President Richard M. Nixon: Cons and Failures of His Presidency
Some of the cons or negatives and failures of the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
His 5 Years, 201 Days as President
Nixon's celebrated "detente" with Russia was more cosmetic than substantive--none of the key issues between the 2 superpowers were resolved, and Nixon failed in his drive for meaningful arms control agreements. The new policy toward China was inevitable, considering China's internal development and growing differences with the U.S.S.R. Nixon simply benefited from an inexorable trend in world affairs. In Vietnam, he willfully continued a tragic war for 4 unnecessary years, at a cost of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. When direct U.S. involvement was finally terminated, Nixon accepted the same settlement that war critics had been urging for years. His endless talk of peace with honor was only a sham. His invasion of Cambodia, his lies to the public and the Congress, his genocidal Christmas bombing of Vietnam in 1973 were all a tragic waste. Despite the intensive Nixon-Kissinger public relations efforts, the ruthless U.S. position in the India-Pakistan dispute, the threat of renewed fighting in the Middle East, the continuing bloodshed in Vietnam, and the CIA intervention in Chile, show that American policy is just as immoral--and the world situation is just as dangerous--as it has ever been.
Nixon's funding cutbacks crippled dozens of necessary programs providing health care, education and job training services, as the Government adopted a policy of "benign neglect" toward the nation's poor. Meanwhile, Nixon urged increased Federal spending for ill-considered military--industrial boondoggles like the ABM and SST. On the environment, he always put the interests of big corporations (like the oil companies, auto makers and lumber barons) ahead of the needs of the people. Most serious of all, his totally inept handling of the economy produced the most serious domestic crisis since the Great Depression--as inflation soared to unheard of levels and the country skidded in and out of "Nixon recessions." While corporate profits reached all-time highs, the Administration could offer the average citizen only 4 phases of economic waffling. By the time Nixon left office, all of America's most serious domestic problems had been notably aggravated.
Nixon's "law and order" Administration gave America the most lawless Government in its history. The criminal activity started at the very top of the ticket. Even leaving Watergate aside, Nixon was clearly guilty of tax fraud in cheating the IRS out of the tidy sum of $500,000. He also contributed $17 million in public funds to the improvement of his own resort homes. Meanwhile, Vice-President Spiro Agnew preferred more traditional forms of graft as he accepted thousands of dollars in bribes and payoffs. With these examples to inspire them, it is hardly surprising that Nixon appointees in every branch of Government (including Cabinet members who have pleaded guilty to or been indicted and convicted of Watergate-related crimes) disgraced themselves and abused the public trust. No one in America has done as much as Nixon to secure Washington's reputation as "The Crime Capital of the World."
It is hard to decide which is more amazing in Nixon's handling of Watergate--the President's immorality or his incompetence. Nixon will not only be remembered as the greatest liar in American history, he may also be remembered as the most inept administrator. The antics of Nixon and his palace guard would be simply laughable except that they came so close to achieving their objectives. His efforts to subvert the rights of citizens, spy on his opponents, smear his "enemies," intimidate the press, defy the courts, diminish Congress, and manipulate the FBI, CIA, and IRS all proved--at least partially-temporarily successful. As historian Henry Steele Commager put it: "Other things being equal, we haven't had a bad President before now. Mr. Nixon is the 1st dangerous and wicked President."
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