Whenever Richard Nixon is mentioned, most people will immediately think of the Watergate scandal. In 1972, the Democratic National Committee's headquarters was broken into. As the break-in was investigated, it became clear that Nixon was involved. Not only was Nixon's administration under intense suspicion, but Nixon was not cooperating with the investigation efforts. The investigation showed convincing evidence that Nixon was at the very least involved in a cover-up, if not the break-in entirely. Nixon was likely to be impeached, but on August 9th,1974, Nixon became the first and only president to resign. This has come to be known as the Watergate scandal, or just Watergate. This has forever tainted how Nixon's presidency is remembered. However, it is not unfair to say that Nixon did terrible things as president--even if you disregard Watergate completely.
Nixon heavily pushed the War on Drugs. While the War on Drugs was promoted as crucial to saving America's youth, that may not have been the government’s actual intention. John Ehrlichman, Assistant to President Nixon for Domestic Affairs, stated to Harper’s Magazine, "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
Under Nixon, marijuana was listed as a Schedule I drug along drugs such as LSD and heroin. This decision has confused and angered Americans ever since. It seems that the criminalization of marijuana has only been for personal reasons rather than scientific evidence. Before the 1930s, marijuana was not illegal or as infamous as it is now. During the Prohibition, marijuana became more prevalent in black communities and within the jazz-culture. Suddenly, marijuana was banned in the US. In the 60s, anti-war leftists who opposed Nixon became heavily associated with marijuana. Suddenly, marijuana was allegedly as dangerous as heroin. It's easy to see the correlation between these events, and it is very easy to interpret decisions like these as targeted attacks from the government.
Watergate is not the only example of Nixon's surveillance. The Vietnam War was not popular, and there was much civil unrest due to it. Anti-war demonstrations angered Nixon, and he ordered the CIA to surveil demonstrators as part of the Huston plan. Names of more than 300,000 individuals were collected in this witch-hunt-esque investigation. Many civil rights groups, such as the Black Panthers, were investigated. This was all based on Nixon's belief that anti-war groups were working with the Soviet Union, a belief that never had any evidence to back it. Nixon was interviewed by British TV host David Frost after his presidency about this. Frost asked Nixon, "In the Huston plan it stated very clearly, with reference to the entry that was being proposed, it said very clearly, use of this technique is clearly illegal. Why did you approve a plan that included an element that was clearly illegal?" In response, Nixon infamously said, "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
How familiar were you of Richard Nixon's presidency before reading this? Had you only known of the Watergate scandal?
What was your opinion of Nixon before reading this? Has your opinion changed?