Главная > Реферат >Остальные работы
Richard Nixon and the Notion of Presidential Power
“Actions which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful
if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the
Nation.” The idea that certain actions are not illegal if used to preserve
the best interests of a nation has drawn sharp criticism from the time of
Lincoln through today. Presidents of the United States do take a solemn oath
in which they promise to “ . . . preserve, protect, and defend the
Constitution of the United States”, but the means which they have employed
to accomplish these ends have greatly differed and have occasionally sparked
great controversy. The unjustified means which Richard Nixon used to defend
this nation and its Constitution have drawn a great deal of attack not only
on his methods but also on the greater notion of Presidential power.
Many Presidents have faced many different tumultuous challenges and obstacles
which have posed potential threats to American societal stability and security.
Yet very few have used such controversial means to overcome these threats.
For example, after the birth of the nation, Executives faced the threats
of political division and the ideas of the many dangerous paths prescribed
for the Union. As the debate over slavery escalated, the future of the states
and of the Union seemed uncertain. Furthermore, as the nation moved rapidly
through the Industrial Revolution, the future of the nation’s labor
force and of its general welfare seemed uncertain. As time passed, the nation
would encounter the greatest economic depression of all time, and the challenges
would continue. Our nation would still battle the divisive issues of racism
and discrimination. Yet none of the Presidents who governed during these
daring times exploited the authority of their position in unwarranted manners.
The Nixon Administration would however, exploit its authority and attempt
to justify its actions based on the ‘similar’ actions of Abraham
During the Civil War, this nation’s greatest test of will and spirit,
President Lincoln felt it incumbent upon the President to assume certain
authority and responsibility not specifically granted to the Executive by
the Constitution. His rationale stemmed from his desire and oath to preserve
the Constitution and the Union as a whole. On the eve of the Civil War, Lincoln,
fearing a strong Confederate threat, initiated a blockade of all Southern
ports; ordering no vessels in or out of the South. Clearly an act of war,
Lincoln faced immediate challenge from Congress and Confederate leaders.
His reasoning, though, for carrying out such a dangerous and controversial
act was his belief that it would tame the South and prevent massive bloodshed
in the future. His concerns would later prove to be warranted.
Although public resentment and dissatisfaction can be used to provoke government
action at any leader’s discretion, Lincoln truly believed that the future
of the nation was in jeopardy. He saw the issue of slavery as one which
threatened both the economic and social balances between the North and South
and one that could ultimately destroy the young nation. Lincoln sought to
blockade the Southern states and to suspend the writ of habeas corpus (a
power originally granted to Congress) in order to foster stability and security
in the confused nation. He would continually be challenged by Congress, but
the Supreme Court would ultimately uphold his actions as necessary to the
security and interests of the nation, its people, and its future.
While Lincoln was extremely concerned with public opinion, he was not convinced
that the Presidential elections would be the ultimate check. Rather, Lincoln
asserted that the success of the actions taken by a government to preserve
its interest and peace cannot be measured by the electorate but rather by
the final outcome of the actions. Nixon’s opinion, however, differed.
Richard Nixon saw the ultimate check not in the result or consequences of
his actions, but rather in the response of the electorate / popular opinion.
This, in my opinion, is the dangerous flaw which lead to Richard Nixon’s
Great danger lies in placing too much value on popular opinion. The opinion
of the electorate, while important for electing a President, should not have
a great deal to do with the process of day to day government decision making.
Because people can be too easily convinced and persuaded into believing dangerous
popular opinion, too much value should not be place on the opinion of the
masses. This nation has seen a great deal of popular support for issues like
discrimination, segregation and a refusal to grant women the right to vote,
yet now these issues are seen as wrong; morally wrong. The public has been
wrong on such issues all too often and public opinion has been swayed all
too easily over the years. A dependence on public opinion can prove dangerous
for a policy maker and divisive for a nation. Nixon would sadly discover
For Nixon to rely upon an election as the ultimate check for the electorate
is in my opinion irrational. A great deal of decision making takes place
between every election and a great deal of information regarding the actions
of an Administration remains confidential. Nixon would then have us believe
that the electorate should make a decision based on only some of the facts.
An idea strongly frowned upon by the founding fathers.
Yet, the matter which I have the greatest disagreement with is Nixon’s
attempt to present the political activity of a select few Americans as being
on a considerable par with the events leading up to the Civil War. Furthermore,
Nixon’s attempt at portraying himself as being remotely comparable to
Lincoln is not well taken. The challenges that the two men faced were entirely
different. The problems plaguing the nation under the two leaders were extremely
different. And the tactics used by one leader were bold and courageous while
the other’s were deceitful and deliberate. Nixon’s actions were
clearly not essential to national security.
Nixon attempts to validate his argument by stating that the nation was torn
apart during his term of office by the tumultuous times of the Vietnam War
era. He attempts to compare the Civil War, the most difficult time in the
history of this country, to the social protests and challenges of the Vietnam
era. The differences are immense. Lincoln witnessed the very nation that
he governed dissolve before him. He witnessed the issue of slavery eat away
at the moral fabric of this nation as it shouldered the economy of the South
and he questioned the future of this nation. Richard Nixon, however, faced
no such threats. He encountered opposition to the Vietnam War and to the
American government shortly after becoming President and he attempts to convince
us that the nation was ideologically “torn apart”.
Also, Nixon’s attempt to portray the President as somehow being above
the law is in complete contradiction to the principles of the Constitution.
Article II, Section 4 to the Constitution clearly states that “ The
President . . . shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction
of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”; illustrating
that the President is required to abide by a standard of law and jurisprudence.
However, in his interview with David Frost, Nixon states, “well, when
the President does it, that means it is not illegal.” This idea that
any man or any elected official is somehow above the reach of the law not
only disgraces the electorate and our Constitution, it also disgraces the
office of the Presidency.
Also, later in the same interview, Nixon stated, “I wanted to discredit
that kind of activity which was despicable and damaging to the national
interest.” While his intention to discredit actions which may pose a
threat to nation security is appreciated, one has to closely examine the
actions themselves and the means by which Nixon chose to combat them. Nixon
no doubt faced a great deal of opposition and potential political threats
during the controversial Vietnam War era, but his use of intelligence agencies
to investigate and infiltrate these protest political operations lowers his
actions to a level equally clandestine and erroneous as that of the protesters
and opposition movements. His doings are no doubt comparable to that of a
totalitarian government, not a democracy.
Additionally, Nixon also mentions in the same interview that although he
has not read the entire Constitution, a disgrace for any United States President,
he knows of no law that places the President above the law of the land; somewhat
of a contradiction to his original statement that if the “President
does it, that means its not illegal.” Also, Nixon does say that in times
of emergency / war, the President has assumed greater responsibilities and
authority, a practice upheld by the Supreme Court during the Civil War and
the Great Depression. However, unlike the Civil War, the Great Depression
or any other major challenge this nation has faced, Nixon’s challenges
were not comparable. They did not warrant illegal investigation and they
did not constitute a threat to this nation’s security.
Finally, the notion of Presidential power has been one of responsibility,
of morality, and of Constitutional supremacy. The Constitution grants a great
deal of responsibility to the Executive but it also sets clear requirements
and legal guidelines. It clearly states that no man is above the law, and
although a President must face an electorate every four years, it states
that the law is the ultimate check, not the people. Over the years, the meaning
of the Constitution and the interpretation of the Constitution have changed,
yet the responsibility and respect associated with this office have remained
similar. Richard Nixon’s practice of investigating individuals, who
have never been suspected of violating the law, whom he believes to be a
threat to national security is a violation of our nation’s trust in
democracy. Their ‘questionable’ practices cannot be compared to
the deadly threat of the Civil War and his means of response cannot be compared
to that of Lincoln. His actions are, in essence, a violation of his solemn
oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.
- Untitled Essay, Research Paper LYNDON B JOHNSON ================ Johnson was ... Democrats defeated the Republican candidates, Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, by a ... race with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Retirement. ———– After stepping down ...
- Untitled Essay, Research Paper Part 1 Chapter 1-8 1. Chapter 1 introduces ... Approximately when does the story negin? Show evidence to support your ... two matters of disagreement and each one’s position or point ... she regard of what she did in the pass. And she ...
- ... affects data manipulation, primarily subtractions and comparisons. (Jager, p. 1) For ... bill them, and maintain an academic history of each student ( ... information system has hundreds and hundreds of references ... to specify which record to access and what type of ...
- ... into Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, and Wilmington. “Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, ordered police ... kill arsonists and the main looters.” The actions by Richard J. Daley, were ... . On April 30, 1970, President Nixon ordered the “incursion” of Cambodia ...