Richards Milhous Nixon, born 61 years ago on a California lemon farm, was the president on whom the American people finally turned sour.
Richards Milhous Nixon, born 61 years ago on a California lemon farm, was the president on whom the American people finally turned sour. Only six years ago, they elect him to office with the highest majority of the popular vote any President ever received. Now he stands to be driven from office by a storm of public bitterness.
The core of the storm was what will go down in history as, simply, the Watergate scandal. The break-in at the opposing Democratic party head-quarters int he Washington office block known a Watergate, carried out by a group of over-enthusiastic campaign helpers during the 1972 presidential election battle, was to take the lid off Richard Nixon's style of administration.
What the American people found inside, revealed to them day by day in newspapers and on television, was a government run by a President who placed his faith in a group of arrogant and corrupt men.
The Watergate break-in led to a cover-up operation, the misuse of Presidential power, lies and deceit which eventually involved the president's personal integrity. After two hears of denials that he knew of the break-in or that he assisted in the cover-up, President Nixon finally admitted on Sunday (4 August) that he had been lying.
It gave the final impetus to the tidal wave of opposition which left him to choose between impeachment by Congress or resignation.
The irony of Watergate was that it was quite unnecessary. For once in his turbulent career, Nixon had the overwhelming majority of the American people behind him when he stood for re-election in 1972.
Nixon's 28 years in politics embraced a whole series of bruising encounters with the public, the press and fellow politicians.
After graduating as a lawyer and service with the Navy during World War Two, Richard Nixon entered politics int his native California. He won a seat in the House of Representatives on a fiercely anti-Communist platform. Later, Nixon gained national recognition as a firebrand member of the notorious Un-American Activities committee, on which the infamous Senator McCarthy made his mark.
It was largely on the strength of this that Nixon was chosen as Vice Presidential running mate for Dwight Eisenhower int he presidential election in 1952. He remained in office for the next eight years, proving himself to be an unusually active and forthright Vice-President.
One of the highlights of this era was his famous "kitchen debate" with Soviet leader Khrushchev while on ta visit to an American exhibition in Moscow in 1959, during which the two men engaged in a heated public discussion on the relative merits of the Soviet and American ways of life.
But when Eisenhower retired, however, Nixon's high-flying career crashed to the ground. In 1960, the Republican party nominated him to challenge John F. Kennedy for the Presidency. Nixon lost the race only narrowly but was personally eclipsed by the Kennedy image.
Nixon returned to California and in 1962, ran for governor. But even here he was rejected by the electorate. In a famous and bitter press conference immediately after that defeat, he told the press he was quitting.
With that acrimonious broadside, Nixon retired from politics to return to legal practice in New York. For the next five years, he worked assiduously within the Republican party Organisation, but remained out of public sight.
Then, in 1968, he came back. By this time, America was heavily involved in Vietnam, fighting a ruinous wa few Americans wanted. Hubert Humphrey, Vice-President to Lyndon Johnson, stood for President on the Democratic ticket. But he seemed to have no solution to Vietnam. It was the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, who appeared to offer the brightest chance of getting America out of the war.
It took just over four years to devise a formula of peace with honour, but Nixon -- supported by the diplomatic skill of his foreign affairs adviser Dr. Henry Kissinger -- pulled it off.
Vietnam was, perhaps, his greatest single triumph. But there were numerous others. His historic visits to Peking and Moscow to talk face-to-face with Chinese and Soviet leaders in 1972, were hailed throughout the world as imaginative and daring diplomacy.
Foreign affairs were Nixon's strength. He re-affirmed the support of the United States for NATO. He toured European capitals form london and Paris to Bucharest and Belgrade. In the Middle East, the success of Dr. Kissinger's peace efforts following the 1973 October war were followed by Nixon's triumphant visits to egypt and Israel which laid hopeful foundations for peace in that war-torn area.
President Nixon's tragedy is that he might have been remembered as one of America's finest presidents -- had it not been for Watergate.
Without question, his world-wide crusade for detente -- accurately timed and carried through in style -- shifted the attitudes of the world's major powers and fostered the hope of cooperation rather than confrontation.
But there was Watergate. It is from this murky paint-box of political intrigue, abuse of power, lies and corruption that Richard Nixon's image will inevitably be coloured.
This abrasive, secretive lonely man may have elbowed his way to the pinnacle of power and success in the best American tradition: he may have achieved more for America's international standing than any other President since the war: but, in the end, the American people themselves could not forgive him for what they considered an act of treachery.
He misused his office. And he lied to the people who put him there.