The Watergate Scandal

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Did the Watergate break-in or the subsequent cover-up shatter the nation's confidence in government?

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The entire Watergate Scandal, not just one part of it, shattered the nation’s confidence in the government. The idea that a sitting President and his closest advisors felt the need to break the law and then try to cover it up was unthinkable to many Americans.

President Nixon was very concerned that the Vietnam War would cost him a chance at getting reelected. He had promised to get us out of Vietnam when he ran for President in 1968. By the time the election of 1972 approached, we were still in Vietnam, and the peace talks weren’t progressing very much. President Nixon and his advisors really feared they would lose the election of 1972.

The break-in at the Watergate building was authorized by Nixon’s closest aids. Most Americans really didn’t believe the President had any connection to this event. However, due to the thorough reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein from the Washington Post, more information was uncovered that seemed to link the White House in various ways to the break-in. Americans were shocked that the White House would be involved in this activity in order to get reelected. When the Senate began to investigate, it was learned that the President had tape-recorded conversations in the White House. These tapes suggested that President Nixon was involved in the cover-up of the crime. This led to President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974.

The confidence in our government was already low because of the events that occurred surrounding the Vietnam War during the presidencies of Johnson and Nixon. The news of the break-in and the discovery of President Nixon’s apparent involvement in the cover-up of the break-in led to a further erosion of our confidence in our government. Both of these events, the break-in and the cover-up, were factors in shattering whatever confidence the American people had in the government. Some people would say that this loss of confidence has not yet been restored to the present day.

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