Featured in Issues & Controversies in American History:
WATERGATE AFFAIR: Betrayal of American Democracy or Overblown Political Scandal?
During the presidential campaign of 1972, police arrested five men for breaking into the Democratic Party’s headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Investigators soon discovered that one of the five men worked for the reelection committee of President Richard Nixon, a Republican, who was then running for a second term. President Nixon tried to cover up details related to the break-in and keep them from becoming public. Revelations of Nixon’s involvement in these matters slowly emerged, however, and Congress opened an investigation to see if the president had broken any laws to merit impeachment and removal from office. Were Nixon’s actions illegal? Supporters of impeachment argued that, by trying to thwart the investigation, President Nixon had obstructed justice, which is a crime. Opponents of impeachment argued that numerous presidents had engaged in such activities in the past and that Watergate was simply a political “witch hunt” conducted by Nixon’s opponents to force him from office.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Do President Nixon’s efforts to conceal the break-in at the Democratic Party’s headquarters constitute a serious threat to American democracy? Or is Nixon the victim of an overblown scandal carried out by his political enemies? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the Watergate Affair this month.
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