Rebellion and Reaction
The Late 1960’s and 1970’sThe most turbulent year of the 60’s had been 1968, with the downfall of Lyndon Johnson and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Richard Nixon inherited a nation that was deeply divided and cynical. He promised to restore harmony to the nation, but failed miserably, in part because he did not understand the depth of the problem, and in part because of his own temperament, which made him combative and vindictive.
The "baby-boomers" of the 1950’s were entering college in the late 1960’s. It would not be unfair to classify them as a group of spoiled brats. They had not known war nor depression as had their parents; rather than had grown up in a time of conformity and prosperity, and under parents who, having experienced deprivation, were determined that their children should be sheltered from it. Thus they matured without the character-building experiences that had shaped almost all previous American generations.
To those who consider my comments unduly harsh, the humble author of these notes was himself a member of that generation. He therefore has every right to criticize himself and his generation.The baby boom generation attended college in record numbers, again primarily because of the determination of their parents that the next generation should be given every advantage in preparing for the future. College enrollment quadrupled from 1945 to 1970. At the same time, major universities became involved in research for major corporations and the federal government. They became part of the "military-industrial complex" of which Eisenhower had warned; and, perhaps unintentionally, invited resistance from the young people who were there to be educated.
Rebellion was suddenly in the air. College aged people concluded that there was something fundamentally wrong with the structure of American life and values, as well as it’s political system. The result was a full-fledged youth revolt. It was perhaps best described by Bob Dylan:
Come mothers and fathers
throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and daughters
Are beyond your command
There’s a battle
Outside and it’s ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin ‘
Two movements, distinct but with much in common reflected the rebelliousness of the age:
·The New Left
The New Left: The movement began on the campus of the University of Michigan in 1960 when Tom Hayden and Al Haber formed Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1962, they and other radicals issued a statement known as the Port Huron Statement: "We are the people of this generation, bred in at least moderate comfort, housed in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit." Hayden, who was once classified as the "new Lenin," said the problem was the U.S. was dominated by a large industrial structure, primarily large corporations, government, and universities, all of which had conspired to oppress and alienate the individual. He drew his inspiration from black activism. He advocated students taking control of the educational process and "wresting control…from the administrative bureaucracy." (In other words, let the Chickens run the coop. One wonders if he ever read Animal Farm.)
The movement took root in 1964 at the University of California at Berkeley (the nuttiest and fruitiest place in the land of fruits and nuts). The University Chancellor had decreed that political demonstrations would not be tolerated; in response, 2,000 students staged a "sit-in". The group grew, and eventually the Administration gave in. Later, they formed the Free Speech Movement (FSM) who protested for "student rights" They called universities depersonalized and unresponsive. (after all, what were they supposed to be there for, an education?)
Note: The interesting thing about the youth revolt is that the participants were from white middle-class backgrounds. They were not from ethnic minorities, and had not suffered discrimination or deprivation; rather they were "raging against the machine."
The revolt soon spread all over college campuses, including the University of South Carolina, where sit-ins occurred. Yours truly did not participate, and frankly doubted the sincerity of many of the "protesters" who seemed to be acting out of herd instinct than from any deep felt political conviction. They were not above lying about abuses by police and authorities if it served their purpose. Like most revolutionaries, the truth was less important than the end to be achieved. They protested almost everything and anything: faculty tenure decisions, ROCT programs, dress codes, even appearances by government officials.An example of the waywardness—if not asininity—of the whole movement was a protest by students at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. They marched for no reason other than "an expression of general student discontent." The War in Vietnam soon became a focal point of student protest. This was interesting, because Vietnam, like so many other wars, was a poor man’s fight. College students had deferments until they received a degree or reached age 24. Between 1965-66, only two per cent of draftees were college students; mostly those who did not earn enough hours or flunked out. The head of the Selective Service System in Washington at that time was General Lewis B. Hershey, a name that struck fear and revulsion in the heart of every red-blooded American college student. Gen. Hershey made no bones about the fact that he didn’t care much for deferments. He eventually eliminated the exemption for married men (the night before the regulation expired, the roads were jammed going into Las Vegas and other areas in later time zones for hastily arranged weddings). He later eliminated the exemption for college students, so that anyone was eligible. At the time, eighteen year olds were required by law to present themselves physically to the local Draft Board within five days of one’s eighteenth birthday, and register for the Draft. Failure to register within five days made one immediately eligible for "induction." Upon registration, one was given a draft card with a variety of designations. Examples:
I-A: Pack your bags, buddy, you’re on the next bus outta here.
II-S: Student deferment, good for one year only, renewable each year.
I –Y: To be called only in case of extreme national emergency (usually due to physical defect
4-F: Physically or mentally unfit for military service.
One was required by law to carry his draft card with him at all times. Failure to present the card to proper authorities when requested would result in induction.
Among the Computer Punch cards given in one’s registration packet was a card to the local Selective Service System (Draft Board) which indicated how many hours one had earned the previous semester, and how many were attempted. If one went below the minimum number, his status was changed to 1-A.The Draft process itself, once one received a 1-A designation, was first a letter from the local draft board directing one to appear at the local military establishment (In Columbia, Fort Jackson) and submit to a physical examination. The exam was a joke – it was an assembly line run-through operation, many guys at one time in their skivvies, going from station to station in response to the order: "Next!" If one passed the physical, he went home, and awaited the inevitable hour: An envelope from the Draft Board containing a "Notice to Report for Induction in the Armed Forces of the United States." It read: The President of the United States: To: (John Doe). Greeting. You are hereby ordered for induction into the armed forces……… Receiving the notice was often euphemistically called "getting your Greetings."
Opposition to the war grew, and more and more young men resisted or evaded the draft. Over 200,000 refused to obey the induction notice; 4,000 served time in prison. Others brought court actions and expanded the definition of "Conscientious objector" to cover moral and ethical objections to war, rather than objection on strictly religious principles. Others left the country, going to Canada, Sweden, anywhere they could. Others tried all sorts of gimmicks to flunk the physical: Aspirin to run up blood pressure, feigned alcoholism or drug addiction, even homosexuality. Every campus was rampant with rumors on tricks to flunk the physical: few worked.A sign of the desperation was that many who were in fact drafted wet the bed at night, hoping to be discharged, as it was then believed that bedwetting was a sign of emotional problems. The army caught on to that one quickly. After a guy wet the bed a few times, they woke him up every hour on the hour and marched him to the john. To all my loving students: I’ll save you the trouble of asking. I did carry around a 1-A card for a year, but at that point the war was winding down. The "honorable" way to avoid the draft was to sign up for ROTC or the National Guard; but they each had a waiting list of over two years at a time when the waiting time from 1-A to physical to induction was about 45 days. I did attempt to join ROTC my junior year in college, because I saw it coming, but was told I would have to wait about a year – in which time I would have been cannon fodder. In the end, I never got a notice to submit to the physical, and never wore a uniform. I had no desire to be a target for a green gook (the term of endearment used for the North Vietnamese); but being the proud Southern boy that I was, I said repeatedly, publicly and privately, that should my country call me, I would go. The resistance phase of the anti-war movement emerged in Spring, 1967 when half a million protesters converged on Central Park, New York, and chanted: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Other chants soon followed, such as: "One, two, three, four; we don’t want your f---ing war. Another was: h--- no; we won’t go." The standard sign of protest was to publicly burn the draft card one was required to carry. My own personal protest story: A II-S deferment was good for one year only. One was required to submit proof that he was making sufficient progress towards a degree; otherwise he was re-designated I-A. When proof was documented, the Draft Board issued a new card, also good for one year, with the stern admonition that one should destroy the old card, as it was not current, and furthermore, it was illegal to carry more than one card. During my Junior year, when I received my new card and read the directions, it seemed appropriate for me to follow the orders of my government and draft board as any loyal citizen should do, so I duly "destroyed" my just expired draft card: I burned it. The fact that a friend of mine, just discharged from the Air Force, was there to witness the event, helped.
Deferments lasted only while one pursued a Bachelor’s degree. When I finished college and enrolled in Law School and the inevitable letter came inquiring about my status, I carefully and artfully worded my response. I meticulously avoided the use of such damning phrases as "law school," "graduated," "degree," etc. Pretty good, I thought. It didn’t work. Several days later, an envelope arrived from the draft board with a new card: 1-A. Talk about depressing! It ruined my whole day.
Passive resistance soon degenerated into violence. Hayden told his group, "If necessary, shoot to kill." Rap Brown told whites to remember the heritage of John Brown. Over time, the SDS became more and more militant and authoritarian. It’s followers spoke of "Capitalist imperialism, etc."
By spring of 1968, unrest became violent. Students at Columbia University through pies in the faces of Selective Service officials, disrupted speeches, and kidnapped a dean. Police over-reacted, and attacked with billy clubs, and a number of innocent bystanders were injured. This outraged students who before had been on the sidelines, and the University had to be closed for the semester. The term "campus radical" became a household word.
A group known as the Youth International Party (the "Yippies") disrupted the 1968 Democratic Convention determined to provoke anarchy. They were all nihilists, led by an idiot named Abbie Hoffman. He claimed, "Our conception of revolution is that it’s fun." They distributed literature at the convention calling for immediate legalization of marijuana and all psychedelic drugs, including LSD, the abolition of money, student-run schools, and free sex.One wonders about the reaction of Thomas Jefferson, who said the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and martyrs. I, for one, never believed any of these people believed their own hogwash; they just found a convenient way to get attention. Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago overreacted, and exacerbated the situation. He called in police who clubbed and gassed the demonstrators and bystanders. It seriously damaged Humphrey’s Presidential campaign.
This played right into the hands of Richard Nixon to promised to restore dignity to the "silent majority." It also fragmented the anti-war movement. Most participants in anti-war protests did not agree with the actions of the Yippies, and felt betrayed.
The SDS broke into factions in 1968, the most radical of which were the Weathermen (named for a Bob Dylan lyric). They engaged in violence, often bombing University buildings and killing people. Several of the Weathermen were killed themselves. Many were arrested, and the remainder hid for years. As late as 2003, some were still being arrested for crimes committed in the late 60’s. They had changed their names, married, and assumed respectable identities, as if the past never existed. Eventually, most have been arrested and brought to justice.
The violent phase of the New Left movement was the cause of it’s own demise. Most college aged youth could not abide that phase. Also, with the eventual resolution of U.S. involvement in Viet Nam, the protests subsided and eventually disappeared. The more responsible activists turned their attention to environmental issues, and gave rise to the environmental protests of the 1970’s.
The Counter Culture: These were also young people alienated by Vietnam, racism, politics, even parental demands. They also were primarily affluent young whites, but did not embrace the activism and violence of the New Left; rather they turned to long hair, tie-died tee shirts, sandals, LSD, rock music, and "cooperative living arrangements." Their credo, as stated by Harvard Professor Timothy Leary was: "Tune in, turn on, drop out."
Dedicated adherents to the counterculture were called "hippies," or "flower children." Males typically wore long hair (sometimes waist-length) beards; females were braless (always drew a crowd) both often wore necklaces made from flowers, and called themselves the "beautiful people." Among their contributions to the lingo, money was "bread." Peace and Love – at least their version of it—was everywhere. Typical of the culture was the hit song: "The Age of Aquarius."
When the moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars,
Then peace will rule the planets
And Love will steer the stars.
Many followers of the counterculture followed oriental mystical religions and were big on transcendental meditation, particularly as taught by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, of India. Incense burning was very popular, as was smoking marijuana and daily use of LSD, or other hallucinogenic drugs. Many lived in "communes," away from society, but originally in urban areas such as the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, Greenwich Village of New York, or Fourteenth Street in Atlanta. Quite often they were such a nuisance that former fulltime residents moved away –giving new meaning to the phrase "white flight."Among the other transcendentalists was an Indian guru who called himself the Rasheed Baghwan, who led a group of dedicated followers in a commune in Washington State. So many of them lived there—and so many of the local folk moved away—that the occupants of the commune voted to change the name of the town to Rasheed. The Baghwan convinced them that they should give away all their earthly belongings –to him—as it only interfered with their attaining perfection. He never spoke, but waved to his followers when he drove down the streets of Rasheed in one of his fourteen Rolls Royces. He was ultimately arrested by the immigration service for visa violations, and deported to India, smiling all the way.
A similar Guru ended up in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He called himself Maher Baba. He lived there on a vast expanse of ocean front real estate given to him by a wealthy lady who called him her "perfect master." Like the Rasheed, he imposed upon himself a vow of silence, and only communicated by smiles and gestures. He died there and was returned to India for burial. Some of his followers still maintain the Baba Spiritual Center (near North Myrtle Beach) to this day.Sadly for the new age folk, they never thought about maintenance of their lifestyle. Said one writer, on the communes; they produced more babies than bread. They had no skills and were not prepared for the rigors of living with nature. As a result, most of the communes lasted only a few months.
Rock Music was important to the hippie culture also. The most famous event was the Woodstock Music Festival in August 1969 when 500,000 young people showed up at Bethel New York. While there they listened to Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills and Nash, Santana, etc. Drugs were easily available, as was sexual license. No one showed any inhibition; women removed their tops to be comfortable, many swam or bathed wholesale in the lake in their birthday suits.
A second attempt at another Woodstock in California was a disaster. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to provide security; and they ended up beating a man to death, among several people killed. This robbed the whole counterculture of its innocence.
By 1969, the counterculture was fading fast. Sadly, it was a victim of its own success, as it became the fad; the "down the establishment" movement had become the establishment. Faded blue jeans, surplus army jackets, incense and sandals were suddenly the style for everyone – and big business to boot. Head shops and health food stores popped up everywhere. Said one cynic, ‘the only difference between a robber baron and a rock king is about six inches of hair."
Many of the flower children, all of whom had come from affluent backgrounds, got tired of the riches to rags bit. As the expression went, "I’ve been rich; I’ve been poor. Rich is better." They abandoned the lifestyle, cut their hair, and went back to school to become lawyers, doctors, and CPA’s. Some of them even ended up teaching school.
Feminism: Rights for women received a boost with the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Friedan claimed that the 50’s image of the contented housewife tending home and hearth was a myth, a "mystique" that did not represent reality. She said that the middle class home had become a "comfortable concentration camp" for woman, trapped in the "cult of domesticity." He book was an immediate best seller, and raised the consciousness of women who felt trapped in housewifery.
In 1966, Friedan and others organized the National Organization for Woman (NOW). It’s proponents called themselves "liberated women." Chief among its proponents was Helen Reddy, with her hit song, "I Am Woman
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much
To go back an' pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna
Keep me down again
Among the accomplishments of the Feminist movement:
·Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 – Colleges were required to institute affirmative action programs for women.
·The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by Congress and submitted to the states for ratification in 1972. It had been tied up in a House committee for over 50 years.
·Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other formerly all male institutions of higher learning admitted women.
·Roe vs. Wade (1973) stuck down state laws forbidding abortions during the first three months of pregnancy.
An indication of the changing times: When I enrolled in Law School in 1973, there were three women enrolled in a class of over 200. Professors still routinely addressed the class as "gentlemen." Now, enrollment is almost equally divided between the sexes.
The movement was not entirely successful:
·The ERA did not receive the necessary number of ratification votes by states, even though Congress extended its ratification period from seven years to fourteen.
·The Abortion movement created a backlash, particularly among fundamentalist Protestants and Catholics.
Even so, the traditional sex-roles of women had changed dramatically. Suddenly, two-income homes with both parties working were the norm.
Hispanics: Hispanics had suffered discrimination primarily in wages and work. Their efforts to improve their lot were largely stymied by large number of illegal Mexican workers who crossed the border to work for wages lower than most Americans would accept; but higher than they could make at home.
Things changed when Cesar Chavez organized the United Farm Workers. His first target were the grape producers of California. When refusal to work did not produce results, he organized a nationwide boycott of California grapes. Like Martin Luther King and Ghandi, he insisted on peaceful non-violent resistance. When some of his workers resorted to violence, he fasted for three weeks. As a result of his efforts, The California legislature passed a bill requiring California growers to bargain collectively with elected representatives of farm workers.
The status of Hispanic Americans improved largely as a result of the increase in their number. By 1990, they were the largest minority in America after African Americans. They exercised considerable political clout; were openly courted by politicians from both parties, and elected several of their own to governorships and to Congress.
Native Americans: Two factors made the plight of Native Americans a priority:
·Many Americans felt an abiding sense of guilt over the abusive and destructive policies of the past which had deprived the Indians of their land and forced them into poverty.
·Of all minorities, the status of Native Americans was the most desperate.
ŘIndian unemployment was ten times the national rate.
ŘIndian life expectancy was twenty years lower than the national average.
ŘIndian suicide rate was One Hundred times that for whites.
ŘHalf of Indian families were on Welfare
ŘAt the Wounded Knee, S.D. reservation, over 80% of children had dropped out of school
Indian Affairs had been handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which had the reputation of being the worst managed Federal department imaginable. Indian financial affairs and tribal interests had been ignored, or used for personal gain.
Indian activists formed the American Indian Movement (AIM) and tried the same tactics as activist black civil rights movements. They occupied Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and claimed it by "right of discovery." Later, in 1973, 200 Sioux at Wounded Knee (site of the famous massacre) took hostages, and a shootout with federal authorities followed in which one Indian was killed.
Thereafter, Indians used federal courts as their most effective tactic. They demanded restitution for violation of treaties previously entered into by the Federal Government. Quite often, the alleged violation of the Indian Non-Intercourse Act which required Congressional approval of all treaties, a provision that many states had conveniently forgotten. As a result of their legal actions, they won significant financial settlements and other concessions which enabled them to rebuild their communities and improve their standard of living.Part of the land claimed by the Indians pursuant to treaty was located near Rock Hill, South Carolina. The Catawba Indian tribe effectively shut down sales of real estate in the area, as Lawyers and Title Insurance companies could not certify title over Indian claims. Subsequently, as part of a settlement, the Indians received exclusive rights to operate Bingo Parlors in South Carolina in locations of their choosing.
Nixon and Viet Nam
The election of Nixon and Agnew had been something of a victory for the "silent majority," predominantly white middle class and working class people determined to regain control of a society which to them had been wallowing in permissiveness and anarchy. It was, as in the days of Warren G. Harding, a "return to normalcy." Even so, both sides agreed that the pervasive issue facing the country was the War in Vietnam. The harmony that Nixon had promised was not possible until all the troops had returned home.
Nixon used three approaches to deal with the War issue:
ŘIn Paris peace negotiations, American negotiators insisted that North Vietnamese troops be withdrawn from South Vietnam. This was a sticking point, as the North Vietnamese insisted on a presence in the South. As a result, negotiations were quite slow. Negotiations went on for months on the shape of the table to be used for meetings.
ŘNixon tried to quell domestic unrest by reducing the number of troops in Viet Nam, calling the process "Vietnamization – training and equipping the South Vietnamese to fight the war alone. By 1973, only 50,000 American troops remained. Nixon also instituted a Draft Lottery system to eliminate the possibility of many young men being drafted.
Under the lottery system, dates were drawn in the lottery. Those young men whose birthdays fell on the first day drawn were drafted first, etc. One was eligible for the draft for only one year; if not drafted in that year, one was home free.
Gates was in the first lottery – stayed up to watch the returns, but my Birthday was not among the first five nor last five drawn (the only ones shown on television). I well remember the first number drawn: September 14. After a totally miserable night, I met the newspaper carrier in the morning to see my number: It was 244; a good draw. As luck would have it, only those young men with numbers below 125 were drawn. And thus, friends, Richard M. Nixon has become my own personal Woodrow Wilson: He kept me out of the war.
ŘThe air war was expanded to bring the North around. American planes bombed Communist strongholds in Cambodia, but kept this fact secret from Congress for over a year. The total tonnage of bombs dropped on Cambodia was four times that dropped on Japan during World War II. Later, troops entered Cambodia to clean out the communists.
Even so, American disentanglement was torturously slow, and the effect on military morale and reputation was devastating. Said one soldier: "No one wants to be the last to die in this lousy war." Drug abuse and "fragging" (fragmentation grenades thrown at officers by their own men) became rampant. In 1971, four times as many American troops were hospitalized for drug abuse as for combat-related wounds.
College Campuses exploded again when the public learned that American forces were fighting in Cambodia. May, 1970, at Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard was called in to quell rioting. Troops panicked and opened fire, killing four student bystanders. Troops were called out on various campuses, including the University of South Carolina, where tear gas canisters were fired, and tanks were also called in.
Gates was working on a term paper when the troops were called in. I had to abandon my car at the campus, because I could not get to it in the parking lot; tear gas was so heavy. Afterwards, the campus remained under lockdown for several days. Students were not allowed to congregate in groups of more than three, and anyone outside on the campus grounds after seven was arrested.
The American public strongly backed the National Guard, saying the student protesters had "got what they deserved." In New York City, another anti-war protest led to demonstrators being attacked by hard hat construction workers who forced them to disperse, and marched to city hall to raise the flag, which had been lowered to half staff in mourning for the Kent State students.
June, 1971, the New York Times received copies of a secret Pentagon report, denominated the "Pentagon Papers." They were leaked by a Pentagon official, Daniel Ellsberg. The Government sued the Newspaper to stop publication of the report, but the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the papers could be published. They went to press the next day, and revealed that Congress and the public had not been told the entire truth about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and that contingency plans for American entry into the war were being drawn while Lyndon B. Johnson was promising Americans that no American troops would be committed.
The outrage that resulted caused the Nixon Administration to change its position. Kissinger met secretly with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris, and dropped the demand for removal of Northern troops from the South. On October 26, 1972, he appeared on television (first time American people heard him speak) and said, in his heavy German accent, "We believe that peace is at hand." This was one week before the Presidential election, and many historians say it was a cynical ploy to get votes.
The talks stalled, and Nixon resumed bombing of the North, which finally came around. On January 27, 1973, all parties signed an agreement to end the war in Paris. The last American troops left in March. The U.S. promised to protect the South, but when the North invaded again, Congress refused. On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell, and was renamed Ho Chi Minh city.
Vietnam is considered a war that the U.S. "lost." It had several repercussions:
ŘRespect for the military was seriously eroded. Military service had long been considered honorable; now many young men considered it corrupting, and cheapening.
ŘThe Democratic Party was fragmented. George McGovern, who had opposed the war, was the party’s Presidential nominee, a disastrous choice.
ŘAmericans came to believe that democratic ideals were not easily transferable to Third World countries.
Nixon and Middle AmericaNixon’s cabinet were all white and all Republican. He was the first president since Eisenhower to deal with a Congress controlled by the opposite party. Because of this, he focused his energies on foreign policy where he was not encumbered. He achieved several noteworthy accomplishments. On July 20, 1969, the first men walked on the moon.
Nixon thought a "middle course" was the proper approach for Civil Rights. In 1970, he tried to block renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and to delay school desegregation in Mississippi. The Voting Rights Act was, in fact, extended over Nixon’s veto.
Ironically the Supreme Court under Nixon’s first appointee, Chief Justice Warren Burger, ordered the immediate segregation of schools. Whereas Brown vs. Board of Education had called for segregation to end "with all deliberate speed," the Burger Court in Alexander vs. Holmes County Board of Education said it must end "at once." In Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education,(1971) the Court said that school systems must bus students out of neighborhoods, if necessary, to achieve integration. More schools were desegregated in Nixon’s term than in Kennedy and Johnson’s terms combined.The supreme irony of the Alexander and Swann cases is that protests against segregated schools suddenly shifted to the North, where schools were firebombed, and whites protested. Nixon asked Congress to pass a moratorium on bussing. The House voted for the moratorium, but it died in the Senate. The Democratic Congress did pass several items of important legislation:
·The 26th Amendment to the Constitution – gave 18 year olds the right to vote.
·Social Security was amended to be indexed to inflation rates.
·The Clean Air Act and Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
In the meantime, the economy took a nosedive. Inflation reached an unheard of rate of 12 per cent. At the same time, unemployment climbed to six per cent. This defied all the laws of economics, as unemployment and inflation should be opposites. Economists had never seen such a situation, and had to event a new term to describe it. They called it "stagflation."
The stagflation had three causes:
·Johnson and Congress had attempted to pay for his Great Society Programs without a major tax increase, which had resulted in a huge Federal deficit.
·Japan and Germany had emerged as major industrial powers, and were creating stiff competition for American manufacturing.
·Americans had become dependent upon (and wasteful with) cheap fossil fuels.
When the U.S. backed Israel in the Six Day War of 1973, OPEC nations shut off oil sales to the U.S. and raised prices 400 per cent. The result was gasoline shortages, long lines, and high prices. Additionally, with baby boomers entering the job market, the work force grew by 40 per cent.
Nixon’s responses were a comedy of errors. When Congress wouldn’t let him raise taxes, he persuaded the Federal Reserve to raise Interest rates, which sent the economy into the "Nixon Recession." He later imposed wage and price controls, and said that the U.S. would no longer convert dollars into gold for foreign exchange. This caused the dollar to collapse.
Foreign Policy under NixonIt was in foreign policy that Nixon achieved his greatest triumphs. He managed to shift the entire focus of the cold war.
China: In 1971, Henry Kissinger secretly flew to Beijing, and explored the idea of diplomatic relations. In 1972, Nixon himself visited China, as Americans watched on television. It was a sight no one alive ever expected to see, as the U.S. and China had been sworn enemies since Mao’s takeover in 1949. Also, it drove a wedge between the Soviets and Chinese, who suddenly hated each other. By 1979, full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China were established. This opened a tremendous market for U.S. merchants, and seriously eroded the threat of nuclear war.
Détente: China welcomed the new relationship with the West, because its relationship with the Soviets, with whom they shared a common border, had become extremely bitter. There was talk of a Sino-Soviet war. Then, Nixon did it again. He surprised everyone when he announced that he would be traveling to Moscow. While there, he signed the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) Agreement, which limited nuclear weapons, and arranged a sale of American wheat to the Soviets, which kept the price of American wheat high for farmers. It seemed as if he could work magic on the diplomatic front.
When the 1972 election rolled around, Nixon seemed unbeatable. The only threat to his campaign was George Wallace again, who might mount enough conservative votes to give the election to the Democrats. But, on May 15, 1972, Wallace was shot and permanently paralyzed, and was forced to withdraw. To the shock and amazement of Americans, FBI surveillance soon discovered that the would-be assassin had also been tracking Pres. Nixon. He had no political agenda, he just wanted to shoot someone important. Wallace remained in a wheelchair the rest of his life.
Nixon got more help from the Democrats than anyone else. They nominated George McGovern, an anti-war liberal, and alienated many people. The AFL-CIO refused to endorse him, and later, his running mate, Thomas Eagleton, was forced to withdraw after admitting that he had received shock treatments for depression. It was so poorly handled that Nixon won the largest Republican victory in the history of the country. Shortly after losing, McGovern complained of "dirty tricks" by the Republican National Committee. Evidence had arisen of a break-in at Democratic National Party Headquarters in the Watergate Apartment Complex that had been sponsored by the Republicans. This relatively trivial incident would soon lead to the downfall of Nixon and the first Presidential resignation in the history of the country.
Investigation of the Watergate break-in was conducted by U.S. Federal District Judge John Sirica; and later by a special Senate committee headed by Senator Sam J. Ervin, of North Carolina. The most telling question was posed by Republican Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee: "What did the President know, and when did he know it." It soon appeared that the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) had planned the entire break-in, and also planned attempts to discredit both Democratic opponents, and people whom Nixon considered his enemies. He even maintained an "enemies list."The Watergate Scandal broke with an investigative report by the Washington Post. An unnamed informer in the government broke the story to two reporters. He was for many years known only by his code name, "Deep Throat." The Post has promised to reveal his identity only after his death. Later, Mark Felts, who had been Number Two at the FBI came forward voluntarily and stated that he was Deep Throat.
No evidence ever emerged that Nixon was personally familiar with the break-in; but he was personally involved in attempts to cover up the incident. He used the powers of the President to discredit and at times attempt to block the investigation:
The New York Times discovered, and printed stories that Nixon had hidden the truth about secret bombings of Cambodia for years. When the story was printed, he ordered illegal wiretaps on government employees and journalists to determine the source of the leak. When the Pentagon Papers were published, he ordered a break-in into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to attempt to find information to discredit him. Later, a team of thugs was organized to carry out "dirty tricks," including stink bombs at Democratic rallies, planting accusations of racial remarks against potential Democratic candidates, and spreading rumors of sexual improprieties; quite often of homosexual relationships by Democrats, including Hubert Humphrey. The tricks were paid for with money from the Committee to Re-elect the President.
The whole mess fell apart when Chief White House Counsel John Dean was fired because Nixon feared he would cooperate with prosecutors. Also, the acting director of the FBI resigned after admitting that he had destroyed incriminating documents. Dean testified before the Senate Committee, and said that there had been a cover-up and Nixon was aware of it. He testified that he had told Nixon, "there is a cancer growing on the Presidency." Later, in the biggest bombshell of all, Nixon Aide Alexander Butterfield testified that Nixon had secretly recorded all conversations in the White House Oval Office –this meant that the tapes would reveal how much Nixon knew.
The special prosecutor hired to handle the case, Archibald Cox, sued to get the tapes. Nixon claimed executive privilege, and in a desperate move, ordered Cox fired. Although Cox was investigating the President, he worked under the Justice Department, and was thus subject to Nixon’s control. The Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, refused, and was fired himself. His assistant, William Ruckelshaus was also ordered to fire Cox, but also refused and was fired. Nixon then appointed Solicitor General Robert Bork as Acting Attorney General, and Bork fired Cox. All of this in one day. It became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. News reporters commented that evening that it was the worst constitutional crisis in the history of the country. Indeed, it was a severe crisis; if the President of the U.S. could use the power of his office to prevent discovery of misconduct.
Nixon made several halfway attempts to dissuade the investigation, offering "transcripts" of the tapes, but still claiming executive privilege over the originals. The new Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, was no less diligent than Cox, and eventually, in U.S. vs. Nixon, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Nixon must surrender the tapes. Nixon wasn’t through. When the tapes were surrendered, an eighteen minute gap appeared in which the most damaging portions of conversations had been erased. Nixon’s personal secretary, Rosemary Wood, claimed that she had accidentally pressed the "erase" pedal on her dictation machine when transcribing the tapes, and that this had caused the gap. It was not plausible that she could have kept the pedal pressed for eighteen full minutes. She was only trying to cover her boss.
Earlier, Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned from office in October, 1973, and had pleaded guilty to tax evasion, based on bribes paid to him as Maryland Governor and while Vice President. Congress had passed and the states had ratified the Twenty Fifth Amendment, which provided for the President to appoint a Vice President should the office become vacant, with the consent of a majority of both Houses of Congress. Pursuant to that power, Nixon had nominated and the Senate had confirmed Gerald R. Ford of Michigan as Vice President.
After experts concluded that the tapes had been intentionally erased, the House Judiciary Committee under Chairman Peter Rodino voted three Articles of Impeachment against Nixon:
·Obstruction of Justice – payment of "hush" money to witnesses and withholding evidence.
·Abuse of Power – using federal agencies to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights.
·Defiance of Congress – withholding the tapes.
One of the most eloquent, and moving presentations before the Committee were remarks made by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, a black representative from Texas. Her words alone convinced Gates that Nixon should be impeached. Especially moving were her words: "We, the people. 'It is a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the 17th of September in 1787, I was not included in that 'We, the people. ' I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision, I have finally been included in 'We, the people, My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total….if the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth-century paper shredder. Has the president committed offenses and planned and directed and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? That is the question. We know that. We know the question. We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question. It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision."
I strongly urge you to read the entire brief address here. It is moving, and well worth your time.
After the Articles were returned by the Judiciary Committee but before they were voted upon by the entire House, as required by the Constitution, Nixon saw the handwriting on the wall, and, in a television address on August 8, 1974, informed the American people that he would resign at noon the following day. The following day he wrote a short letter to Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State: "Dear Mr. Secretary: I herewith resign the Office of President of the United States." Richard Nixon became the first President to resign, and the first president to leave office before the expiration of his term other than by death.The tapes revealed another side of Nixon that no one new. He had been an exceptionally profane man, almost every other word was the "f" word. He had an intense capacity for hatred, and made vicious efforts to discredit of destroy those whom he did not like. The "smallness" of the man at first shocked Americans, and then left them feeling disillusioned, as the office of the Presidency had been soiled.
Immediately after Nixon’s resignation, Chief Justice Warren Burger swore in Gerald R. Ford as President. This was done in the White House basement; and Ford was introduced as the new President by the Chief Justice. Ford had been humorous when named Vice President, telling the audience, "I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln." Now, he was sober and somber: "Ladies and Gentlemen, our long national nightmare is over."Pursuant to the Twenty Fifth Amendment, Ford named Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President. They thus became the first Presidential team to be un-elected; and Gerald Ford became the only President of the United States who was never elected to the office. Rockefeller was a capable man, but made at least one very stupid mistake. At a meeting, someone once flipped him off, and Rockefeller, somewhat peeved, returned the favor. Unfortunately for him, a Cameraman was near by, and the whole world saw a picture of the Vice President of the United States giving a guy the bird.
Following the end of the Watergate fiasco, Congress moved quickly to pass legislation to prevent further abuses:
·The War Powers Act (1973) requires the President to inform Congress within 48 hours of committing troops to battle, and to withdraw them within 60 days unless Congress specifically approves their deployment. (This Act is most likely Unconstitutional, as it erodes the power of the President under the Constitution as the Commander in Chief of U.S. Armed Forces; however, it has not been challenged in Court as of the Iraqi Conflict in 2003).
·Ceilings were set on political contributions and expenditures.
·The Freedom of Information Act requires prompt response to requests for information from government files, and places the burden of proof on the government if it claims that information is privileged.
The Watergate affair caused a profound loss of confidence in the government and government officials. One bumper sticker of the day read "Don’t vote: it only encourages them." This malaise on the part of the voters was largely responsible for the election of Jimmy Carter, an outsider with no Washington experience, as President in 1976 in an election with an exceptionally low turnout.
When Ford took office, he was immediately confronted with the question of a pardon for Richard Nixon, who undoubtedly had committed criminal acts. Ford originally said no, because "the country wouldn’t stand for it." But a month later, he did, in fact, pardon Nixon. Speculation arose that there had been a deal worked out with Nixon before hand, but Ford denied it, saying, "there was no deal, period." It now appears that there was in fact no deal; that Ford feared the Country, already wounded by the Watergate ordeal, did not need to suffer the trauma of seeing one of it’s presidents go to jail. Punishment for Nixon would have been greater punishment for the nation. By so doing, Gerald Ford committed political suicide, however, his pardon was a wise and courageous act.
Ford had previously been House Minority leader, and was pretty much a nay-sayer. He was only in office fifteen months, but in that time vetoed 39 bills, more than Herbert Hoover had in twice that length of time. He resisted efforts to raise taxes or cut spending, and as a result, plunged the Country into the deepest recession since the Great Depression. In a particularly bad move, when New York City announced it was almost bankrupt and would default on loan and bond payments, Ford said there would be no federal bailout. He subsequently changed his mind, but before he did, the New York Daily News printed headlines: "Ford to New York: Drop Dead."
In a move reminiscent of Herbert Hoover, Ford tried to rally public support for voluntary restraints by a campaign he called "Whip Inflation Now." (WIN). It was a disaster. When he passed out WIN buttons, people said, "get them now, the price is going up tomorrow." Ford was often ridiculed for being clumsy. He once fell off the ramp climbing off Air Force One. A local joke going around was supposedly a reporter asked his wife Betty what she and the President did for birth control. She replied, "It’s easy. Every night when we go to bed, I give the President two sticks of gum."
Ford was himself the intended victim in several assassination attempts. One by a young lady named "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson. Her gun jammed when she aimed it point-blank at Ford. Another was a mentally deranged woman who also aimed at Ford but a Secret Service Agent managed to place the soft portion of his hand between the trigger hammer and the firing pin (ouch!).
Ford’s greatest asset was his wife Betty. In another courageous move, she announced publicly that she suffered from alcoholism. This brought attention to alcoholism as a disease rather than a character flaw. She was influential in founding the Betty Ford Institute, which has helped many people.
The Democrats were dancing a jig. Ford had committed so many missteps that they could beat him with a drunken Indian. In 1976, they nominated James Earl Carter of Georgia for President, and Walter Mondale as Vice President. Carter legally changed his name to "Jimmy."
Carter was a very folksy, down home sort of guy. He was known to the world as a peanut farmer; but had previously retired from the U.S. Navy as a nuclear physicist. He was deeply religious, publicly avowed to be a born-again Christian, regularly taught a Sunday School class in Plains, Georgia, and wrote several books describing his faith. It was this perception of him as a transparently honest man that endeared him to Americans at a time when many were totally disillusioned with politicians. He is the ONLY Democrat for whom Gates ever voted for President prior to the 2008 election.
The election was over before it ever got started. Ford became the first sitting President voted out of office since Herbert Hoover. In a gracious gesture, at his inauguration, Carter first publicly thanked Ford, "for all he has done to heal our land."
Carter tried hard to heal the nation himself. His administration included more blacks and women than any before him, including the appointment of Andrew Young as UN Ambassador. He also appointed a presidential commission to study and provide amnesty for those who had left the country rather than serve in Vietnam. The honeymoon didn’t last long. He and the members of his administration had no experience in national politics, and their attempts at working with Congress were clumsy. Also, another crisis in the middle east led to inflated gas prices and gas shortages. His popularity fell to 26 per cent. Rather than attempt to deal with economic problems, Carter tended to scold the American people, and tell them they needed to deal with it more responsibly. They didn’t care for this highhanded approach, and it backfired big-time. In a move that many Americans considered a national insult, he negotiated a treaty to return the Panama Canal to Panama. Said one official, "we stole it fair and square, now Carter is giving it back." The Treaty passed with a 2-vote margin in the Senate.
Carter’s crowning achievement was in foreign policy. He negotiated the Camp David Accords which arranged peace between Israel and Egypt. However, he suffered a terrible embarrassment in Iran when students there stormed the American Embassy and took a number of Americans hostage. Carter arranged a rescue attempt which failed, in fact never got close; plus several Americans were killed when two aircraft collided. It was a fiasco, and only renewed the disillusionment Americans faced.
His handling of the economy was abysmal, also. He was unable to stop stagflation. In 1980, inflation had reached a level of 18%, unheard of. Interest rates on home mortgages were over 20%. It was obvious that he stood no chance of re-election.