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Limits of a Super Power
If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation,
the United States, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces
of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and
free institutions throughout the world.
-Richard Nixon, Address to the Nation, April 30, 1970
Main Ideas
• Domestic and Foreign policies of President
• The Vietnam War and its conclusion
• Détente with the Soviets and Chinese
• The Watergate scandal
• Resignation of President Nixon
The Highs and Lows
• In 1969, TV viewers around the world witnessed the
astonishing sight of two American astronauts walking on the
• This event, followed by a series of successes for the U.S. space
program represented the high points of the era
• Offsetting these technological triumphs were shocking
revelations about the White House participation in the
Watergate crime, a stagnant economy, and the fall of South
Vietnam to communism
• Increased foreign economic competition, oil shortages, rising
unemployment, and high inflation made Americans less certain
of an ever changing, less manageable world
Richard Nixon’s Foreign Policy
Richard Milhous Nixon was the
37th President of the United States,
serving from 1969 to 1974, when he
became the only president to resign
the office.
• In his January 1969 inaugural address,
President Nixon promise to bring the
nation together after the turmoil of the
• Soon after winning the election, however,
Nixon isolated himself in the White
House (focused on international relations)
• Together with his national security
advisor Henry Kissinger, later in his
second term secretary of state, President
Nixon fashioned a generally successful
foreign policy that reduced tensions of the
cold War
Phan Thị Kim Phúc, center, running down a road
near Trảng Bàng, Vietnam, on 8 June 1972, after a
napalm bomb was dropped on the village of Trảng
• When Nixon took office, more
than a half a million troops were
in Vietnam
• His principle objective was to
find a way to reduce U.S.
involvement while avoiding the
appearance of conceding defeat
• In a word, Nixon said the U.S.
was seeking nothing less than
“peace with honor”
Henry Kissinger was the
architect of the process of
• Almost immediately, the new president
began the process called “Vietnamization”or the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces
and the funding for more weapons and
training for South Vietnamese forces to
fight the war
• U.S. troops in South Vietnam went from
540,000 in 1969 to under 30,000 in 1972
• Extending the idea of disengagement to
other parts of Asia, the president proclaimed
the Nixon Doctrine-declaring in the future
Asian allies would receive U.S. support but
without the extensive use of U.S. ground
Opposition to Nixon’s War Policies
Nixon delivers an address to
the nation about the bombings
in Cambodia, April 30, 1969
• Nixon’s gradual withdrawal of forces from
Vietnam at first reduced antiwar protests
• In April 1970, the president expanded the
war by using U.S. forces to invade
Cambodia in an effort to destroy
Vietnamese Communist bases
• A nationwide protest on U.S. college
campuses erupted- four students were
killed by National Guard troops at Kent
State and two black students at Jackson
• In reaction to the escalation of the war, the
U.S. Senate voted to repeal the Gulf of
Tonkin Resolution
Opposition to Nixon’s War Policies
Antiwar protests
• Also in 1970, the American public was
shocked to learn about the 1968 massacre
of women and children by U.S. troops in
the Vietnamese village of My Lai
• Further fueling the antiwar sentiment was
the publication by The New York Times of
the Pentagon Papers-a secret government
history documenting the mistakes and
deceptions of government policy-makers
in dealing with Vietnam
• The papers were turned over, or “leaked”
to the press by Daniel Ellsberg (former
Defense Department analyst)
Peace Talks, Bombing Attacks, and
• On the diplomatic front, Nixon and Kissinger conducted
secret meetings with North Vietnam’s foreign minister, Le
Duc Tho
• Kissinger announced in the fall of 1972 that “peace is at
hand,” but this announcement proved premature
• When the North Vietnamese failed to compromise, Nixon
ordered massive bombing of North Vietnam to force a
• B-52 bombers attacked over several weeks until North
Vietnam agreed to an armistice
Peace Talks, Bombing Attacks, and
Signing at the peace talks
• The Paris Accords of January
1973 also promised a cease-fire
and free elections
• The armistice allowed the U.S. to
extricate itself from the war that
claimed over 58,000 American
• The $118 billion spent on the war
began the inflationary cycle that
hurt the U.S. economy for years
Détente With
China and the
Soviet Union
President Nixon greets Chinese
Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong
(left) in a historic visit to the People's
Republic of China, 1972.
• Nixon and Kissinger strengthened the
U.S. position in the world by taking
advantage of the rivalry between the
two Communist giants, China and the
Soviet Union
• Their diplomacy was praised for
bringing about détente- a deliberate
reduction of Cold War tension
Visit to China:
-Nixon arranged secret meetings with
Chinese leaders and shocked the
American people when he visited
China in February 1972
-This step initiated diplomatic exchanges
that eventually led to U.S. recognition
of the Communist government in 1979
Arms Control with the U.S.S.R.
Nixon meets with Brezhnev
during the Soviet leader's trip to
the U.S. in 1973
• Nixon used his new relationship with
China to put pressure on the Soviets to
agree to a treaty limiting antiballistic
missiles (ABMs)
• This new technology would have
expanded the arms race, however, the first
round of Strategic Arms Limitations Talks
(SALT I) produced an agreement to
reduce the number of ballistic missiles
carrying nuclear warheads
• While this agreement did not end the arms
race, it was a significant step towards
reducing Cold War tension and bring
about détente
Nixon’s Domestic Policy
Nixon answering questions
• Throughout the 1970s, the Democrats
held majorities in both houses of
• President Nixon lived with this reality
and obtained some concessions from
Congress through moderation and
• Nixon laid the foundation for a shift in
public opinion toward conservatism
and for Republican gains that would
capture the Congress in the 1990s
The New Federalism
• Nixon tried to slow down the growth of Johnson’s Great Society
programs by proposing the Family Assistance Plan- a reform of
the welfare system
• The Democrat controlled Congress easily defeated his proposed
plan, however, Nixon succeeded in shifting some of the
responsibility for social programs to the state and local levels
• In a program known as revenue sharing (New Federalism),
Congress approved giving local governments $30 billion in
block grants over five years to address local needs
• Republicans hoped that revenue sharing would check the
growth of the federal government and return power to the states
Nixon’s Economic Policies
• Starting with a recession in 1970, the U.S. economy throughout
the decade faced the unusual combination of economic
slowdown and high inflation-a condition known as stagflation
• Nixon tried cutting federal spending-led to more unemployment
and the U.S. stayed in a recession
• When he adopted Keynesian economics (deficit spending), took
the nation off the gold standard, imposed a 90-day wage and
price freeze, and a 10%surtax on all imports-the U.S. balance of
trade with foreign nations improved and the U.S was out of the
recession by 1972
Southern Strategy
• Nixon received just 43% of the popular vote in 1968 making
him a minority president
• He devised a political strategy to form a Republican majority by
appealing to million of voters who were disaffected by:
(1) Antiwar protest
(2) Black militants
(3) School busing to achieve racial balance
(4) The excesses of the youth counterculture movement
• Nixon referred to these conservative Americans as the “silent
• Many of these Americans were Democrats, such as southern
whites, Catholic ethnics, blue-collar workers, and suburbanites
Southern Strategy continued…
Spiro Theodore Agnew
was an American
politician who served as
the 39th Vice President
of the United States
from 1969 to 1973,
serving under President
Richard Nixon
• To win over the South, the president asked
the federal courts in that region to delay
integration plans and busing orders
• He also nominated two southern
conservatives (Clement Haynsworth and G.
Harold Carswell) to the Supreme Court
• The Senate refused to confirm them and the
courts rejected his requests for delays,
however, the strategy played well with
southern white voters
• At the same time, Nixon had his Vice
President Spiro Agnew verbally assault both
war protesters and the liberal press
The Burger Court
Warren Earl Burger was the
15th Chief Justice of the
United States from 1969 to
• Four resignations of older justices from the
Supreme Court gave Nixon the opportunity
to replace liberal, activist members of the
Warren Court with more conservative, strict
constructionist justices
• In 1969 he appointed Warren E. Burger as
chief justice to succeed the retiring Earl
• After the two conservative nominees were
rejected by Congress, the president selected
a more moderate Harry Blackmun
• His next two appointments, Lewis Powell
and William Rehnquist were both approved
The Election of 1972
George McGovern speaking at
an October 1972 campaign rally
• The success of Nixon’s Southern
strategy became evident in the election
of 1972 when the Republican ticket
won majorities in every southern state
• Nixon’s election was assured by:
(1) Foreign policy successes in China and
the Soviet Union
(2) The removal of George Wallace from
the race by an assassin’s bullet
(3) The nomination by the Democrats of a
very liberal, antiwar, antiestablishment
candidate George McGovern
Election Day Outcome
Presidential election results map. Red
denotes states won by Nixon/Agnew,
Blue denotes those won by
McGovern/Shriver. Gray is the electoral
vote for John Hospers by a Virginia
faithless elector. Numbers indicate the
number of electoral votes allotted to
each state
• On election day, Nixon won a landslide
victory by capturing 60.8% of the
popular vote and every states electoral
votes except Massachusetts
• The Democrats still managed to keep
control of both house of Congress
• Nevertheless, the voting patterns for
Nixon indicated the start of a major
political realignment of the Sunbelt and
suburban voters forming a new
Republican majority
• Nixon’s electoral triumph in 1972 made
the Watergate revelations and scandals
of 1973 all the more surprising
• The tragedy of Watergate went
well beyond the public
humiliation of Nixon and the
conviction and jailing of 26
White House officials and aids
• Watergate paralyzed the
political system in the mid70s, a critical time both at
home and overseas
Watergate Complex
White House
John Newton Mitchell was the
Attorney General of the United
States from 1969 to 1972 under
President Richard Nixon and
director of CREEP. Due to his
involvement in the Watergate
affair, he was sentenced to prison
in 1977, serving 19 months
• In June 1972, a group of men hired by
Nixon’s reelection committee were
caught breaking into the offices of the
Democratic national headquarters in the
Watergate complex
• The break-in and attempted bugging
were only part of a series of illegal
activities conducted by Nixon’s
administration and the Committee to
Re-Elect the President (CREEP)
• Before Watergate, Nixon had ordered
wiretaps on government employees and
reporters to stop news leaks like the
secret bombing of Cambodia
• The president’s aides created a group
called the “plumbers” to stop these
leaks or discredit their opponents
White House Abuses continued…
Daniel Ellsberg is a former United
States military analyst who, while
employed by the RAND Corporation,
precipitated a national political
controversy in 1971 when he released
the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret
Pentagon study of U.S. government
decisions in Vietnam
• The “plumbers” burglarized the office of
the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the
person behind the leaking of the Pentagon
Papers (to discredit)
• The White House created an “enemies
list” of prominent Americans who
opposed Nixon, the Vietnam War, or both
• People on this list were investigated by
government agencies, such as the IRS
• The break-ins reflected a general attitude
in the Nixon administration that any
means could be used to promote national
Watergate Investigation
Sam Ervin (right), as chair of the Senate
Watergate Committee
• There was no solid proof that
President Nixon ordered any of these
illegal activities
• After months of investigation:
(1) It was clear that Nixon engaged in
an illegal cover-up
(2) Tough sentencing by federal judge
John Sirica led to information about
bribes and promised pardons by
White House staff
(3) Democrat Senator Sam Ervin
brought the abuses to the attention
of the American people
Watergate Investigation
Archibald Cox
The Saturday Night Massacre was
the term given by political
commentators to U.S. President
Richard Nixon's executive dismissal
of independent special prosecutor
Archibald Cox, and the resignations
of Attorney General Elliot
Richardson and Deputy Attorney
General William Ruckelshaus on
October 20, 1973 during the
Watergate scandal
(4) A highlight of the hearings involved White
House lawyer John Dean who linked the
president to the cover-up
(5) Nixon’s top aides, H.R. Haldeman and John
John Ehrlichman resigned to protect him
but were later indicted for obstructing
(6) The discovery of an Oval Office taping
system led to a year-long struggle between
Nixon (executive privilege) and
investigators (prove cover-up charges)
(7) During the investigation Vice President
Agnew was forced to resign for having
taken bribes when governor of Maryland
Other Developments in 1973
• Although Watergate absorbed most of Nixon’s attention during
his short second term, other developments at home and abroad
were important
War Powers Act:
-Nixon’s secret bombing raids in Cambodia and its negative
effect with the American people gave the Congress a chance to
limit the president’s powers over the military
-Congress passed the War Powers Act over Nixon’s veto
requiring Nixon and any future president to report to Congress
within 48 hours after taking military action
-It further provided that Congress would have to approve any
military action that lasted more than 60 days
October War
and Oil
A wrecked Israeli tank during the
early days of the Yom Kippur War
• In world politics of 1973, the most
important event was the outbreak of
another war in the Middle East
• On October 6, the Jewish holiday of
Yom Kippur, the Syrians and
Egyptians launched a surprise attack
on Israel in an attempt to recover the
lands lost in the Six Day War of 1967
• Nixon ordered the U.S. nuclear forces
on alert and airlifted almost $2 billion
in arms to Israel to stem their retreat
• The tide of the battle quickly turned
in favor of the Israelis and the war
• The U.S. was made to pay a huge
price for supporting Israel
October War and Oil Embargo
• The Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) placed an oil embargo on any supporter of Israel
• The embargo caused a worldwide oil shortage and long lines at gas
stations in the U.S.
• It had a tremendously negative effect on the U.S. economy which
(1) Runaway inflation
(2) Loss of manufacturing jobs
(3) Lower standard of living for blue collar workers
(4) Consumers switched to smaller more fuel efficient Japanese cars
(loss of automobile jobs)
(5) Congress enacted a 55-miles-per-hour speed limit to conserve fuel
of a
Nixon announces the release of edited
transcripts of the Watergate tapes,
April 29, 1974
• In October of 1973, Nixon fired Archibald
Cox, the special prosecutor assigned to the
Watergate investigations (U.S. attorney
general resigned in protest)
• The Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to
turn over the Oval Office tapes to the courts
and Congress (United States v. Nixon)
• The start of impeachment in the Congress in
1974 convinced the House Judiciary
Committee to render three articles of
(1) Obstruction of justice
(2) Abuse of power
(3) Contempt of Congress
• Faced with certain impeachment, Nixon
resigned on August 9, 1974 and Vice
President Gerald Ford took the oath of office
(first unelected president in U.S. history)
• To some, the final outcome of the
Watergate scandal proved that the U.S.
constitutional system of checks and
balances worked
• For others, the scandal underlined the
dangerous shift of power to the
presidency that started with FDR and
expanded during the Cold War
• Without a doubt, Watergate contributed to
a growing loss of faith in the federal
Nixon leaving the
White House after
his resignation
1969 - Men land on the moon
- My Lai massacre revealed
- Nixon "Silent Majority" speech
- Woodstock rock concert
1970 - U.S. troops invade Cambodia on orders of President Nixon
1971 - Twenty-sixth Amendment (voting age)
- Pentagon Papers published
- New Economic Program
- price control
1972 - Watergate break-in by agents of the Republican White House; "cover-up" begins
- Death penalty decisions (Furman v. Georgia and others) of the
Supreme Court
- President Nixon visits Communist China
- Senate passes Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) but it is not ratified by
- SALT disarmament treaty signed
1973 - Vice President Agnew forced to resign;
-Gerald Ford chosen as vice president by Nixon with congressional
- Roe v. Wade
- Existence of White House tapes revealed as part of Watergate investigation
-"Saturday Night Massacre"
-Resignation of Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Special Prosecutor
Archibald Cox over Watergate
- United States negotiates withdrawal from Vietnam
1974 - Presidential impeachment hearings
- U.S. v. Nixon
-President Nixon resigns presidency; Gerald Ford becomes thirty-eighth
Key Names, Events, and Terms
Richard Nixon
Henry Kissinger
Nixon Doctrine
Kent State
My Lai
Pentagon Papers
Paris Accords 1973
China visit
Soviet Union; Strategic Arms
Limitation Talks (SALT)
• New Federalism
• stagflation
Southern strategy
Warren Burger; Burger Court
George McGovern
Watergate; articles of
United States v. Nixon
War Powers Act (1973)
Middle East War (1973)
OPEC; oil embargo
Gerald Ford
Which of the following BEST reflected President
Nixon’s policy of “Vietnamization”?
(a) Massive bombing of North Vietnam by American air
(b) Full-scale invasion of Cambodia to end the
Communist threat
(c) Gradual withdrawal of American armed forces from
(d) Turning the war in South Vietnam over to United
Nations forces
(e) Stopping all American military and economic aid to
South Vietnam
C: Gradual withdrawal of American armed
forces from Vietnam