Vice president under Eisenhower before his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1960, Nixon was seen as among the shrewdest of Ameri- can politicians . Although Nixon subscribed to the Republican value of fiscal responsibility, he accepted a need for government’s expanded role and did not oppose the ba- sic contours of the welfare state . He simply wanted to manage its programs better . Not opposed to African-American civil rights on principle, he was wary of large federal civil rights bureaucracies . Nonetheless, his administration vigorously enforced court orders on school desegregation even as it courted Southern white voters .

Perhaps his biggest domestic problem was the economy . He in- herited both a slowdown from its Vietnam peak under Johnson, and a continuing inflationary surge that had been a by-product of the war . He dealt with the first by becoming the first Republican president to endorse deficit spending as a way to stim- ulate the economy; the second by


imposing wage and price controls, a policy in which the Right had no long-term faith, in 1971 . In the short run, these decisions stabilized the economy and established favorable conditions for Nixon’s re-election in 1972 . He won an overwhelming vic- tory over peace-minded Democratic Senator George McGovern .

Things began to sour very quick- ly into the president’s second term . Very early on, he faced charges that his re-election committee had man- aged a break-in at the Watergate building headquarters of the Demo- cratic National Committee and that he had participated in a cover-up . Special prosecutors and congressio- nal committees dogged his presiden- cy thereafter .

Factors beyond Nixon’s control undermined his economic policies . In 1973 the war between Israel and Egypt and Syria prompted Saudi Arabia to embargo oil shipments to Israel’s ally, the United States . Other member nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Coun- tries (OPEC) quadrupled their pric- es . Americans faced both shortages, exacerbated in the view of many by over-regulation of distribution, and rapidly rising prices . Even when the embargo ended the next year, prices remained high and affected all areas of American economic life: In 1974, inflation reached 12 percent, causing disruptions that led to even higher unemployment rates . The unprec- edented economic boom America had enjoyed since 1948 was grinding to a halt .

Nixon’s rhetoric about the need for “law and order” in the face of ris- ing crime rates, increased drug use, and more permissive views about sex resonated with more Americans than not . But this concern was in- sufficient to quell concerns about the Watergate break-in and the economy . Seeking to energize and enlarge his own political constituen- cy, Nixon lashed out at demonstra- tors, attacked the press for distorted coverage, and sought to silence his opponents . Instead, he left an unfa- vorable impression with many who saw him on television and perceived him as unstable . Adding to Nix- on’s troubles, Vice President Spiro Agnew, his outspoken point man against the media and liberals, was forced to resign in 1973, pleading “no contest” to a criminal charge of tax evasion .

Nixon probably had not known in advance of the Watergate bur- glary, but he had tried to cover it up, and had lied to the American people about it . Evidence of his involve- ment mounted . On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his impeachment . Facing certain ouster from office, he resigned on August 9, 1974 .

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