When Nixon took over the office, America was deeply divided over the war in Vietnam. During his tenure, he would cut the number of soldiers in Vietnam from more than 540,000 troops down to 25,000, eventually withdrawing all ground troops.
At first, Nixon had the troops work with the South Vietnamese to train them for their own defense before withdrawal. On April 30, 1970, the U.S. and South Vietnamese troops joined to raid and attempt to capture the communist headquarters in Cambodia. This caused a string of protests around the United States. At Kent State University, a group of students gathered to protest the invasion and were fired upon by the Ohio National Guard. Four students were killed and nine were injured, resulting in a lot of bad publicity for the administration.
One of the many arguments that were being used by those who disagreed with the war was that young men under the age of twenty-one were being sent to Vietnam through the draft but were not even able to vote. This situation resulted in the ratification of the twenty-sixth amendment in 1971 which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
By January 1973, a peace treaty was signed between North and South Vietnam. The United States agreed to withdraw all forces in exchange for the release of all prisoners of war. Soon after the agreement, fighting between the North and South resumed and eventually the communists won.
Going Where No One Has Gone
On July 20, 1969, President Nixon fulfilled Kennedy's dream of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The lunar module from Apollo 11 landed on the moon, allowing Neil Armstrong to become the first man to take a step off the Earth. The landing was televised and a plaque was placed on the moon proclaiming the landing with Nixon's name attached as president.
Richard Nixon is the only president who has his name on the moon. A plaque was left behind on the moon's surface with each lunar landing. The one left by the Apollo 11 astronauts said, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon.” It was signed by the three astronauts and Richard Nixon.
Nixon also traveled to a place where no president had gone before — communist China. He supported China's admission to the United Nations in 1971 and then went on a trip to China in February 1972 to encourage peace. He met with China's leader and they discussed cultural exchanges. This visit was also significant because America had no formal diplomatic ties with the country.
During Nixon's time in office, a number of acts were passed to help protect the environment. The bills included the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Further, the National Air Quality Standards Act of 1970 restricted auto emissions and established federal clean air standards to be met by states.
On June 17, 1972, five individuals from the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) were caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate business complex. Two reporters for the
Further, the Administration had a list of enemies that they intended to stop using federal means, including people ranging from a U.S. representative to actors like Bill Cosby and Paul Newman.
Nixon's involvement was determined through subpoenaed tapes that had him speaking with top aides about the events. In fact, Nixon himself had installed a White House taping system that he was going to use to help write his memoirs. When the Senate asked for the tapes recorded during his time in office, Nixon refused to hand them over citing executive privilege.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
Here is what Nixon had to say about executive privilege and why he should not be required to provide the tapes to the Senate: “Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the manner in which the president personally exercises his assigned executive powers is not subject to questioning by another branch of government.”
The case went before the Supreme Court, which forced him to produce the tapes. The tapes showed that while Nixon was not involved in planning the break-in, he was part of the cover-up. In the end, Nixon was sure to be impeached and preemptively resigned his office on August 9, 1974. Faith in the office of the presidency would never be the same after Watergate. It would change the public's view and the way that the press dealt with the office forever.