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An Analysis of the Watergate Crisis Essay

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The Watergate crisis or scandal shrouded America with an attitude of pessimism. From the people involved and the meaning of the controversy then and now, the Watergate crisis rocked the world with political conflicts and power abuse. It also involved crimes such as obstruction of justice, conspiracy, cover up, lying under oath, espionage, burglary, and concealment of evidence. The scandal was named after the Watergate hotel complex in Washington that housed the rival of President Nixon’s Republican Party, the Democratic Party.

The crisis was so powerful that it resulted in the resignation of President Nixon, indictment of the President and his men, and significant media and political effects. The scandal started out with classified documents, clumsy thefts, and a trail of crimes pointing directly to Nixon’s re-election committee. Thereafter, the crisis did not stop at the tactless White House personnel or the famous President’s men. It continued all the way to Nixon himself which caused him his Oval Office.

It was perceived as a political crisis created by a leader’s greed, cruelty and paranoia.

Ultimately, history accounted that Nixon’s own evil foe was not his political opponents but himself. It was chronicled by several books, articles, and official and federal documents, as well as a Redford-Hoffman movie in 1976. The Watergate scandal served not only as previous catalysts of American political, social and moral changes but now more as reminders or guiding principles of American lives. Historical Summary In the history of American presidential politics, the Watergate incident was taken as the most grave and peculiar crisis or scandal.

This is because of the apparent direct involvement in several crimes of the president himself and his men. In his book, “The Watergate Crisis,” Genovese (1999) described the scandal as unusual and Nixon as an unusual kind of President of the United States (Genovese, 1999). According to Genovese (1999), the cause of the Watergate scandal can be traced from the negative impacts, such as the factions, of the Vietnam War. Nixon had difficulty getting out from the said divisive war and was eventually faced with various protests.

Genovese (1999) added that with pressures to stop the protests and get out of the Vietnam war with respect and dignity intact, Nixon unfortunately created a route filled with “leak plugging, wiretapping, a secret war in Cambodia, and a series of criminal acts that in the end led to his downfall and fed the already significant erosion of public trust in government” (p. 3). The same Genovese book further said that what used to be a general term that referred to the burglary of the offices of the Democratic National Committee in a Washington hotel complex resulted into various linking terminologies and included beneath it are several crimes.

The crisis caused the downfall of Nixon while several highest-ranking government officials were made to serve jail terms, hurting the nation as a result (Genovese, 1999). The Watergate Break-in The Watergate break-in or burglary happened on June 17, 1972 (Sirica, 1979). During his round, a security officer of the Watergate Hotel Complex in Washington D. C. identified as Frank Willis saw a tape covering various locks of different doors in the area. Willis discreetly reported the matter to the police and thereafter, five burglars were arrested.

The five men were suspected of illegally wiretapping and stealing classified documents inside the office of the Democratic National Committee or DNC (Sirica, 1979). The suspects were identified in the book of Dickinson, Cross and Polsky (1973) as “Virgilio Gonzales, Bernard Barker, James W. McCord, Jr. , Eugenio Martinez and Frank Sturgis. ” The suspects, later uncovered as former CIA and FBI agents, were “charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications” (Dickinson, Cross & Polsky, 1973). Five men and two other suspects, identified as E. Howard Hunt, Jr.

and Gordon Liddy, were accused by a grand jury of “conspiracy, burglary and violation of federal wiretapping laws” on September 15, 1972. It was also discovered after investigation that the suspects’ goal was to plant a bug in the office of DNC Chairman, Larry O’Brien (Lewis, 1972). A multi-investigation conducted by the U. S. Congress, FBI and media revealed that the direct or indirect connection of the seven suspects to Nixon’s Re-election committee. Nixon initially said that his aides were not involved in the case. The cover-up was later disclosed and exposed irregularities and illegal activities of the Nixon Re-election committee.

The results of the investigation concluded that the re-election committee “received covert campaign funds from big companies, played dirty tricks on Democratic candidates during the 1972 election campaign, attempted to use the FBI and other government agencies against political enemies, and set up a secret group to carry out unlawful activities against political enemies” (cited in Scholastic, 1989). In view of this, America and the world were then convinced of a conspiracy linking the President and his men. The suspects who broke into O’Brien’s office and the President’s men involved were tried and eventually convicted in 1973.

The following year, the bungled break-in eventually caused Nixon his position as he resigned as the President of the United States on August 9, 1974 (Scholastic, 1989). The Washington Post Investigation The Watergate scandal was publicized by The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein through a confidential but reliable source whom they named “Deep Throat. ” An initial headline of “Five Held in Plot to Bug Democratic Offices Here,” that appeared at the bottom of the newspaper’s page one on Sunday, June 18, 1972, signaled the Washington Post’s investigation.

The two young reporters wrote the arrest of a group of former FBI and CIA agents who “broke into, illegally wiretapped and stole classified documents from the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex in Washington” (“The Watergate Story Part 1,” 2008). Bernstein and Woodward were intrigued with the details of the story and the turn of events. Citing police sources, Woodward wrote that the burglars “came from Miami, wore surgical gloves and carried thousands of dollars in cash” (“The Watergate Story Part 1,” 2008).

The break-in appeared to be “a professional type operation,” added Woodward (“The Watergate Story Part 1,” 2008). As told by the Washington post and its reporters, the intriguing yet interesting developments of the story shook Washington for two years, resulted into the resignation of Nixon and eventually created political impacts (“The Watergate Story Part 1,” 2008). According to an online compilation of the Watergate events posted at the Washington Post’s site, Woodward and Bernstein became part of the various revelatory articles that the said newspaper published.

Thereafter, the succeeding Washington Post coverage of the Watergate scandal further exposed the involvement of several of the President’s men and the ultimate link of Nixon and his campaign funds to the various crimes. The newspaper’s account of the scandal also ran the grand jury investigation that identified and indicted “All the President’s Men” for their respective involvement in the crimes (“The Watergate Story Part 1,” 2008). A significant mark of the Washington Post and “Bernstein” reporting of the Watergate scandal was “Deep Throat.

” A confidential source by Woodward, “Deep Throat” was identified only in 2005 or 33 years later as Mark Felt. He was the second highest-ranking FBI official who at the height of the scandal, confirmed or denied information to the two reporters and guided them to pursue specific leads (“The Watergate Story Part 1,” 2008). A string of exclusives by Woodward and Bernstein and the determination of Post publisher Katherine Graham to expose the truth made the FBI finally penetrated the White House denials and the conduct of the grand jury investigation.

This momentum led to the loss of job, prosecution and conviction of the involved officials of the Nixon administration and ultimately the impeachment against the President and his eventual resignation on August 8, 1974. Nixon’s successor, President Ford, granted the former “full, free and absolute pardon” one month later (“The Watergate Story Part 3,” 2008). The Government Investigation The Watergate probe called for the courts, the Congress, and a special prosecutor to investigate its top-to-bottom connections to the White House.

According to the same Washington Post online source, the investigation involved Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin and the FBI. Woodward and Bernstein stories reported the eventual breaking out of Nixon’s men from his administration and the disclosure of events that were linked to the scandal. One example was the revelation of secret tapes that further exposed Nixon’s involvement. The deep connection of Nixon resulted into a firestorm of firings called “the Saturday Night Massacre.

” Amid impeachment against the President, he still denied accusations and stayed in his office (“The Watergate Story Part 2,” 2008). The Watergate Scandal and Nixon In his book, Genovese (1999) noted that Nixon was a “complex, multidimensional figure, a man of many contradictions. ” (p. 57). Genovese (1999) said that these characteristics of Nixon and the Watergate crisis were manifestations of “a period of presidential lawlessness unprecedented in American history” (p. 57). Nixon was an example of a president who initially took an oath to “faithfully execute” the law but eventually went beyond and broke it (Genovese, 1999, p.

69). As a result, the Watergate scandal created several questions about the American constitution and democracy (Genovese, 1999). Nixon’s initial show of defense rooted from the solid support of his men eventually cracked down and led to his televised resignation. During his televised speech, Nixon states, by taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America. I deeply regret any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision.

Those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself (“The Watergate Story Part 3,” 2008). Ford was sworn into office the next day but pardoned Nixon a month after. The events did not stop there as the influence of the scandal continued. The interconnecting controversies ignited a fresh and lasting doubt about American politics. It created new American political words and made the Congress approve laws concerning campaign finance reforms as well as investigation on the functions of CIA and several agencies of the government.

Woodward and Bernstein’s coverage was turned into a book and a hit movie entitled “All the President’s Men” which instilled American media with a fresh harmful advantage. The scandal brought lasting and immeasurable effects on American politics (“The Watergate Story Part 3,” 2008). American Politics and Media Genovese (1999) affirmed the impression of Washington Post mentioned previously and stated that the Watergate scandal changed American politics and the issue of presidential corruption (Genovese, 1999).

He added that, because of the crisis, the media became more interfering and subjective, the public became more distrustful and indifferent about its government, the relation between the executive and legislative branches of the government became unpleasant and factious and partisan conflicts became more intense (Genovese, 1999). Conclusion The Watergate crisis left profound and detrimental effects on American politics and history in general. It has resulted into distrust among the government officials and a wider gap between the branches of the government.

Another effect of the scandal was that it made the succeeding Presidents more susceptible to the criticisms and suggestions of the public. The Nixon presidency has left a mark on the American politics which harmed the present list of presidents. The scandal has undeniably affected the political agenda of the succeeding presidents who were subjected to the scrutiny of the public. Nonetheless, the scandal also has its positive points to remember. These included the upholding of the freedom and power of the press as well as the effectivity of the justice system.

By themselves, Nixon and the Watergate Crisis did not cause the degradation of American politics and decline of trust to the government. Incontestably, however, the fallen President and his scandal did remold the public’s view of the American story from one of presumed good goals to one of outstanding hostility.


Dickinson, W. B. & Mercer Cross, B. P. (1973). Watergate: Chronology of a crisis. Washington D. C: Congressional Quarterly, Inc. Genovese, M. A. (1999). The Watergate Crisis.London: Greenwood Press. Lewis, A. E. (1972, June 18). 5 held in plot to bug Democrats’ office here. The Washington Post, A01. Retrieved from http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2002/05/31/AR2005111001227_pf. html Scholastic, Inc. (1989). The Case of Watergate. The Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court. Retrieved April 19, 2008, from Scholastic database. Sirica, J. J. (1979). To set the record straight: The Break-in, the tapes, the conspirators, the pardon. New York: Norton.

The Watergate Story Part 1. (2008). The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-srv/politics/special/watergate/part1. html The Watergate Story Part 2. (2008). The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-srv/politics/special/watergate/part2. html The Watergate Story Part 3. (2008). The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from

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