IF WATERGATE DIDN’T HAPPEN, WOULD WE NOW HAVE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE?
Thirty-eight years ago tonight, President Richard Nixon resigned from the most powerful job in the world.
August 9, 1974 was a particularly muggy night in Washington, fitting for the national tragedy that was the final tortured two years of Richard Nixon’s doomed presidency.
Everyone in America knew what Nixon was going to say on television that incredible night — announcing to the world that he would become the first and only president in American history to resign from office. But until we actually watched it for ourselves, until we witnessed it, until we heard the President tearfully utter the fateful words, “I shall resign the presidency,” no one really contemplated the full force of gravity that was the tragedy and sorrow of that memorable night.
I was 12 years old when I watched Nixon’s resignation. During the spring leading up to that night, in school classrooms we watched the Senate committee hearings on Watergate, which were carried live on all three major networks. This was long before cable television, so everyone knew what was going on politically in this country, since that was all that was shown. And what grand theater it was — the nation’s first real reality show, with an astounding cast of characters, entwined in the gravest of controversies.
By the summer of 1974, just about everyone in America loathed Nixon — even Republicans. His job approval ratings hit an all-time low of 12 percent. Resignation was inevitable.
Richard Nixon was a divisive figure, to be sure, and very much remains so. He’s arguably the most vilified American political leader of the 20th Century by those on the left, and in the judgment of many. Perhaps, even deservedly so.
Yet behind his utter disregard for the U.S. Constitution during the crisis, and the crimes which eventually became known as the Watergate scandal, was a highly-accomplished man of tremendous intellect and great potential. Indeed, he very well might have gone down as the greatest LIBERAL since FDR, had his executive agenda not been diverted by the massive cover up and all-consuming series of events that led to his downfall.