Watergate scandal insignificantin life’s work of



    June 17, 1972, was a day history will never forget.

    Although President Nixon was not involved in the creation of Watergate, he took steps to cover up the activities of certain staff members, said Brad Hainsworth, a professor in the Communications Department, who worked in the Nixon administration as a staff assistant to the president and later as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior.

    BYU alumnus Grant J. Hansen attended the BYU Washington Seminar, working as an intern in the House of Representatives Clerk’s Office from April to June 1974, just prior to Nixon’s resignation.

    “It was a ‘do-what-you-have-to-do-to-get-elected’ era where the end justifies the means,” Hansen said.

    The scandal was exposed by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who pursued the story for a year and a half, Hansen said.

    As an intern, Hansen attended some of the impeachment hearings and some of the House Judiciary Committee meetings where accusations were written.

    “The tension in Washington was so thick you could cut it,” Hansen said. “President Nixon was under a dark cloud.”

    Finally in August 1974, Nixon resigned.

    Richard Vetterli, a professor in the Political Science Department, said it was necessary that Nixon step down. However, the degree of his guilt was divided between Democrats and Republicans.

    In an article published prior to his 1968 election, Nixon set three objectives: to bring an end to Vietnam, to open China to the West and to bring about a reconciliation with the Soviet Union — all of which were goals he accomplished, Hainsworth said.

    “While he did engage in a cover-up, many of the activities that became known as Watergate had been (undertaken) in prior administrations, such as Bobby Kennedy bugging Martin Luther King’s bedroom, John Kennedy using the IRS to punish political enemies and Lyndon Johnson assembling files on members of Congress for political purposes. Moreover, in his personal life, there was never any question in his loyalty to his wife and his family,” Hainsworth said.

    David Bohn, a professor in the Political Science Department, who was the director of the 1974 Washington Seminar, said although there have been all kinds of abuses of power in other administrations, abuse of power really isn’t the question concerning Watergate.

    “Nixon’s cover-up was an obstruction of justice, which resulted in a whole orchestration of lies to avoid accountability,” Bohn said.

    Hainsworth said, the only difference between Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson was that Nixon was not a good politician because he didn’t know how to manipulate the media and had poor relations with Congress.

    “Nixon had a ‘we love to hate each other’ relationship with the press from the beginning of his political career. He also had politically offended Congress because he wouldn’t ‘politic’ with them and curry their favor,” he said.

    “When we come to understand these things and become more dispassionate with the whole (scandal), Nixon will be judged less harshly and seen as one of the nation’s more effective presidents in foreign policy,” Hainsworth said.

    In 1994 at Nixon’s funeral, Senator Bob Dole said, “To know the secret of Richard Nixon’s relationship with the American people, you need only to listen to his own words: ‘You must never be satisfied with success and you should never be discouraged by failure. Failure can be sad, but the greatest sadness is not to try and fail but to fail to try.'”

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