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Nixon & The Watergate Scandal

Jul 26, 2022
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25
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It was the scandal that brought down an American president.

In this episode, we'll explore Richard Nixon's route to the White House, and how his ambition cost him his reputation.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal.

[00:00:29] On August 8th of 1974, in the White House Oval Office, a tired looking President Richard Nixon stared into the camera and announced his resignation to the American people.

[00:00:43] With this, he became the first and only, to date, American president to resign in office.

[00:00:50] And the reason for this, the so-called Watergate scandal, would have a lasting impact on American politics, trust in institutions, and even leave a mark on the English language.

[00:01:03] So, let’s get right into it, and look at the scandal that brought down a president.

[00:01:11] The man at the centre of the Watergate scandal was Richard Milhous Nixon.

[00:01:17] He was born into a modest Quaker family in January of 1913 in California. 

[00:01:24] After finishing his studies at law school, he served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific during World War Two, and was then elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican in 1946. 

[00:01:39] With the Cold War developing, Nixon became a national figure after working on the case of Alger Hiss, an American who was accused of having been a soviet spy.

[00:01:52] This proved his anti-communist credentials, and helped him make the jump from Congressman to Senator, which he did in 1950, when he was elected as the Senator for California. 

[00:02:06] During this rise to national prominence, he got a name for himself as someone who was prepared to play dirty to get ahead, someone who was prepared to do whatever it took to advance his personal interests.

[00:02:21] In the campaign to become Senator for California, he fiercely attacked his rival, Helen Gahagan Douglas, portraying her as a communist, producing misleading pamphlets about her voting record, and even claiming Douglas was “pink right down to her underwear”.

[00:02:40] All of these dirty tactics earned him the nickname ‘Tricky Dick’. 

[00:02:46] I should clarify here that “tricky” means deceitful or dishonest, it doesn’t mean difficult or hard in this context, and Dick is simply a short version of Richard.

[00:02:59] Anyway, Tricky Dick was becoming a household name, known as someone who was fiercely anti-communist and would be prepared to go to any lengths to further American interests.

[00:03:12] It was no surprise, then, when he was chosen, at the age of just 39, to be Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1952 presidential election, and he would go on to serve as his Vice President for eight years, until 1960, during which he completed various diplomatic trips abroad and earned himself a reputation as a bit of a foreign policy expert. 

[00:03:39] We should note here, that on the campaign trail in 1952, Eisenhower left all of the ‘negative campaigning’ to Tricky Dick. 

[00:03:49] By negative campaigning, I mean spreading what we might today call ‘fake news’ about political opponents, and sometimes known as ‘mudslinging’ - all the stuff that Nixon had got a name for already during the campaign to become Senator for California.

[00:04:05] Anyway, life as Eisehnhower’s number two must have had an effect on Nixon and given him a taste of power. In 1960 he decided to have a crack at the top job, and ran for President. 

[00:04:20] But, 1960 would not be it for Nixon.

[00:04:24] He narrowly lost out to a younger, much more handsome and more charismatic candidate, the Democrat John F. Kennedy, who was only 43 when he became president.

[00:04:35] The White House would have to wait, and Tricky Dick needed to take a step back to plot his next move.

[00:04:44] That would come in 1962, when he contested the race for Governor of his home state of California. 

[00:04:51] But he lost, and many, reportedly including Nixon himself, thought his political career was over.

[00:04:59] Immediately afterwards, he did the traditional thing politicians do when they’re trying to figure out their next moves: take a trip to Europe, spend more time with their family, and then, in Nixon’s case, return to the United States and become a senior partner at a prestigious New York law firm. 

[00:05:19] But many political ‘pundits’, political commentators, sensed that Nixon wanted to be back in the game - presidential politics, that is. 

[00:05:29] The problem was that back in 1962, when he unsuccessfully ran for Governor, Nixon had ruled himself out of the 1964 election

[00:05:40] He’d even claimed that his concession speech - the speech losing politicians make to accept defeat - he claimed that it would be “my last press conference.”

[00:05:52] So when his former rival President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Nixon kept to his word and supported the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater from the sidelines.

[00:06:05] Nixon could only watch as Kennedy’s Vice President and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, won a landslide victory and wiped out the Republicans.

[00:06:16] But Tricky Dick was, even back then, planning his next run at the White House and plotting for the future. 

[00:06:23] Nixon just couldn’t resist the pull of the Presidency and would, as we will learn in a few moments, do just about anything - legal, illegal, and indeed, very illegal - to win power and keep it.

[00:06:39] With the Democrats divided about war in Vietnam and tension bubbling in the country over civil rights, Nixon felt he had a shot - a chance - at winning in 1968. 

[00:06:52] This feeling grew when the incumbent, or sitting, President, the Democrat Lyndon Johnson, shocked everyone and announced that he would not be seeking reelection.

[00:07:05] And the turbulence continued.

[00:07:07] The assassinations of both civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the potential Democratic nominee Robert F. Kennedy - the younger brother of the already assassinated John F. Kennedy - sparked violence and rioting across 130 American cities and resulted in 46 deaths, 20,000 arrests, and more than $100 million of damage.

[00:07:32] America was on the edge, and the country was ready for someone to bring back some normality.

[00:07:39] And after winning the Republican nomination Nixon capitalised on this tension, and decided to run for President on a “law and order” ticket, a “law and order” message.

[00:07:53] This message, combined with criticism of the Democrats' foreign policy record, won him the presidency by a narrow margin.

[00:08:02] Tricky Dick was back - and finally, he was in the White House.

[00:08:07] Now, before we get into the Watergate scandal itself, the act of Nixon’s presidency that he is most famous for, in the interests of balance it is worth talking briefly about his first term as President.

[00:08:22] Now, remember that Nixon was a bit of a foreign policy expert? 

[00:08:26] Or he had that reputation after his trips to Asia during his time as Vice President?

[00:08:32] Well, Nixon’s Presidency is best remembered - besides Watergate, of course - for ‘opening up’ China, reducing tensions with the USSR and establishing the European Protection Agency in 1970.

[00:08:47] He met with the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and negotiated limits on nuclear weapons, and then, in January of 1973, he made an agreement with North Vietnam to pull out American troops.

[00:09:02] So, his presidency was not without its achievements.

[00:09:07] But for all of these positive legacies, he would be forever remembered for the Watergate Scandal.

[00:09:15] You might be thinking, after such a long and perhaps unlikely political comeback, after such a long and difficult road to the Oval Office, and some initial policy successes, why, and how, did Nixon throw it all away?

[00:09:32] As is often the case with politicians, the origins of Watergate can be boiled down - or, simplified, we might say - to one word: reelection

[00:09:44] Paranoid about being reelected in the 1972 election, Nixon was desperate to cling onto power and willing to do whatever it took to stay in the White House.

[00:09:56] He was so desperate, in fact, that he even put together a special team of advisers to make sure he was reelected, imaginiatively called the ‘Committee to Re-Elect the President’.

[00:10:09] Put very simply, CREEP, as it became known, started the Watergate scandal by ordering a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, the DNC headquarters, at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C.

[00:10:25] They bugged phone lines, they put recording devices on Democratic phone lines, they stole important documents to try to ‘dig up dirt’, or find out useful information, on Nixon’s Democratic rival, George McGovern, for the upcoming election in 1972.

[00:10:44] Obviously this was illegal - there’s nothing wrong with trying to find out information about your rival, but there is something very wrong with breaking into a hotel and secretly listening to your rival’s phone calls.

[00:10:57] And they might have got away with it, had it not been for a keen-eyed security guard.

[00:11:04] In the early hours of June 17th, of 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills noticed that there was something fishy going on, there was suspicious activity in the Watergate building, where the Democratic National Committee headquarters were. 

[00:11:21] There was tape put on the locks of the doors, which allowed them to close but didn’t lock. 

[00:11:27] The security guard removed the tape, but when he returned he found that someone had put the tape back on to the locks.

[00:11:36] He called the police, who went into the DNC offices and found and arrested five men, the police caught them red handed.

[00:11:46] These five men, it turned out, were high-ranking members of CREEP, Nixon’s committee for reelection.

[00:11:55] Of course, they didn’t admit to this immediately, the connection between the burglars and the White House was not immediately obvious, but it was quickly made when a copy of the CREEP phone number was found on one of the burglars

[00:12:11] The White House, of course, distanced itself from what one spokesman called a ‘third rate burglary’ attempt, and then, in an August speech, Nixon assured the American people that he and the White House had nothing to do with the break-in.

[00:12:28] This promise seemed to have done its job, as in November of 1972 Tricky Dick, or rather President Richard Nixon, was reelected in a landslide victory.

[00:12:41] But the story didn’t stop there.

[00:12:44] And as it turns out, it would be the very committee that Nixon had put together to ensure his reelection that would be his downfall and cause him to be booted out, kicked out of office. 

[00:12:59] While the White House claimed to know nothing about the break-in, behind closed doors, this committee was trying to cover its tracks, stop the investigation into the break-in, and distance itself from the five burglars who were arrested that night in June 1972.

[00:13:17] They destroyed evidence and burned transcripts taken from a previous failed wiretap at the DNC headquarters. 

[00:13:25] Yes, CREEP had actually broken into the DNC before, and on the night they were caught, they were actually returning to try and fix a faulty wiretap

[00:13:37] From the very night the police caught the burglars, Nixon and his staff began what we might call today a ‘disinformation campaign’, providing fake alibis, distancing themselves from the burglary, and paying people off with ‘hush money’ - payments to ensure someone’s silence.

[00:13:58] Crucially, on June 23rd of 1972, less than a week after the break-in, Nixon ordered that the FBI be told, “Don't go any further into this case, period!”

[00:14:12] This order would later be revealed in what became known as the ‘Nixon tapes’. 

[00:14:18] Nixon recorded all conversations in the Oval Office, and it would transpire that he had some pretty incriminating conversations, some conversations that showed he knew exactly what was going on. 

[00:14:31] While Nixon tried to brush the official investigation under the carpet, two young reporters at the Washington Post called Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wouldn’t let it go. 

[00:14:43] Their original reporting on the scandal has been described as “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time” and played a big role in shaping public opinion.

[00:14:56] A lot of their information came from an anonymous source known only as ‘Deepthroat’ who they met in secret and, it later turned out, had been a high ranking FBI agent involved in the investigation from the start.

[00:15:11] Deepthroat revealed that Nixon’s coverup was far more serious than the break-in itself. 

[00:15:18] As he became increasingly paranoid that he would be connected to the crime, Nixon then asked the CIA to block the FBI investigation, and remember he had already tried to tell the FBI to stop the investigation in the first place. 

[00:15:35] Now, breaking in, stealing documents, and using wiretaps was one thing, but obstructing justice was another, much more serious crime.

[00:15:46] Tricky Dick was getting in over his head - that's to say, getting himself involved in a situation he couldn’t get himself out of.

[00:15:56] Several of the burglars pleaded guilty - encouraged, or most likely threatened to do so by Nixon’s team - in order to avoid a trial, but facing growing media scrutiny some began to crack under the pressure.

[00:16:11] In July of 1973, Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, testified in court that Nixon recorded all of his conversations.

[00:16:23] For people who believed that Nixon was guilty, which of course he certainly was, these tapes were the smoking gun, the evidence that unquestionably connected him to the crime, the crime of obstruction of justice

[00:16:39] The only question that remained for these people was how to get their hands on them.

[00:16:44] It wasn’t only the journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, who were trying to track down the tapes, but there was also a special investigation set up, the United States Senate Watergate Committee, which was tasked with finding out what happened.

[00:17:00] Pressure was building as 1973 went on, and the Nixon team tried to claim that the tapes were protected by Presidential privilege, which means the President can choose to withhold confidential communication under certain circumstances. 

[00:17:17] In fact, years later, in a series of interviews with the British journalist David Frost in 1977, Nixon put the presidential privilege argument very bluntly, claiming: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

[00:17:35] But it was illegal, of course - very illegal, in fact - and Nixon knew it. 

[00:17:41] As the coverup started to unravel, Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and on October 20th of 1973, officials from the Justice Department began resigning in protest in what became known as the ‘Saturday Night Massacre.’

[00:17:58] In response Nixon gave up some of the tapes, but not all. 

[00:18:03] By the start of 1974 he had lost control of the scandal and his coverup and obstruction of justice were becoming clearer. 

[00:18:13] In early March, a grand jury indicted seven of Nixon’s aides, and the jury, nervous about how they should refer to the President, called him an “unindicted co-conspirator.”

[00:18:27] With nowhere to go, and his aides indicted, in July the Supreme Court forced Nixon to hand over the tapes

[00:18:35] Still, even then, Nixon tried everything that he could to avoid it - can you blame him? 

[00:18:41] He’d literally recorded all of his lawbreaking.

[00:18:46] Then, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon for abuses of power, the cover-up, violations of the Constitution, and obstruction of justice.

[00:18:58] For Tricky Dick, the game was up, and he handed over the complete tapes on August 5th of 1974. 

[00:19:07] Knowing he was about to be impeached, three days after handing over the tapes he became the first, and still, to this day, the only U.S President to resign in office.

[00:19:19] “By taking this action,” he said from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”

[00:19:31] He might have been right that America needed healing, but he didn’t actually admit to any kind of wrongdoing in his speech, claiming that he always thought he was doing what was best for the country.

[00:19:45] The presidency was passed to his Vice President, Gerald Ford, who some historians believe was offered the job on the condition that he would pardon Nixon.

[00:19:56] Shortly after being sworn in as President, Ford did indeed pardon Nixon of all crimes. 

[00:20:03] Ford said that he wanted to put the issue to bed - that is to say, end it - and told the American people that “our long national nightmare is over.” 

[00:20:15] Nixon’s reputation might have been tarnished, badly marked, but he didn’t spend a day behind bars, a day in prison.

[00:20:25] Not all his staff were so lucky.

[00:20:28] Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell served 19 months in prison, while the mastermind behind the Watergate break-in, G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent no less, did over four years.

[00:20:42] In terms of the legacy of Watergate, this very public scandal, the Watergate scandal, it changed American politics, society, and history forever. 

[00:20:53] Americans were already increasingly divided and distrustful of authority before Nixon even got the White House, so when he was publicly forced to resign in disgrace many Americans concluded that politicians and presidents were all liars with something to hide.

[00:21:12] It’s also why, many historians argue, Nixon’s two successors - Ford, and then Democrat Jimmy Carter - were such weak and ineffective Presidents. 

[00:21:24] After the expansion of Presidential power throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Nixon, especially his claims that he couldn’t be held responsible for his crimes, this was viewed as the climax of what is known as the ‘Imperial Presidency.”

[00:21:41] Thanks to the excellent reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, the press began concentrating much more on what Presidents and politicians were doing behind the scenes, making sure they were reporting on what was actually happening, not just what the White House was telling them.

[00:21:59] Congress, too, began reasserting itself and trying to rebalance the power dynamic between branches of government.

[00:22:07] Ultimately, as far as the American people are concerned, the people felt - and heard, literally, on tape - that the President had lied to them. 

[00:22:18] Nixon and Watergate’s true legacy, therefore, is that it solidified suspicion of politicians. 

[00:22:25] The belief that they lie and deceive, and that they can’t be trusted, was there for all to see and hear in Nixon’s nasally, monotone voice as he looked at the camera and lied to the American people.

[00:22:40] And on a linguistic note, the Watergate scandal left a mark on the English language. 

[00:22:46] Whenever there is any kind of scandal, journalists like to add the suffix of “gate” to the word, so there was Partygate, with Boris Johnson, or even Nipplegate, where part of Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed during the Super Bowl.

[00:23:03] But the most lasting legacy is, of course, to do with trust in politicians.

[00:23:09] Undoubtedly, Richard Nixon was not the first or last US president to overstep his power. 

[00:23:15] But the Watergate Scandal made Nixon the face - and the voice - of an idea that remains to this day: that politicians are dishonest and can’t be trusted.

[00:23:26] As far as Nixon was concerned, perhaps it was not too much of a surprise. People had seen how he had behaved throughout his political career, and it was clear that he would do whatever he thought was necessary to stay in power.

[00:23:42] And if that wasn’t enough, there was a clue right there in his nickname. 

[00:23:47] After all, he wasn't known as Tricky Dick for nothing.

[00:23:50] OK then, that is it for today’s episode on the Watergate Scandal, the story of one man’s lust for power and his willingness to do anything to keep it. 

[00:24:03] I hope it was an interesting one, and whether you knew a lot about Watergate before, or this is the first time you’d actually dug into the story of it, well I hope you learned something new.

[00:24:15] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:24:19] If you were alive at the time of the Watergate scandal, how do you remember it?

[00:24:23] How do you think Nixon ranks on the list of US presidents?

[00:24:27] How do you think his legacy would have been different if it hadn’t been for Watergate?

[00:24:32] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:24:36] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:45] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:50] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal.

[00:00:29] On August 8th of 1974, in the White House Oval Office, a tired looking President Richard Nixon stared into the camera and announced his resignation to the American people.

[00:00:43] With this, he became the first and only, to date, American president to resign in office.

[00:00:50] And the reason for this, the so-called Watergate scandal, would have a lasting impact on American politics, trust in institutions, and even leave a mark on the English language.

[00:01:03] So, let’s get right into it, and look at the scandal that brought down a president.

[00:01:11] The man at the centre of the Watergate scandal was Richard Milhous Nixon.

[00:01:17] He was born into a modest Quaker family in January of 1913 in California. 

[00:01:24] After finishing his studies at law school, he served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific during World War Two, and was then elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican in 1946. 

[00:01:39] With the Cold War developing, Nixon became a national figure after working on the case of Alger Hiss, an American who was accused of having been a soviet spy.

[00:01:52] This proved his anti-communist credentials, and helped him make the jump from Congressman to Senator, which he did in 1950, when he was elected as the Senator for California. 

[00:02:06] During this rise to national prominence, he got a name for himself as someone who was prepared to play dirty to get ahead, someone who was prepared to do whatever it took to advance his personal interests.

[00:02:21] In the campaign to become Senator for California, he fiercely attacked his rival, Helen Gahagan Douglas, portraying her as a communist, producing misleading pamphlets about her voting record, and even claiming Douglas was “pink right down to her underwear”.

[00:02:40] All of these dirty tactics earned him the nickname ‘Tricky Dick’. 

[00:02:46] I should clarify here that “tricky” means deceitful or dishonest, it doesn’t mean difficult or hard in this context, and Dick is simply a short version of Richard.

[00:02:59] Anyway, Tricky Dick was becoming a household name, known as someone who was fiercely anti-communist and would be prepared to go to any lengths to further American interests.

[00:03:12] It was no surprise, then, when he was chosen, at the age of just 39, to be Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1952 presidential election, and he would go on to serve as his Vice President for eight years, until 1960, during which he completed various diplomatic trips abroad and earned himself a reputation as a bit of a foreign policy expert. 

[00:03:39] We should note here, that on the campaign trail in 1952, Eisenhower left all of the ‘negative campaigning’ to Tricky Dick. 

[00:03:49] By negative campaigning, I mean spreading what we might today call ‘fake news’ about political opponents, and sometimes known as ‘mudslinging’ - all the stuff that Nixon had got a name for already during the campaign to become Senator for California.

[00:04:05] Anyway, life as Eisehnhower’s number two must have had an effect on Nixon and given him a taste of power. In 1960 he decided to have a crack at the top job, and ran for President. 

[00:04:20] But, 1960 would not be it for Nixon.

[00:04:24] He narrowly lost out to a younger, much more handsome and more charismatic candidate, the Democrat John F. Kennedy, who was only 43 when he became president.

[00:04:35] The White House would have to wait, and Tricky Dick needed to take a step back to plot his next move.

[00:04:44] That would come in 1962, when he contested the race for Governor of his home state of California. 

[00:04:51] But he lost, and many, reportedly including Nixon himself, thought his political career was over.

[00:04:59] Immediately afterwards, he did the traditional thing politicians do when they’re trying to figure out their next moves: take a trip to Europe, spend more time with their family, and then, in Nixon’s case, return to the United States and become a senior partner at a prestigious New York law firm. 

[00:05:19] But many political ‘pundits’, political commentators, sensed that Nixon wanted to be back in the game - presidential politics, that is. 

[00:05:29] The problem was that back in 1962, when he unsuccessfully ran for Governor, Nixon had ruled himself out of the 1964 election

[00:05:40] He’d even claimed that his concession speech - the speech losing politicians make to accept defeat - he claimed that it would be “my last press conference.”

[00:05:52] So when his former rival President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Nixon kept to his word and supported the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater from the sidelines.

[00:06:05] Nixon could only watch as Kennedy’s Vice President and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, won a landslide victory and wiped out the Republicans.

[00:06:16] But Tricky Dick was, even back then, planning his next run at the White House and plotting for the future. 

[00:06:23] Nixon just couldn’t resist the pull of the Presidency and would, as we will learn in a few moments, do just about anything - legal, illegal, and indeed, very illegal - to win power and keep it.

[00:06:39] With the Democrats divided about war in Vietnam and tension bubbling in the country over civil rights, Nixon felt he had a shot - a chance - at winning in 1968. 

[00:06:52] This feeling grew when the incumbent, or sitting, President, the Democrat Lyndon Johnson, shocked everyone and announced that he would not be seeking reelection.

[00:07:05] And the turbulence continued.

[00:07:07] The assassinations of both civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the potential Democratic nominee Robert F. Kennedy - the younger brother of the already assassinated John F. Kennedy - sparked violence and rioting across 130 American cities and resulted in 46 deaths, 20,000 arrests, and more than $100 million of damage.

[00:07:32] America was on the edge, and the country was ready for someone to bring back some normality.

[00:07:39] And after winning the Republican nomination Nixon capitalised on this tension, and decided to run for President on a “law and order” ticket, a “law and order” message.

[00:07:53] This message, combined with criticism of the Democrats' foreign policy record, won him the presidency by a narrow margin.

[00:08:02] Tricky Dick was back - and finally, he was in the White House.

[00:08:07] Now, before we get into the Watergate scandal itself, the act of Nixon’s presidency that he is most famous for, in the interests of balance it is worth talking briefly about his first term as President.

[00:08:22] Now, remember that Nixon was a bit of a foreign policy expert? 

[00:08:26] Or he had that reputation after his trips to Asia during his time as Vice President?

[00:08:32] Well, Nixon’s Presidency is best remembered - besides Watergate, of course - for ‘opening up’ China, reducing tensions with the USSR and establishing the European Protection Agency in 1970.

[00:08:47] He met with the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and negotiated limits on nuclear weapons, and then, in January of 1973, he made an agreement with North Vietnam to pull out American troops.

[00:09:02] So, his presidency was not without its achievements.

[00:09:07] But for all of these positive legacies, he would be forever remembered for the Watergate Scandal.

[00:09:15] You might be thinking, after such a long and perhaps unlikely political comeback, after such a long and difficult road to the Oval Office, and some initial policy successes, why, and how, did Nixon throw it all away?

[00:09:32] As is often the case with politicians, the origins of Watergate can be boiled down - or, simplified, we might say - to one word: reelection

[00:09:44] Paranoid about being reelected in the 1972 election, Nixon was desperate to cling onto power and willing to do whatever it took to stay in the White House.

[00:09:56] He was so desperate, in fact, that he even put together a special team of advisers to make sure he was reelected, imaginiatively called the ‘Committee to Re-Elect the President’.

[00:10:09] Put very simply, CREEP, as it became known, started the Watergate scandal by ordering a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, the DNC headquarters, at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C.

[00:10:25] They bugged phone lines, they put recording devices on Democratic phone lines, they stole important documents to try to ‘dig up dirt’, or find out useful information, on Nixon’s Democratic rival, George McGovern, for the upcoming election in 1972.

[00:10:44] Obviously this was illegal - there’s nothing wrong with trying to find out information about your rival, but there is something very wrong with breaking into a hotel and secretly listening to your rival’s phone calls.

[00:10:57] And they might have got away with it, had it not been for a keen-eyed security guard.

[00:11:04] In the early hours of June 17th, of 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills noticed that there was something fishy going on, there was suspicious activity in the Watergate building, where the Democratic National Committee headquarters were. 

[00:11:21] There was tape put on the locks of the doors, which allowed them to close but didn’t lock. 

[00:11:27] The security guard removed the tape, but when he returned he found that someone had put the tape back on to the locks.

[00:11:36] He called the police, who went into the DNC offices and found and arrested five men, the police caught them red handed.

[00:11:46] These five men, it turned out, were high-ranking members of CREEP, Nixon’s committee for reelection.

[00:11:55] Of course, they didn’t admit to this immediately, the connection between the burglars and the White House was not immediately obvious, but it was quickly made when a copy of the CREEP phone number was found on one of the burglars

[00:12:11] The White House, of course, distanced itself from what one spokesman called a ‘third rate burglary’ attempt, and then, in an August speech, Nixon assured the American people that he and the White House had nothing to do with the break-in.

[00:12:28] This promise seemed to have done its job, as in November of 1972 Tricky Dick, or rather President Richard Nixon, was reelected in a landslide victory.

[00:12:41] But the story didn’t stop there.

[00:12:44] And as it turns out, it would be the very committee that Nixon had put together to ensure his reelection that would be his downfall and cause him to be booted out, kicked out of office. 

[00:12:59] While the White House claimed to know nothing about the break-in, behind closed doors, this committee was trying to cover its tracks, stop the investigation into the break-in, and distance itself from the five burglars who were arrested that night in June 1972.

[00:13:17] They destroyed evidence and burned transcripts taken from a previous failed wiretap at the DNC headquarters. 

[00:13:25] Yes, CREEP had actually broken into the DNC before, and on the night they were caught, they were actually returning to try and fix a faulty wiretap

[00:13:37] From the very night the police caught the burglars, Nixon and his staff began what we might call today a ‘disinformation campaign’, providing fake alibis, distancing themselves from the burglary, and paying people off with ‘hush money’ - payments to ensure someone’s silence.

[00:13:58] Crucially, on June 23rd of 1972, less than a week after the break-in, Nixon ordered that the FBI be told, “Don't go any further into this case, period!”

[00:14:12] This order would later be revealed in what became known as the ‘Nixon tapes’. 

[00:14:18] Nixon recorded all conversations in the Oval Office, and it would transpire that he had some pretty incriminating conversations, some conversations that showed he knew exactly what was going on. 

[00:14:31] While Nixon tried to brush the official investigation under the carpet, two young reporters at the Washington Post called Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wouldn’t let it go. 

[00:14:43] Their original reporting on the scandal has been described as “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time” and played a big role in shaping public opinion.

[00:14:56] A lot of their information came from an anonymous source known only as ‘Deepthroat’ who they met in secret and, it later turned out, had been a high ranking FBI agent involved in the investigation from the start.

[00:15:11] Deepthroat revealed that Nixon’s coverup was far more serious than the break-in itself. 

[00:15:18] As he became increasingly paranoid that he would be connected to the crime, Nixon then asked the CIA to block the FBI investigation, and remember he had already tried to tell the FBI to stop the investigation in the first place. 

[00:15:35] Now, breaking in, stealing documents, and using wiretaps was one thing, but obstructing justice was another, much more serious crime.

[00:15:46] Tricky Dick was getting in over his head - that's to say, getting himself involved in a situation he couldn’t get himself out of.

[00:15:56] Several of the burglars pleaded guilty - encouraged, or most likely threatened to do so by Nixon’s team - in order to avoid a trial, but facing growing media scrutiny some began to crack under the pressure.

[00:16:11] In July of 1973, Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, testified in court that Nixon recorded all of his conversations.

[00:16:23] For people who believed that Nixon was guilty, which of course he certainly was, these tapes were the smoking gun, the evidence that unquestionably connected him to the crime, the crime of obstruction of justice

[00:16:39] The only question that remained for these people was how to get their hands on them.

[00:16:44] It wasn’t only the journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, who were trying to track down the tapes, but there was also a special investigation set up, the United States Senate Watergate Committee, which was tasked with finding out what happened.

[00:17:00] Pressure was building as 1973 went on, and the Nixon team tried to claim that the tapes were protected by Presidential privilege, which means the President can choose to withhold confidential communication under certain circumstances. 

[00:17:17] In fact, years later, in a series of interviews with the British journalist David Frost in 1977, Nixon put the presidential privilege argument very bluntly, claiming: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

[00:17:35] But it was illegal, of course - very illegal, in fact - and Nixon knew it. 

[00:17:41] As the coverup started to unravel, Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and on October 20th of 1973, officials from the Justice Department began resigning in protest in what became known as the ‘Saturday Night Massacre.’

[00:17:58] In response Nixon gave up some of the tapes, but not all. 

[00:18:03] By the start of 1974 he had lost control of the scandal and his coverup and obstruction of justice were becoming clearer. 

[00:18:13] In early March, a grand jury indicted seven of Nixon’s aides, and the jury, nervous about how they should refer to the President, called him an “unindicted co-conspirator.”

[00:18:27] With nowhere to go, and his aides indicted, in July the Supreme Court forced Nixon to hand over the tapes

[00:18:35] Still, even then, Nixon tried everything that he could to avoid it - can you blame him? 

[00:18:41] He’d literally recorded all of his lawbreaking.

[00:18:46] Then, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon for abuses of power, the cover-up, violations of the Constitution, and obstruction of justice.

[00:18:58] For Tricky Dick, the game was up, and he handed over the complete tapes on August 5th of 1974. 

[00:19:07] Knowing he was about to be impeached, three days after handing over the tapes he became the first, and still, to this day, the only U.S President to resign in office.

[00:19:19] “By taking this action,” he said from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”

[00:19:31] He might have been right that America needed healing, but he didn’t actually admit to any kind of wrongdoing in his speech, claiming that he always thought he was doing what was best for the country.

[00:19:45] The presidency was passed to his Vice President, Gerald Ford, who some historians believe was offered the job on the condition that he would pardon Nixon.

[00:19:56] Shortly after being sworn in as President, Ford did indeed pardon Nixon of all crimes. 

[00:20:03] Ford said that he wanted to put the issue to bed - that is to say, end it - and told the American people that “our long national nightmare is over.” 

[00:20:15] Nixon’s reputation might have been tarnished, badly marked, but he didn’t spend a day behind bars, a day in prison.

[00:20:25] Not all his staff were so lucky.

[00:20:28] Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell served 19 months in prison, while the mastermind behind the Watergate break-in, G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent no less, did over four years.

[00:20:42] In terms of the legacy of Watergate, this very public scandal, the Watergate scandal, it changed American politics, society, and history forever. 

[00:20:53] Americans were already increasingly divided and distrustful of authority before Nixon even got the White House, so when he was publicly forced to resign in disgrace many Americans concluded that politicians and presidents were all liars with something to hide.

[00:21:12] It’s also why, many historians argue, Nixon’s two successors - Ford, and then Democrat Jimmy Carter - were such weak and ineffective Presidents. 

[00:21:24] After the expansion of Presidential power throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Nixon, especially his claims that he couldn’t be held responsible for his crimes, this was viewed as the climax of what is known as the ‘Imperial Presidency.”

[00:21:41] Thanks to the excellent reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, the press began concentrating much more on what Presidents and politicians were doing behind the scenes, making sure they were reporting on what was actually happening, not just what the White House was telling them.

[00:21:59] Congress, too, began reasserting itself and trying to rebalance the power dynamic between branches of government.

[00:22:07] Ultimately, as far as the American people are concerned, the people felt - and heard, literally, on tape - that the President had lied to them. 

[00:22:18] Nixon and Watergate’s true legacy, therefore, is that it solidified suspicion of politicians. 

[00:22:25] The belief that they lie and deceive, and that they can’t be trusted, was there for all to see and hear in Nixon’s nasally, monotone voice as he looked at the camera and lied to the American people.

[00:22:40] And on a linguistic note, the Watergate scandal left a mark on the English language. 

[00:22:46] Whenever there is any kind of scandal, journalists like to add the suffix of “gate” to the word, so there was Partygate, with Boris Johnson, or even Nipplegate, where part of Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed during the Super Bowl.

[00:23:03] But the most lasting legacy is, of course, to do with trust in politicians.

[00:23:09] Undoubtedly, Richard Nixon was not the first or last US president to overstep his power. 

[00:23:15] But the Watergate Scandal made Nixon the face - and the voice - of an idea that remains to this day: that politicians are dishonest and can’t be trusted.

[00:23:26] As far as Nixon was concerned, perhaps it was not too much of a surprise. People had seen how he had behaved throughout his political career, and it was clear that he would do whatever he thought was necessary to stay in power.

[00:23:42] And if that wasn’t enough, there was a clue right there in his nickname. 

[00:23:47] After all, he wasn't known as Tricky Dick for nothing.

[00:23:50] OK then, that is it for today’s episode on the Watergate Scandal, the story of one man’s lust for power and his willingness to do anything to keep it. 

[00:24:03] I hope it was an interesting one, and whether you knew a lot about Watergate before, or this is the first time you’d actually dug into the story of it, well I hope you learned something new.

[00:24:15] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:24:19] If you were alive at the time of the Watergate scandal, how do you remember it?

[00:24:23] How do you think Nixon ranks on the list of US presidents?

[00:24:27] How do you think his legacy would have been different if it hadn’t been for Watergate?

[00:24:32] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:24:36] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:45] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:50] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal.

[00:00:29] On August 8th of 1974, in the White House Oval Office, a tired looking President Richard Nixon stared into the camera and announced his resignation to the American people.

[00:00:43] With this, he became the first and only, to date, American president to resign in office.

[00:00:50] And the reason for this, the so-called Watergate scandal, would have a lasting impact on American politics, trust in institutions, and even leave a mark on the English language.

[00:01:03] So, let’s get right into it, and look at the scandal that brought down a president.

[00:01:11] The man at the centre of the Watergate scandal was Richard Milhous Nixon.

[00:01:17] He was born into a modest Quaker family in January of 1913 in California. 

[00:01:24] After finishing his studies at law school, he served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific during World War Two, and was then elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican in 1946. 

[00:01:39] With the Cold War developing, Nixon became a national figure after working on the case of Alger Hiss, an American who was accused of having been a soviet spy.

[00:01:52] This proved his anti-communist credentials, and helped him make the jump from Congressman to Senator, which he did in 1950, when he was elected as the Senator for California. 

[00:02:06] During this rise to national prominence, he got a name for himself as someone who was prepared to play dirty to get ahead, someone who was prepared to do whatever it took to advance his personal interests.

[00:02:21] In the campaign to become Senator for California, he fiercely attacked his rival, Helen Gahagan Douglas, portraying her as a communist, producing misleading pamphlets about her voting record, and even claiming Douglas was “pink right down to her underwear”.

[00:02:40] All of these dirty tactics earned him the nickname ‘Tricky Dick’. 

[00:02:46] I should clarify here that “tricky” means deceitful or dishonest, it doesn’t mean difficult or hard in this context, and Dick is simply a short version of Richard.

[00:02:59] Anyway, Tricky Dick was becoming a household name, known as someone who was fiercely anti-communist and would be prepared to go to any lengths to further American interests.

[00:03:12] It was no surprise, then, when he was chosen, at the age of just 39, to be Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1952 presidential election, and he would go on to serve as his Vice President for eight years, until 1960, during which he completed various diplomatic trips abroad and earned himself a reputation as a bit of a foreign policy expert. 

[00:03:39] We should note here, that on the campaign trail in 1952, Eisenhower left all of the ‘negative campaigning’ to Tricky Dick. 

[00:03:49] By negative campaigning, I mean spreading what we might today call ‘fake news’ about political opponents, and sometimes known as ‘mudslinging’ - all the stuff that Nixon had got a name for already during the campaign to become Senator for California.

[00:04:05] Anyway, life as Eisehnhower’s number two must have had an effect on Nixon and given him a taste of power. In 1960 he decided to have a crack at the top job, and ran for President. 

[00:04:20] But, 1960 would not be it for Nixon.

[00:04:24] He narrowly lost out to a younger, much more handsome and more charismatic candidate, the Democrat John F. Kennedy, who was only 43 when he became president.

[00:04:35] The White House would have to wait, and Tricky Dick needed to take a step back to plot his next move.

[00:04:44] That would come in 1962, when he contested the race for Governor of his home state of California. 

[00:04:51] But he lost, and many, reportedly including Nixon himself, thought his political career was over.

[00:04:59] Immediately afterwards, he did the traditional thing politicians do when they’re trying to figure out their next moves: take a trip to Europe, spend more time with their family, and then, in Nixon’s case, return to the United States and become a senior partner at a prestigious New York law firm. 

[00:05:19] But many political ‘pundits’, political commentators, sensed that Nixon wanted to be back in the game - presidential politics, that is. 

[00:05:29] The problem was that back in 1962, when he unsuccessfully ran for Governor, Nixon had ruled himself out of the 1964 election

[00:05:40] He’d even claimed that his concession speech - the speech losing politicians make to accept defeat - he claimed that it would be “my last press conference.”

[00:05:52] So when his former rival President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Nixon kept to his word and supported the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater from the sidelines.

[00:06:05] Nixon could only watch as Kennedy’s Vice President and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, won a landslide victory and wiped out the Republicans.

[00:06:16] But Tricky Dick was, even back then, planning his next run at the White House and plotting for the future. 

[00:06:23] Nixon just couldn’t resist the pull of the Presidency and would, as we will learn in a few moments, do just about anything - legal, illegal, and indeed, very illegal - to win power and keep it.

[00:06:39] With the Democrats divided about war in Vietnam and tension bubbling in the country over civil rights, Nixon felt he had a shot - a chance - at winning in 1968. 

[00:06:52] This feeling grew when the incumbent, or sitting, President, the Democrat Lyndon Johnson, shocked everyone and announced that he would not be seeking reelection.

[00:07:05] And the turbulence continued.

[00:07:07] The assassinations of both civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the potential Democratic nominee Robert F. Kennedy - the younger brother of the already assassinated John F. Kennedy - sparked violence and rioting across 130 American cities and resulted in 46 deaths, 20,000 arrests, and more than $100 million of damage.

[00:07:32] America was on the edge, and the country was ready for someone to bring back some normality.

[00:07:39] And after winning the Republican nomination Nixon capitalised on this tension, and decided to run for President on a “law and order” ticket, a “law and order” message.

[00:07:53] This message, combined with criticism of the Democrats' foreign policy record, won him the presidency by a narrow margin.

[00:08:02] Tricky Dick was back - and finally, he was in the White House.

[00:08:07] Now, before we get into the Watergate scandal itself, the act of Nixon’s presidency that he is most famous for, in the interests of balance it is worth talking briefly about his first term as President.

[00:08:22] Now, remember that Nixon was a bit of a foreign policy expert? 

[00:08:26] Or he had that reputation after his trips to Asia during his time as Vice President?

[00:08:32] Well, Nixon’s Presidency is best remembered - besides Watergate, of course - for ‘opening up’ China, reducing tensions with the USSR and establishing the European Protection Agency in 1970.

[00:08:47] He met with the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and negotiated limits on nuclear weapons, and then, in January of 1973, he made an agreement with North Vietnam to pull out American troops.

[00:09:02] So, his presidency was not without its achievements.

[00:09:07] But for all of these positive legacies, he would be forever remembered for the Watergate Scandal.

[00:09:15] You might be thinking, after such a long and perhaps unlikely political comeback, after such a long and difficult road to the Oval Office, and some initial policy successes, why, and how, did Nixon throw it all away?

[00:09:32] As is often the case with politicians, the origins of Watergate can be boiled down - or, simplified, we might say - to one word: reelection

[00:09:44] Paranoid about being reelected in the 1972 election, Nixon was desperate to cling onto power and willing to do whatever it took to stay in the White House.

[00:09:56] He was so desperate, in fact, that he even put together a special team of advisers to make sure he was reelected, imaginiatively called the ‘Committee to Re-Elect the President’.

[00:10:09] Put very simply, CREEP, as it became known, started the Watergate scandal by ordering a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, the DNC headquarters, at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C.

[00:10:25] They bugged phone lines, they put recording devices on Democratic phone lines, they stole important documents to try to ‘dig up dirt’, or find out useful information, on Nixon’s Democratic rival, George McGovern, for the upcoming election in 1972.

[00:10:44] Obviously this was illegal - there’s nothing wrong with trying to find out information about your rival, but there is something very wrong with breaking into a hotel and secretly listening to your rival’s phone calls.

[00:10:57] And they might have got away with it, had it not been for a keen-eyed security guard.

[00:11:04] In the early hours of June 17th, of 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills noticed that there was something fishy going on, there was suspicious activity in the Watergate building, where the Democratic National Committee headquarters were. 

[00:11:21] There was tape put on the locks of the doors, which allowed them to close but didn’t lock. 

[00:11:27] The security guard removed the tape, but when he returned he found that someone had put the tape back on to the locks.

[00:11:36] He called the police, who went into the DNC offices and found and arrested five men, the police caught them red handed.

[00:11:46] These five men, it turned out, were high-ranking members of CREEP, Nixon’s committee for reelection.

[00:11:55] Of course, they didn’t admit to this immediately, the connection between the burglars and the White House was not immediately obvious, but it was quickly made when a copy of the CREEP phone number was found on one of the burglars

[00:12:11] The White House, of course, distanced itself from what one spokesman called a ‘third rate burglary’ attempt, and then, in an August speech, Nixon assured the American people that he and the White House had nothing to do with the break-in.

[00:12:28] This promise seemed to have done its job, as in November of 1972 Tricky Dick, or rather President Richard Nixon, was reelected in a landslide victory.

[00:12:41] But the story didn’t stop there.

[00:12:44] And as it turns out, it would be the very committee that Nixon had put together to ensure his reelection that would be his downfall and cause him to be booted out, kicked out of office. 

[00:12:59] While the White House claimed to know nothing about the break-in, behind closed doors, this committee was trying to cover its tracks, stop the investigation into the break-in, and distance itself from the five burglars who were arrested that night in June 1972.

[00:13:17] They destroyed evidence and burned transcripts taken from a previous failed wiretap at the DNC headquarters. 

[00:13:25] Yes, CREEP had actually broken into the DNC before, and on the night they were caught, they were actually returning to try and fix a faulty wiretap

[00:13:37] From the very night the police caught the burglars, Nixon and his staff began what we might call today a ‘disinformation campaign’, providing fake alibis, distancing themselves from the burglary, and paying people off with ‘hush money’ - payments to ensure someone’s silence.

[00:13:58] Crucially, on June 23rd of 1972, less than a week after the break-in, Nixon ordered that the FBI be told, “Don't go any further into this case, period!”

[00:14:12] This order would later be revealed in what became known as the ‘Nixon tapes’. 

[00:14:18] Nixon recorded all conversations in the Oval Office, and it would transpire that he had some pretty incriminating conversations, some conversations that showed he knew exactly what was going on. 

[00:14:31] While Nixon tried to brush the official investigation under the carpet, two young reporters at the Washington Post called Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wouldn’t let it go. 

[00:14:43] Their original reporting on the scandal has been described as “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time” and played a big role in shaping public opinion.

[00:14:56] A lot of their information came from an anonymous source known only as ‘Deepthroat’ who they met in secret and, it later turned out, had been a high ranking FBI agent involved in the investigation from the start.

[00:15:11] Deepthroat revealed that Nixon’s coverup was far more serious than the break-in itself. 

[00:15:18] As he became increasingly paranoid that he would be connected to the crime, Nixon then asked the CIA to block the FBI investigation, and remember he had already tried to tell the FBI to stop the investigation in the first place. 

[00:15:35] Now, breaking in, stealing documents, and using wiretaps was one thing, but obstructing justice was another, much more serious crime.

[00:15:46] Tricky Dick was getting in over his head - that's to say, getting himself involved in a situation he couldn’t get himself out of.

[00:15:56] Several of the burglars pleaded guilty - encouraged, or most likely threatened to do so by Nixon’s team - in order to avoid a trial, but facing growing media scrutiny some began to crack under the pressure.

[00:16:11] In July of 1973, Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, testified in court that Nixon recorded all of his conversations.

[00:16:23] For people who believed that Nixon was guilty, which of course he certainly was, these tapes were the smoking gun, the evidence that unquestionably connected him to the crime, the crime of obstruction of justice

[00:16:39] The only question that remained for these people was how to get their hands on them.

[00:16:44] It wasn’t only the journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, who were trying to track down the tapes, but there was also a special investigation set up, the United States Senate Watergate Committee, which was tasked with finding out what happened.

[00:17:00] Pressure was building as 1973 went on, and the Nixon team tried to claim that the tapes were protected by Presidential privilege, which means the President can choose to withhold confidential communication under certain circumstances. 

[00:17:17] In fact, years later, in a series of interviews with the British journalist David Frost in 1977, Nixon put the presidential privilege argument very bluntly, claiming: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

[00:17:35] But it was illegal, of course - very illegal, in fact - and Nixon knew it. 

[00:17:41] As the coverup started to unravel, Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and on October 20th of 1973, officials from the Justice Department began resigning in protest in what became known as the ‘Saturday Night Massacre.’

[00:17:58] In response Nixon gave up some of the tapes, but not all. 

[00:18:03] By the start of 1974 he had lost control of the scandal and his coverup and obstruction of justice were becoming clearer. 

[00:18:13] In early March, a grand jury indicted seven of Nixon’s aides, and the jury, nervous about how they should refer to the President, called him an “unindicted co-conspirator.”

[00:18:27] With nowhere to go, and his aides indicted, in July the Supreme Court forced Nixon to hand over the tapes

[00:18:35] Still, even then, Nixon tried everything that he could to avoid it - can you blame him? 

[00:18:41] He’d literally recorded all of his lawbreaking.

[00:18:46] Then, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon for abuses of power, the cover-up, violations of the Constitution, and obstruction of justice.

[00:18:58] For Tricky Dick, the game was up, and he handed over the complete tapes on August 5th of 1974. 

[00:19:07] Knowing he was about to be impeached, three days after handing over the tapes he became the first, and still, to this day, the only U.S President to resign in office.

[00:19:19] “By taking this action,” he said from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”

[00:19:31] He might have been right that America needed healing, but he didn’t actually admit to any kind of wrongdoing in his speech, claiming that he always thought he was doing what was best for the country.

[00:19:45] The presidency was passed to his Vice President, Gerald Ford, who some historians believe was offered the job on the condition that he would pardon Nixon.

[00:19:56] Shortly after being sworn in as President, Ford did indeed pardon Nixon of all crimes. 

[00:20:03] Ford said that he wanted to put the issue to bed - that is to say, end it - and told the American people that “our long national nightmare is over.” 

[00:20:15] Nixon’s reputation might have been tarnished, badly marked, but he didn’t spend a day behind bars, a day in prison.

[00:20:25] Not all his staff were so lucky.

[00:20:28] Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell served 19 months in prison, while the mastermind behind the Watergate break-in, G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent no less, did over four years.

[00:20:42] In terms of the legacy of Watergate, this very public scandal, the Watergate scandal, it changed American politics, society, and history forever. 

[00:20:53] Americans were already increasingly divided and distrustful of authority before Nixon even got the White House, so when he was publicly forced to resign in disgrace many Americans concluded that politicians and presidents were all liars with something to hide.

[00:21:12] It’s also why, many historians argue, Nixon’s two successors - Ford, and then Democrat Jimmy Carter - were such weak and ineffective Presidents. 

[00:21:24] After the expansion of Presidential power throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Nixon, especially his claims that he couldn’t be held responsible for his crimes, this was viewed as the climax of what is known as the ‘Imperial Presidency.”

[00:21:41] Thanks to the excellent reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, the press began concentrating much more on what Presidents and politicians were doing behind the scenes, making sure they were reporting on what was actually happening, not just what the White House was telling them.

[00:21:59] Congress, too, began reasserting itself and trying to rebalance the power dynamic between branches of government.

[00:22:07] Ultimately, as far as the American people are concerned, the people felt - and heard, literally, on tape - that the President had lied to them. 

[00:22:18] Nixon and Watergate’s true legacy, therefore, is that it solidified suspicion of politicians. 

[00:22:25] The belief that they lie and deceive, and that they can’t be trusted, was there for all to see and hear in Nixon’s nasally, monotone voice as he looked at the camera and lied to the American people.

[00:22:40] And on a linguistic note, the Watergate scandal left a mark on the English language. 

[00:22:46] Whenever there is any kind of scandal, journalists like to add the suffix of “gate” to the word, so there was Partygate, with Boris Johnson, or even Nipplegate, where part of Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed during the Super Bowl.

[00:23:03] But the most lasting legacy is, of course, to do with trust in politicians.

[00:23:09] Undoubtedly, Richard Nixon was not the first or last US president to overstep his power. 

[00:23:15] But the Watergate Scandal made Nixon the face - and the voice - of an idea that remains to this day: that politicians are dishonest and can’t be trusted.

[00:23:26] As far as Nixon was concerned, perhaps it was not too much of a surprise. People had seen how he had behaved throughout his political career, and it was clear that he would do whatever he thought was necessary to stay in power.

[00:23:42] And if that wasn’t enough, there was a clue right there in his nickname. 

[00:23:47] After all, he wasn't known as Tricky Dick for nothing.

[00:23:50] OK then, that is it for today’s episode on the Watergate Scandal, the story of one man’s lust for power and his willingness to do anything to keep it. 

[00:24:03] I hope it was an interesting one, and whether you knew a lot about Watergate before, or this is the first time you’d actually dug into the story of it, well I hope you learned something new.

[00:24:15] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:24:19] If you were alive at the time of the Watergate scandal, how do you remember it?

[00:24:23] How do you think Nixon ranks on the list of US presidents?

[00:24:27] How do you think his legacy would have been different if it hadn’t been for Watergate?

[00:24:32] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:24:36] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:45] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:50] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]