Richard Nixon – his successes and failures

Richard Nixon is one of the most controversial Presidents in the history of the United States.  Having first served as Vice-President to President Dwight Eisenhower during the 1950s, he won the Presidential elections in 1968 and served in this role for the next six years.  Affiliated to the Republican Party, his achievements were limited to a few landmark agreements in foreign diplomacy.  But for most part, his tenure as President was marred by a series of controversies starting with the Vietnam War and ending with the Watergate scandal.  Although started by the Kennedy-Johnson Administration, it was President Nixon who oversaw the peak of the war in Vietnam.  This war would lead to loss of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives and 50,000 American lives.  Waged on grounds of ideological defense against Soviet Communism, the Vietnam War proved to be a public relations disaster for the American government and depleted its treasury.  Eventually, the war was called-off by President Nixon due to mounting public pressure and escalating domestic issues.  But the most embarrassing episode in the career of President Nixon was his involvement in the Watergate affair, where he used unethical and illegitimate means to cover-up his wrongdoings.  He also used threats and coercive tactics to undermine the Democratic Party who were at the case.  When major newspapers in the country broke the news of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon had little choice but to resign from office and face trial.  He spent the rest of his life in political wilderness, only rarely making public appearances, as he was burdened with shame and guilt. In sum, the career and Presidency of Richard Nixon is a mix of limited successes and glaring failures.


John Hollitz, Thinking Through the Past: A Critical Thinking Approach to U.S. History, ISBN 066933488X (0-669-33488-X), published by D C Heath & Co.