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These are excellent answers. I would just like to add that on an emotional level, Watergate and the fallout made us distrustful of politicians. Before Watergate, we were kind of idealistic that we could actually trust our politicians. Watergate also made heroes out of investigative journalists.
The Watergate Scandal certainly brought attention to the powers of the Executive Branch of American government. After President Nixon's resignation in 1964, some of the powers of the president were mitigated. Passages of many initiatives to promote more ethical behaviors were made. Here are some of theme:
- Federal Campaign Act (1974)
- Congressional Ethics Code (1977)
- Ethics in Government Act (1978)
- Speical prosecutor Provision of the Ethics in Government Act (1978)
- FBI Domestic Sucurity Investigation Guideline (1976)
- Intelligence Authorization Act (1980)
Certainly after Nixon's presidency, other presidents were questioned on their activities such as Bill Clinton with Whitewater and Ronald Reagan with the Iran-Contra Scandal
There have been two major impacts of Watergate on the nation's political processes.
First, members of the media have become obsessed with scandal. They are constantly trying to catch politicians doing wrong because they feel that this is what the media needs to do in a democratic system. Some scholars feel that this distracts the media from trying to report on more serious matters (the Anthony Weiner scandal is an example of this).
Second, Watergate has made it so that the parties use scandals and hearings to try to attack one another. This is especially true if the president is not of the party that controls Congress. In such cases, Congress will try to find any sort of hint of scandal they can so they can hold hearings and make the president look bad. This has seriously corroded the way that our political system works because the system of Congressional hearings is being used more to attack the other party than to actually get information.
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