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The Ex-Presidents of the United States of America, Richard Nixon

Article by Russell Shortt

Richard Nixon was born on 9 January 1913 in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. He won scholarships to both Harvard and Yale but due to lack of finances he was forced to decline them. He instead enrolled in a local Quaker college, Whittier College where he was a model student. In 1934 he graduated second in his class and entered Duke University School of Law, North Carolina. He returned to California in 1937 and was admitted to the Bar, working for the law offices of Wingert and Bewley, he became a full partner in the firm in 1938. He was commissioned in the United States Navy in August 1942, he was assigned as the naval passenger control officer for the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command. He received two service stars, although he did not see any combat action; he made lieutenant commander in October 1945 and resigned his commission on 1 January 1946. He ran for and was elected to the Unites States House of Representatives in the November 1946 elections. He first came to national recognition when his investigation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) broke the impasse in the Alger Hiss case. Nixon became polarised in the American consciousness, he was a hero to Roosevelt’s enemies but an enemy to Rossevelt’s supporters because Hiss had been an advisor to FDR. In the 1950 elections, Nixon was elected to the Senate defeating the Democratic representative in a historic landslide. Due to his strong anti-communist stance, Eisenhower selected him to be the Vice-Presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention in July 1952.

During the campaign he was accused by the New York Post of accepting private donations, a claim that he strenuously denied. The Republicans won the ticket, Nixon broadened the scope of the post. In 1960, he launched his campaign for President of the United States of America. His Democratic challenger was John F. Kennedy. The race was close, becoming defined by the first televised presidential debates, Nixon was recovering from illness and appeared uncomfortable in comparison to the composed JFK, however many people listening on radio considered Nixon to be the winner. Kennedy amid accusations of electoral fraud, won with the most meagre of margins. Nixon returned to California, practiced law and wrote the best selling political memoir Six Crises. He ran for Governor of California in 1962, losing to Pat Brown and leading to many to write off his political career. However, he re -entered the arena, throwing his hat into the ring for the 1968 Presidential campaign. He modelled himself as a figure of stability, appealing to socially conservative Americans, pitting himself against the hippie counterculture, he won the nomination. He then attacked the Democrats on charges of allowing the United States to lose their nuclear superiority, he also promised that he would end the Vietnam War. He won, completing a memorable comeback from the political wilderness. He set out to develop relations with China, pursue arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, activate a peace process in the Middle East, ensure that US inflation was curbed and implement welfare reform. However, his most pressing task was to tackle the Vietnam War.

He approved a secret bombing campaign of Cambodia with the intention of destroying the headquarters of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam. He followed this with implementing the Nixon doctrine, which was a strategy of replacing American troops with Vietnamese troops in Vietnam. His further bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia led to widespread protests at home. He was re-elected President in the 1972 campaign in one of the biggest landslides in American political history. Nixon had an aggressive foreign policy that included successes with the Soviet Union, China and the Middle East but he was dogged by a weak national economy and domestic protests over the continued war in Vietnam. After his 1972 re-election, his administration was consumed by the Watergate scandal, named after the hotel and office complex where burglars hired by Nixon’s re-election campaign were caught in a sloppy attempt to bug the offices of the Democratic National Convention. Nixon played down the scandal as mere politics and his administration denounced the story as misleading, however the FBI confirmed the allegations, senior aides began resigning and many faced prosecution. Losing political support by the day and facing almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned his post on August 9, 1974; however, he never admitted to criminal wrongdoing, only conceding he made errors of judgment. On 8 September, 1974 President Ford granted an absolute pardon to Nixon, ending any possibility of indictment. Nixon moved back to California to write his memoirs and was variously consulted on a private basis by his successors but his standing as a disgraced President continued to dog him.

In 1977, he began to embark on a public relations comeback effort, meeting with British journalist David Frost who paid him six hundred thousand dollars for a series of sit-down interviews. The first of his ten books that he authored in his retirement was published at this time, enabling Nixon to emerge from his seclusion to embark on book tours. He later embarked on tours to Egypt, Soviet Union, Japan and China. He gained respect as an elder statesman in the arena of foreign affairs and was consulted by both Democratic and Republican successors to the Presidency. No American President served as long in national office as Nixon did, he appeared on the Republican party’s Presidential ticket five times, secured the Republican nomination three times and was elected twice to the office of President and Vice-President. Along with Ronald Reagan, he was the chief builder of the modern Republican party. He was instrumental in expelling the Soviet Union from the Middle East, he initiated formal relations with China and improved relations with the Soviet Union. Domestically he decentralised government by revenue sharing, ended school segregation, ended the gold standard, reduced the crime rate and pioneered environmental policies. However, his policies in Vietnam remain contentious; his principal electoral mandate had been to end the war. He did authorise the gradual withdrawal of the 500,000 American troops from South Vietnam but the war continued to drag on. Some assert that Nixon sold out the South Vietnamese government, others argue that his he needlessly prolonged the war by negotiating conditions that were advantageous to United States objectives that never has any possibility of being achieved.

About the Author

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source Russell Shortt, http://www.exploringireland.net

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