergate had no precedent in their scope and severity. The actual break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in 1972, the associated campaign ethics, and the effort to cover them up, were the least of it—although Nixon's own former speechwriter, the conservative columnist William Safire, would describe, many years later, those "evil" offenses alone as "a serious assault on the foundations of democracy" which "rightly resulted in the resignation of the President." Systematically, and with full knowledge, Nixon had also used the machinery of government to spy on, or prepare to spy on, domestic radicals, mainstream critics, and dozens of other citizens who he imagined had conspired against him. (The White House's "enemies list" included well-known journalists; congressional leaders of both parties; the presidents of Yale, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the actor Steve McQueen; and the author Judith Martin, better known as "Miss Manners.") Nixon had underlings fabricate official documents, while he secretly conducted foreign policy, including the coup in Chile and the bombing of Cambodia, and prepared for a more dramatic expansion of federal power, to be completed after his reelection. By reorganizing the federal bureaucracy from the cabinet level down, replacing career professionals with political loyalists, and reducing their independent power, Nixon would thoroughly politicize the executive branch and federal agencies. (Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, one of the few cabinet members spared in the abrupt second-term shakeup after Nixon's landslide victory, was horrified by "the frenzied, almost maniacal sense of urgency about this political butchery.") Nixon later boasted: "I have thrown down a gauntlet to Congress, the bureaucracy, the media, and the Washington establishment and challenged them to an epic battle."

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