American Presidents have had many honors bestowed upon them: their faces grace our currency and their names grace our stadiums and airports. How has Richard Nixon been honored?
Young Richard Nixon, positively radiating integrity.
Richard Nixon first gained public office in 1946, elected to the House of Representatives from California after smearing his opponent, Jerry Voorhis, as a communist sympathizer. He gained national fame during his first term for his work on the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which outed Alger Hiss as a possible Soviet spy. Nixon was then elected to the Senate in 1950 after again smearing his opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, as a communist sympathizer, calling her "pink right down to her underwear."
Helen Gahagan Douglas. Nixon forced voters to imagine this woman in her underwear, paving his way into the U.S. Senate.
In 1952 Nixon was selected by Republican Presidential nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower to be his running mate. During the campaign, it was revealed that wealthy patrons in California maintained a secret fund to pay for some of Nixon's expenses; when controversy swirled and debates raged regarding Nixon's worthiness to be on the ticket, Nixon responded with the "Checkers" speech, a televised plea for understanding and sympathy that bordered on, and sometimes invaded the territory of, the sickeningly maudlin. While insisting that the fund was neither illegal nor unusual (true), and that he and wife Pat were not wealthy (mostly true), he proceeded to jump the shark with the statement that the only gift he had received was his little dog Checkers, whom his young daughters loved too much to give back.
"If the Democrats win, this puppy will die."
Eisenhower decided to keep him on the ticket and they won the election. Nixon then became the youngest and creepiest Vice President in American history until his own selection of Spiro T. Agnew as running mate in 1968.
"Ha ha ha. You recording this?"
"Ha ha ha ha. Goddamn right!"
In 1960, Richard Nixon made his first run at the presidency. In one of the closest elections in American history, he was defeated by Massachusetts democrat John F. Kennedy. The campaign featured the first televised Presidential debates in history; Kennedy displayed the handsomeness and charisma that allowed him to bed the likes of Marilyn Monroe, while Nixon sweated profusely and grew a beard on camera.
"Judo chop! Hiyaw! Hoo! Haw!"
Kennedy, of course, went on to get his head blown off and become a beloved figure of romantic legend; Nixon was forced to ponder his missed opportunity. To be president, that is.
After his defeat at the hands of Kennedy, Nixon was encouraged to run for Governor of California in 1962. He was defeated in an election widely considered at the time to be his political death knell, and responded with an angry press conference proclaiming his intention to retire from public life.
"You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, I am going to beat the shit out of myself. Oof. Ow. Ugh."
Nixon spent the years from 1962-1967 working as a lawyer, out of the public eye.
A unique combination of circumstances let Nixon back into contention for the Presidency in 1968. The Republican party was in disarray after a disastrous 1964 campaign, and the country was in turmoil over issues like the Vietnam war and racial unrest. Nixon, promising a successful resolution to the war and law and order at home, was able to coast to the nomination while the Democrats, reeling from the assassination of candidate Robert F. Kennedy, fought among themselves. After a disastrous convention rocked by violence and protest, they selected the cartoonishly named Hubert Horatio Humphrey, then Vice President, as their standard bearer.
"No, I'm not one of the Oompa Loompas. I preside over the Senate, dammit!"
In yet another election decided by a razor-thin margin, Nixon won.
In 1969, Nixon was sworn in as our 37th and creepiest president, while Spiro T. Agnew, former Governor of Maryland, was sworn in as his equally creepy Vice-President.
No, that's not the President and Vice President. But it is awesome to contemplate as an alternate universe, historical left-turn sort of thing.
Nixon's first term included several great triumphs, including relaxation of tensions with the Soviet Union, the opening of dialogue with China, and the very successful losing of the war in Vietnam.
In his 1972 re-election campaign, Nixon faced George McGovern. McGovern was a little-known senator from South Dakota, a state whose population is significantly boosted by counting the four guys on Mount Rushmore. Furthermore, McGovern's first choice for running mate turned out to have been hospitalized multiple times for mental illness, even receiving electroshock therapy. So, no need to cheat here, right? Right?
On June 17, 1972, five men were caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. Attempting to bug the office of the Democratic National Chairman, they were arrested along with two others, including celebrity psychopath G. Gordon Liddy. Among the boneheaded mistakes they made that night were: 1. Taping the door latch open by applying the tape not lengthwise along the side of the door but wrapped from the front of the door around to the back, thus making it easily visible to the night watchman; 2. Replacing the tape the same stupid way after the watchman had removed it; and 3. carrying a bunch of cash that was traceable back to the Committee to Re-elect the President (fittingly known as CREEP). They may also have attempted to hide behind a curtain with their feet sticking out below, but that was not reported; nor is it known if they pretended to be statues when discovered.
"No, we're like, janitors or something."
The burglars were sentenced after guilty pleas and the lid was kept on until after the election, which Nixon won with about 61% of the vote.
Then it blowed up reeeeaaaal good.
In 1973 the Senate opened an investigation of what came to be known as "Watergate." And yes, this was the event that resulted in the word "gate" being tagged onto the name of every fucking scandal that has ever happened ever since.
The investigation, along with the investigative reporting of the Washington Post and other media outlets, produced revelation after revelation during the course of the year. Among those revelations were: a pattern of wiretapping, dirty tricks, bribes, and money laundering by the Committee to re-elect the President; a White House "enemies list" of political opponents to be harassed by the Internal Revenue Service; and, most spectacularly, the fact that Nixon's White House contained an extensive, hidden, automatic taping system to surreptitiously record all meetings and phone conversations.
"Testing, one two three testing...what? Oh, nothing."
Since these recordings likely contained evidence pertaining to ongoing legal cases against members of the Nixon administration, a legal battle ensued over the tapes. When a subpoena was issued, Nixon responded with edited transcripts, which were unsurprisingly deemed "not fucking good enough." Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled against Nixon's claim of executive privilege and tapes were released.
One of the tapes, originally recorded a few days after the Watergate break-in, was found to have a gap; over eighteen minutes of silence judged by technical experts to have been caused by multiple erasures. The public was assured that this was accidentally and hilariously done by Nixon's secretary, Rosemary Woods, while transcribing the tape.
Rosemary Woods demonstrates how she erased the tape and accidentally shot and killed Spider Sabich.
While all this was going on, Vice President Agnew was pleading "nolo contendre" to charges that included accepting bribes while Governor of Maryland. He resigned in October of 1973 and was replaced by Gerald R. Ford.
Eventually, the House of Representatives began impeachment hearings. Nixon's outlook was bleak.
In early August of 1974, Nixon turned over a tape of a conversation in which he gave orders to have the CIA block the FBI's investigation of the original Watergate break-in because of vague "national security" concerns that he never bothered to elaborate on.
"I did it for the good of the nation. If you want details, pull my finger."
At this point, all remaining support for Nixon in the House and Senate vanished. Nixon resigned the Presidency effective on August 9, 1974.
Nixon flashes the "V for Victory" sign shortly after resigning the presidency in disgrace. Wait, what?
Nixon was pardoned of any and all crimes committed during his Presidency by President Gerald Ford, coincidentally the same guy that Nixon chose to replace Agnew the year before.
Nixon died in July of 1994 at the age of 81, prompting people around the world to observe a minute of silence in his honor. Others chose to observe 18 1/2 minutes of silence, feeling that to be more appropriate.
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