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How does Watergate represent the culmination of a consistent career pattern for Nixon?

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lharter | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 27, 2012 at 1:56 PM via web

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How does Watergate represent the culmination of a consistent career pattern for Nixon?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 27, 2012 at 7:11 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that Watergate reflects much that had been present in Nixon's career. In many respects, I think that Watergate represents the culmination of different flickers and embers that had been around Nixon throughout his career.  The pattern seemed to be demonstrated in the most bold of ways in Watergate.  One such pattern was the fundamental disconnect between he and forging relationships with other people.  Throughout his career, Nixon seemed to have a difficult time in connecting with the public in an authentic and genuine manner.  He was perceived with a sense of inauthenticity and pragmatism, as opposed to openness and clarity of conviction.  When Truman quips that one of Nixon's problems is "deciding which Nixon he is going to be," it is reflective early on of something that is present throughout his career, and embodied in Watergate.  The entire controversy revolved around "What did the President know and when did the President know it," to quote Senator Baker.  This is where Watergate was so damaging to Nixon, in that it confirmed the worst fears of the American public that President Nixon could not be trusted.  If Watergate had happened to another President that did not struggle so much with public connection and public credibility, it might not have been so cataclysmic.  Yet, because Nixon had struggled so much to connect and be perceived as legitimate by the American public, Watergate confirmed their worst fears.  These were only enhanced by Nixon's refusal to turn over tapes of conversations in the White House.  The perception of Nixon's paranoia, again something that had been seen in different points in Nixon's rise to power, was put on display in Watergate.  The presence of "listening devices" in the Oval Office as well as the way in which Nixon viewed politics as a form of war, whereby people were not defeated but destroyed, confirmed some of the worst fears that the American public had about their President.  It is in these elements that Watergate ended up representing and served as a culmination of a consistent career pattern for Nixon, something that could no longer be defended in the end when members of his own political party asked him to resign rather than stay on and face the shame of impeachment.

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