In August of this year, it will have been forty years since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. I wrote this article for a boys' magazine several years back, but thought it might be okay to resurrect it for this anniversary.
Richard Nixon is the only President of the United States who resigned. How did that happen?
When Nixon became president in 1968, the American people didn’t understand a war that was going on. There were drugs, crime, and unrest in the cities. People were uneasy when they wanted to feel safe.
Nixon had lost a presidential election in 1960 and a governor election in 1962. He knew about things going wrong.
By 1972, almost all the soldiers were home from the Vietnam War, and foreign countries agreed to help stop drug traffic into the United States. No more soldiers could be drafted into the army, and black and white students were peacefully integrating into schools in the South. The Soviet Union and the United States agreed to explore space together and solve their problems with each other without using force. Mr. Nixon was a busy president. He knew how to get things done, and he loved his country.
Then something else happened.
Burglars were caught repairing a telephone “bug” that recorded conversations in a Watergate apartment that belonged to the Democratic National Committee. Nixon was a Republican. People wondered if Nixon knew anything about the break-in. When they asked, he said, “No.” They wanted to believe him.
But a Senate committee started asking a lot of questions. One witness said that Nixon’s conversations in his Oval Office were tape-recorded. The Committee thought getting the tapes would help them know if Nixon knew about the burglary. He gave them some of the tapes. They decided that Nixon knew about the Watergate Affair. He should be impeached (removed from the Presidency), they said.
Nixon met with a few members of Congress. When he asked if he had any choices left, nobody answered. “Never mind,” he said. “There will be no tears.”
President Nixon resigned, but that was the very last thing he wanted to do. On the evening of August 8, 1974, Nixon told the American people, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is opposed to every instinct in my body.”
Richard Nixon got the war stopped. He established new relations with China and the Soviet Union, and he got the voting age changed from 21 to 18. He started the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect the country’s water, air, and park areas. He expanded the Space Shuttle Program so space travel vehicles could be used over and over. But he couldn’t straighten out Watergate.
Nobody knows if the people were so unhappy that they would not have liked any president, no matter who that was. But they must have wished President Nixon’s job could have ended another way. So did he.