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Unless you were actually there, it’s hard to imagine just how utterly loathed and reviled Richard Nixon was in the America of 1974.
“Impeach Nixon” bumper stickers and placards were everywhere you turned, and on playgrounds across the USA, schoolchildren sang obscene songs about him.
Accompanied by the appropriate combination of clenched eyebrows and jowly frown, the declaration of “I am not a crook” was an unfailing laugh-getter at fondue parties, regardless of political persuasion.
Nixon’s “stonewalling” strategy – a carefully plotted series of public denials (given the sublimely Orwellian name of “Operation Candor” by White House strategists) and continued refusals to comply with requests for the Watergate tapes – only made things worse for him, although it’s unlikely anything could have improved his public image, short of stripping naked and streaking across the White House lawn.
Foreign Policy was always Nixon’s strong suit, and his historic visits to China and Russia in 1972 not only improved relations between the US and those countries but substantially boosted his popularity back home for a while.
Though rumours of his administrations involvement in the Watergate affair continued to surface, Nixon received some unwitting help in the 1972 election from his Democrat opponent, Senator George McGovern.
McGovern’s original running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, was forced to withdraw from the race on July 31 when it was revealed that he had received psychiatric treatment for nervous exhaustion during the early 60s.
McGovern’s indecision over whether or not to stand by his man (R Sargent Shiver, the former head of the Peace Corps, took Eagleton’s place in August) severely hampered his campaign’s momentum; In addition, many moderate and conservative voters were put off by his proposal of an amnesty for draft-dodgers.
Richard Milhous Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California on 9 January 1913. He attended public schools and graduated from Whittier College in 1934 and Duke University Law School, Durham, NC, in 1937. He was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Whittier, California as an attorney in the Office of Emergency Management, Washington, DC.
During the Second World War, Nixon served in the United States Navy from August 1942 to January 1946 and was discharged as a lieutenant commander.
He was elected as a Republican to the 80th and 81st Congresses and served from 3 January 1947, until his resignation on 30 November 1950.
Elected to the Senate for the term commencing on 3 January 1951, he was subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Sheridan Downey and served from 1 December 1950, until his resignation on 1 January 1953.
Nixon then went on to become Vice President to Dwight Eisenhower on 4 November 1952, for the term beginning 20 January 1953.
Nixon was re-elected as Vice President in 1956, and served from 20 January 1953, until 20 January 1961. He was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for President in 1960 and resumed the practice of law in Los Angeles and New York.
He was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for Governor of California in 1962 but was eventually elected President of the United States in 1968 and inaugurated on 20 January 1969.
Nixon was re-elected in 1972 and inaugurated on 20 January 1973. In 1972, he signed a treaty with Brezhnev to limit strategic nuclear weapons. The next year, he announced the end of American involvement in Indochina. In 1974, his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger‘s, negotiated a truce between Israel and its opponents, Egypt and Syria.
At home though, Nixon’s second administration was a disaster and, within a few months of his election, the Watergate scandal began to erode his landslide victory.
Accused of covering up the bugging of the Democratic National Committee offices during the 1972 campaign, and forced to give up tapes that indicated his guilt, Nixon was faced with almost certain impeachment in summer 1974.
He resigned on 9th August 1974 and accepted a pardon from President Gerald R. Ford, on 8 September 1974.
Nixon was a resident of New York City, and later Park Ridge, New Jersey, until his death in New York City, on 22 April 1994.