As we look at Watergate in a longer perspective, we can see that its abuses resulted from the assumption by those involved that their cause placed them beyond the reach of those rules that apply to other persons and that hold a free society together. That attitude can never be tolerated in our country. Richard M. Nixon, August 15, 1973
June 17 will mark forty years since President Richard Nixon’s “plumbers” were arrested for breaking into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex. As we all know, their capture early that morning led to a Congressional investigation that ended with President Nixon’s resignation. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein co-authored an article last week in which they concluded that the Watergate scandal they wrote about forty years ago was only a glimpse into something far worse as has been shown by an abundant record of evidence from secret tapes, hearings, trials and memoires. In this post, we highlight a number of resources on Watergate that are well worth digging into.
In a speech delivered on August 15, 1973, President Nixon addresses the nation about charges made against people in his administration. One of the highlights of the speech is the case he makes for not tying the hands of future presidents on matters of national security.
Although it is the President's duty to protect the security of the country, we, of course, must be extremely careful in the way we go about this for if we lose our liberties we will have little use for security. Instances have now come to light in which a zeal for security did go too far and did interfere impermissibly with individual liberty. It is essential that such mistakes not be repeated. But it is also essential that we do not overreact to particular mistakes by tying the President's hands in a way that would risk sacrificing our security, and with it all our liberties.
During the 1974 State of the Union Address, President Nixon briefly discussed the Watergate investigation. He said he would cooperate, but would:
follow the precedent that has been followed by and defended by every President from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson of never doing anything that weakens the Office of the President of the United States or impairs the ability of the Presidents of the future to make the great decisions that are so essential to this nation and the world.
Miller Center Presidential Recordings Resources
- The Watergate Collection is a selection of transcripts related to the scandal.
- Watergate Special Prosecutor Force Transcripts comprise 60 hours worth of tapes acquired and transcribed by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force for use in its investigations.
- Ken Hughes attempts to explain the conspiracy theories that Richard Nixon formed—and acted on—in the aftermath of the Pentagon Papers’ publication. Hughes expands on this thesis in an essay with recordings entitled, “Above the Law.” Using evidence from the tape recordings, Hughes also provides an explanation for why President Nixon didn’t burn the tapes.
- Richard Ben-Veniste served as the chief of the Watergate Task Force and questioned Watergate witnesses in the Senate. In a 2009 forum, he spoke about his book, The Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11.
- Timothy Naftali initiated an oral history project and an online Watergate gallery during his tenure as the first director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. He personally conducted over 120 interviews. Naftali spoke about the challenges of presenting public history in a presidential library at the Miller Center in April.