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Watergate Essay, Research Paper

The Presidential election of 1972 had two strong candidates,

President Richard Nixon and George McGovern. There were many issues

which had a great deal of importance to the election. The Vietnam war and

the stability of the economy at the time were two main factors. The election

ended in one the largest political scandals in U.S. history, being the


break-in, and cover-up, by President Richard Nixon.

The Democratic party had a large selection of candidates from which

to choose for the primary elections of 1972. There were many well known

candidates who entered the race for the nomination. The leading contenders

were Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Senator George McGovern of South

Dakota and Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. Other candidates who didn’t

receive quite as much recognition were Alabama governor George C.

Wallace, Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, Rep. Wilbur D. Mills of

Arkansas, Sen. Vance Hartke of Indiana, former Senator Eugene J.

McCarthy of Minnesota, Mayor John Lindsay of New York City and Rep.

Shirley Chisholm of New York. Chisholm was the first black to run in a

series of presidential primaries." (Congressional Quarterly, "Guide

to U.S.

Elections", Third ed., 1994, pg.603-605.) 5

Governor Wallace had a devastating moment in his campaign while in

Maryland. "In early May a sick young man named Arthur Bremer altered the

politics of 1972. As Governor Wallace campaigned toward certain victory in

the Maryland primary, Bremer stepped forward out of a shopping-center

crowd and shot him four times. Wallace survived, but at the cost of being

paralyzed from the waist down. Maryland’s voters surged out on election day

to give Wallace a huge victory, his last of 1972. While Wallace recuperated,

the millions who would have voted for him as a Democratic or independent

candidate began to move in overwhelming proportions behind the candidacy

began to move in overwhelming proportions behind the candidacy of Richard

Nixon." (Benton, William. "U.S. Election of 1972."

Encyclopedia Britannica

Book of the Year. pg.12-13, 1973 ed.)1

When the California primary was approaching, Humphrey tried to

save the nomination for himself. "Humphrey excoriated his old senate


(McGovern) for his expensive ideas on welfare and his desire to cut the

defense budget. It almost worked. But McGovern won all of California’s

giant delegation, and beat Humphrey 44.3% to 39.1% in the popular


That loss spelled out the end for Humphrey’s Democratic nomination.

Many felt Edmund Muskie was sure to win the Democratic

nomination for the election of 1972. "All political observers agreed on


certainty that Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine would be the Democratic

party’s nominee."1 "As the front-runner, he wanted to snare the


early and so was committed to running in all of the first eight presidential

primaries. Prominent Democratic politicians lined up eagerly to endorse him.

Among them: Gov. John Gilligan of Ohio; Leonard Woodcock, President of

the United Auto Workers; Iowa Senator Harold Hughes; and Pennsylvania

Governor Milton Shapp."1 Muskie had many supporters, and a good chance

of receiving the nomination, perhaps even becoming the next President of the

United States. President Nixon knew that Muskie had a good chance of

winning and felt he had to do something to get Muskie out of the race. Nixon

had seven men who were loyal to him make up false press releases about

Muskie, and his wife. These press releases claimed that Muskie had had

affairs with both men and women, that he beat his wife, and then the topper

which claimed that Muskies’ wife was an alcoholic. These false statements

destroyed Muskies’ campaign and reputation of being a calm trustworthy

candidate. Then one day "mounting the bed of a truck parked outside the

offices of the archconservative Manchester Union Leader, Muskie launched

an attack on the paper’s publisher, William Loeb. As he spoke of Loeb’s

unflattering remarks about Mrs. Muskie, the senator’s voice cracked, and the

crowd saw tears form in his eyes."1 This incident badly dented Muskie’s

image. After that event, people saw Muskie as a weak person. They didn’t

want a weak person running the country. "Muskie had finished fourth in

Pennsylvania, behind winner Humphrey, Wallace, and McGovern, and a

distant second to McGovern in Massachusetts. He then withdrew with

dignity." 1 Muskie later said of this incident: "It changed

people’s minds

about me, of what kind of a guy I was. They were looking for a strong,

steady man, and here I was weak." " (Congressional Quarterly,


of Presidential Elections", Fourth ed. 1994, pg.329-330)6

After a long primary campaign, and all the primary elections, Senator

George McGovern won the nomination for the Democratic party in the 1972

presidential election. "McGovern did not get to deliver his acceptance

speech–perhaps the best speech of his career–until 2:48 a.m., when most

television viewers were already in bed."6 Senator McGovern had a


campaign ahead of him. His opposition, President Richard Nixon, already

had the upper hand on him because he had been elected President four years

before. President Nixon was the Republican candidate. "President Richard

Nixon told a reporter that "the election was over the day he (Sen.


McGovern) was nominated." "1 McGovern campaigned very hard.

"Between September 3 and September 15, the South Dakotan barnstormed

through 29 cities and towns in 18 states covering some 14,000 miles and

being seen by more than 175,000 people." (U.S. News and World Report,

"Can Democrats Close the Gap, Sept. 25, 1972, Vol. LXXXIII, No.13,

pg.17-22)3 McGovern knew, if he wanted to win, he had to focus on the

important issues of 1972.

There were four very important issues. These were the war in

Vietnam, the economy, foreign policy, and defense. The two major ones

were the war in Vietnam, and the economy. McGovern was sure that if he

was elected president, he would be able to end the war. "We will be able


end the war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate

total withdrawal of all Americans from Southeast Asia." (Congressional

Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, "1972 Conventions", Third ed.,


pg..127-132.)4 McGovern goes on to say in another interview that "I will

stake my whole political career on being able to withdraw our forces and get

our prisoners out within 90 days after inauguration. I really think I can do


faster than that." (U.S. News and World, "How McGovern Sees The


August 7, 1972, Vol. LXXIII No.6, pg.18-22)8 McGovern, like everyone

else wanted to end the war in Vietnam as soon as possible. McGovern felt

the Nixon could have ended the war years earlier, and could have spared all

those lives. "There’s nothing that we can negotiate now in ending this

war that

we couldn’t have done four years ago. We haven’t gained anything in these

four years of continued slaughter that’s gone on in this present

Administration."8 "I’ll be one of those rejoicing even if Nixon

does end this

war and it does accrue to his advantage. I just wish he had done it four


ago. If he had, I might not now be running for the President."8 McGovern

makes it seem as though his sole purpose, and reason for wanting to become

President is to simply end the Vietnam war.

Nixon along with the Republican party, and their platform stated that

"We will continue to seek a settlement of the Vietnam War which will


the people of Southeast Asia to live in peace under political arrangements of

their own choosing. We take specific note of the remaining major obstacle to

settlement-Hanoi’s demand that the United States overthrow the Saigon

government and impose a Communist-dominated government on the South

Vietnamese. We stand unequivocally at the side of the President in his effort

to negotiate honorable terms, and in his refusal to accept terms which would

dishonor this country."4 "We insist that, before all American

forces are

withdrawn from Vietnam, American prisoners must be returned and a full

accounting made of the missing in action and of those who have died in enemy

hands." (U.S. News and World Report, "Promises Republican

Make," Sept.

4, 1972, Vol. LXXIII No.10, pg.28-29)2 Although the Republicans held the

basic idea that the Democrats did, which was to end the war in Vietnam as

soon as possible, they didn’t specify an allotted amount of time in which


would accomplish this goal as did the Democrats.

The second major issue of 1972 was the economy. "The Nixon

record increased unemployment by 3 million people."8 There were price

freezes, and wage-price controls. McGovern and the Democrats stated that

their goal was for full employment, and for those who are unable to work,


they would receive a guaranteed income. "The heart of a program of

economic security based on earned income must be creating jobs and training

people to fill them. Millions of jobs — real jobs, not make-work — need to

be provided. Public service employment must be greatly expanded in order

to make the government the employer of last resort and guarantee a job for

all." "What I offer is a balanced, full-employment economy–where

we can

provide enough, both to protect our interest abroad and to bring progress at

home."4 Part of McGovern’s economic plan included defense spending cut

backs. "What I offer is not simply a set of promises, but a specific

plan to

pay for those promises. First, I would reduce by approximately 10 billion

dollars in each of the next three years the rapidly escalating, lavish Nixon

military budget. Current spending wastes billions of dollars on planes that


not fly, and missiles that will not work. I will never permit America to


a second-rate power in the world. Neither can we permit America to

become a second-rate society. And if we choose a reasonable military

budget, we will not have to choose between the decline of our security and

the deterioration of our standard of life."(U.S. News and World Report,

"From McGovern: A New Blueprint For Taxes, Welfare," Vol. LXXIII

No.11, pg.14-16)7 Our country does not only need to be strong militarily

but also economically. Our military is an important part of our economy, but

it shouldn’t be one of the major influencing factors that determines the


of the economy. The Democrats felt that "Spending for military purposes


greater by far than federal spending for education, housing, environmental

protection, unemployment insurance or welfare. Unneeded dollars for the

military at once add to the tax burden and pre-empt funds from programs of

direct and immediate benefit to our people. Moreover, too much that is now

spent on defense not only adds nothing to our strength but makes us less

secure by stimulating other countries to respond."4

Just as the Democrats want a healthy economy the Republicans want

the same thing. Our country needs a healthy economy to survive, and the

Republicans feel they can give us that strong economy. "We stand for


employment–a job for everyone willing and able to work in an economy

freed of inflation, its vigor not dependent upon war or massive military

spending. We will fight for responsible federal budgets to help assure steady

expansion of the economy without inflation. The right of American citizens to

buy, hold or sell goods should be re-established as soon as this is


The Republicans agree that the economy shouldn’t be based on war or huge

amounts of defense expenses to keep our economy, but they also feel that the

military is an important part of our country.

Traditionally the Republican party has always supported a strong military,


feels it is necessary to keep America as one of the world’s strongest


President Nixon, and the Republican party stated that "By adhering to a

defense policy based on strength at home, partnership abroad and a

willingness to negotiate everywhere, we hold that lasting peace is now

achievable. We will not let America become a second-class power,

dependent for survival on the good will of adversaries. We draw a sharp

distinction between prudent reductions in defense spending and the meat-ax

slashes with which some Americans are now beguiled by the political

opposition. We wholeheartedly support an all-volunteer armed force and

expect to end the draft by July, 1973. We will continue to pursue arms-

control agreements–but we recognize that this can be successful only if we

maintain sufficient strength."2 Basically Nixon and the Republican Party


stating that we need a strong military and a healthy economy, but cutting

defense spending is not the solution to the economic problem.

Another major issue focused on during the election of 1972 was

foreign policy. Senator McGovern, and the Democratic party stated the next

Democratic Administration should "End American participation in the war


Southeast Asia. Re-establish control over military activities and reduce

military spending, where consistent with national security. Defend America’s

real interests and maintain our alliances, neither playing world policeman


abandoning old and good friends. Not neglect America’s relations with small

third-world nations in placing reliance on great power relationships. Return


Congress, and the people, a meaningful role in decisions on peace and war,

and make information public, except where real national defense interests are

involved."4 The Democratic party didn’t want other countries to look


the U.S. as the policeman of the world. They also wanted to make sure the

U.S. remained friendly with small third world countries, because we may need

to trade with them, or we might need raw materials we don’t have.

The Republicans had a different idea on foreign policy. They said that

"Never before has our country negotiated with so many nations on so wide


range of subjects — and never with greater success." They go on to say


will press for expansion of contacts with the peoples of Eastern Europe and

the People’s Republic of China, as long isolated from most of the


The Republican Party wanted to improve the relationships with countries that

have been cut off from much of the world. The Republicans felt they were

doing a good job with foreign policy, and didn’t think they should change

much of anything they were doing.

After all the months of campaigning, and voting were through, Richard

Nixon was reelected the new President of the United States. "Nixon swept

back into the White House on Nov. 7 with a devastating landslide victory

over McGovern. He carried a record of 49 states for a total of 520 electoral

votes."5 Nixon did have a couple of advantages that McGovern didn’t. For

one, the people had confidence in him since he had been elected once before.

They knew what kind of a President he was, and what they as the constituents

could expect from him. Second, McGovern made a bad decision when he

chose his vice president running mate. McGovern had chosen Sen. Thomas

F. Eagleton of Missouri. "Barely 10 days after selection of the


ticket, on July 25, Eagleton disclosed that he voluntarily had hospitalized

himself three times between 1960 and 1966 for "nervous exhaustion and

fatigue. "McGovern strongly supported his running mate at the time, but

in the

following days, his support for the Missouri senator began to wane. After a

meeting with McGovern on July 31, Eagleton withdrew from the ticket."4

Eagleton badly damaged the image of McGovern. The constituents lost their

confidence in McGovern and in his decision making power. They felt that

McGovern may not make wise decisions if he was elected the next President

of the U.S. McGovern was also somewhat radical views. "CRP focused

early and often on the more radical-sounding views of McGovern, highlighting

his support of amnesty for young people who fled to Canada to avoid the

draft, his sometime musings that marijuana might better be legalized, and his

purported support of legalized abortion."1 Many felt that McGovern’s


may have been more radical and outlandish than some had supported.

After Nixon was elected to office, "It appeared in 1972 that

American politics was entering an age of calm consensus. The economy was

temporarily strong: opposition to the Vietnam War had faded as the two sides

negotiated in Paris for an end to the war."6 Then in Nixon’s political


"A warlike atmosphere between the media (as well as other perceived

enemies of the administration that appeared on Nixon’s "enemies

list") and the

mushrooming Watergate scandal combined to create a dark side to U.S.

politics in the 1970’s. At its simplest level, the Watergate affair

was "a third-

rate burglary" and a subsequent cover-up by President Nixon and his


In the summer of 1972, several employees of the Committee to Re-elect the

President were arrested after they were discovered breaking into and bugging

the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the posh Watergate complex

in Washington. The break-in was not a major issue in the 1972 election, but

the next year congressional committees began an investigation."6 Along


the congressional committees investigation, two reporters from the

Washington Post, named Bob Woodward, and Carl Berstein did some

investigating of their own. They had a politician who knew about all that was

going on with the Watergate scandal, nicknamed "Deep Throat." Deep

Throat supplied the two reporters with the information they needed to tear

open the Watergate scandal. These two reporters open up the Watergate

scandal, and all the participants involved. "During the investigation, a

presidential aide revealed that Nixon had secretly taped Oval Office

conversations with aides. When the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald

Cox ordered Nixon to surrender the tapes, Nixon ordered Cox fired. Then

the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to surrender even more tapes, which

indicated that he had played an active role in covering up the Watergate

scandal. Nixon resigned the presidency when his impeachment and

conviction appeared certain. The impeachment articles charged him with

obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers and contempt of

Congress. President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. The Watergate

affair was perhaps the greatest political scandal in U.S. history. For the


time, a president was forced to leave office before his term expired."6

Vice President Gerald Ford became the President of the United

States. President Ford then granted Richard Nixon a full pardon of the

crimes committed against the presidency, and the people of the United States.

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