What was the Watergate scandal and its effect on the presidency?
The Watergate Scandal was a sordid series of events involving criminal conduct and corrupt activity in the executive department which extended to the President himself and ultimately brought about the first presidential resignation in U.S. History. It severely damaged the prestige of the office of the President, which recovered, albeit slowly, following the election of Jimmy Carter.
The scandal began when a group of burglars, working for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) broke into Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Office Complex (hence the name of the scandal.) Investigative reporting by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post revealed that the break-in had been orchestrated by Richard Nixon's top advisers. Although Nixon himself was not involved in planning the actual burglary, he later interfered with the investigation, attempted to protect guilty parties, and even fired the special prosecutor investigating the scandal to protect himself. When evidence of Nixon's involvement in attempting to subvert the investigation became apparent, the House Judiciary Committee voted articles of impeachment. Had he remained in office, he almost certainly would have been convicted and removed from office.
Because of the intense media coverage and Nixon's own blatent attempts to subvert the investigation, the prestige of the Presidency was severely damaged. Nixon's actions were criminal, and he might well have been sent to prison; however he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. Ford's pardon of Nixon was a significant factor in Ford's defeat when he ran for election in his own right. He was defeated by Jimmy Carter who had a reputation as a Washington outsider and an honest man. Although Carter's success as president is problematic, he did restore trust in the office of President. The prestige of the office was fully restored under Ronald Reagan.
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