Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Watergate Scandal

Watergate Scandal

Watergate is an impressive hotel, apartment, and office complex that overlooks the Potomac River near an old canal lock. It was built between 1964 and 1971. The name evolved to become an all-embracing label for political corruption, intrigue, and the misuse of presidential authority.

Watergate, in the lexicon of U.S. politics, is simply synonymous with scandal. In the period from 1972 to 1974 the scandal emerged as an interconnected series of events and deeds that would destroy the Richard Nixon presidency and lead to his resignation on August 9, 1974. In its wake, Watergate produced a national crisis in leadership and a lasting sense of national betrayal.

The Watergate crisis began with a burglary on June 17, 1972. A security guard discovered a suspicious tape holding a stairwell door open, and this prompted him to contact Washington police. The police discovered and arrested on the scene Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, James W. McCord, Jr., and Frank Sturgis.


The men were in the process of breaking into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters. They also had wiretapping equipment. McCord, a former CIA operative, was the chief of security at the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP, or CREEP), and in his possession was the telephone number of E. Howard Hunt, a possible incriminating direct link to the White House.

After a White House dismissal of the affair, the burglary could have passed into obscurity in this 1972 presidential election year if there had not been continuing media attention, driven by the efforts of Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

Protester: Impeach Nixon!

Making use of FBI sources, the reporters launched a deep probe of the events. The outcome was that the burglary began to appear as one part of a complex dirty-tricks campaign by Nixon cronies.

The basis for such suspicions rested largely with E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who were tied to the Special Investigations Unit of the White House, known as the "Plumbers".

This group was active in undermining administration opponents through a variety of nefarious schemes such as breaking into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon and State Department employee. As the future would reveal, these actions would have unfortunate consequences for the president.

The Watergate burglary itself had the approval of former attorney general John Mitchell and the support of leading White House personnel such as Charles Colson and John Ehrlichman, in addition to the president’s campaign manager, Jeb Magruder. Few believed that any of these men would have acted without the personal approval of the president.

The Watergate burglars, along with Liddy and Hunt, went on trial in January 1973. All pleaded guilty except McCord and Liddy. All were convicted of burglary, wiretapping, and conspiracy.

The defendants initially refused to talk, and the judge, John Sirica, ordered long sentences unless there was greater cooperation. This brought about McCord’s admission that the campaign was behind the burglary and had arranged payments to guarantee silence.

With the McCord admission, the political stakes were considerably raised, leading to a Senate investigation chaired by Senator Sam Ervin. Watergate was now on the national agenda, and White House staff faced subpoenas to testify.

Nixon’s close advisers H. R. Haldeman and Ehrlichman resigned, and White House counsel John Dean was fired. A new attorney general, Elliot Richardson, was also appointed. Richardson appointed Archibald Cox to head an independent inquiry.

The Senate investigation was televised from May 17 until August 7, 1973, and many former White House officials testified, including John Dean. The testimonies produced disastrous results for the president.

The situation became even more complex after a White House official, Alexander Butterfield, admitted the existence of a White House taping system, which seemed to offer a way of finding the truth. The tapes then became part of the subpoena process.

Nixon thought that this particular intrusion represented an attack on executive privilege. He ordered the attorney general to dismiss Cox if he didn’t cancel the subpoena. This led to what has come to be known as the "Saturday Night Massacre", which produced the resignation of Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus.

Nixon appointed a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, and as a desperate compromise gesture released the tapes in an edited form. The tapes seemed to cause not less but more distress for Nixon, particularly after it was revealed that there had been an 18-minute erasure as well as many additional erasures.

Ultimately, the issue of the tapes was resolved on July 24, 1974, when the Supreme Court in its decision United States v. Nixon denied the presidential claim of executive privilege.

Nixon’s position throughout 1974 had also been progressively undercut through an ever-increasing series of guilty pleas by White House associates. In January campaign aide Herbert Porter admitted lying to the FBI; in February Nixon’s lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, pleaded guilty to illegal electioneering; and in March the so-called Watergate Seven were all indicted for conspiring to interfere with the Watergate investigation.

To make matters worse, other Watergate grand jury indictments followed in April when Ed Reinecke, a lieutenant governor of California and a Nixon campaigner, was charged with three counts of perjury. Also in April Dwight Chapin, Nixon’s appointments secretary, admitted perjury and lying to the Senate and a grand jury.

The situation for Nixon was now without redemption. The House of Representatives began preparations for impeachment following a July 27, 1974, vote of 27 to 11 by the House Judiciary Committee on obstruction of justice charges. Other impeachment articles followed on July 29 and 30.

The release in early August of a damning tape from June 23, 1972, which revealed Nixon and Haldeman discussing possibilities for blocking FBI investigations, proved to be the tamat blow that toppled Nixon from power.

Without support in the House and little promise of support in the Senate, Richard M. Nixon announced to the nation on August 8, 1974, that he would resign as of noon on August 9, 1974, becoming the first U.S. president to do so.

He was succeeded by Gerald Ford. Ford, on September 8, pardoned Nixon and thus saved him from criminal prosecution. Until his death, Nixon maintained his innocence. Watergate poisoned the political waters of the nation and left a jaundiced, cynical view of politicians and their promises.

Richard Nixon leaving White House

When stripped of their offices and the emblems of power, the politicos appeared disgraceful, dishonest purveyors of power for power’s sake without regard for the well-being of the democracy. This would create a lasting legacy of paranoid suspicions and give rise to a climate receptive to conspiracy theories.

On a more positive note, the events surrounding Watergate led to reforms in campaign financing as well as the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 1986. The media became a much stronger voice, particularly as the nation moved toward news coverage on a 24-7 basis.

This led to the quandary of instant analysis, often incorrect, which can shape policy and possibly undermine the best democratic interests of the nation. The cult of personality and celebrity has now perhaps replaced the cult of power.

U.S. relations with China (Nixon)

The visit of U.S. president Richard Nixon to China in February 1972

The visit of U.S. president Richard Nixon to China in February 1972 marked a turning point in U.S.-China relations. It gave maneuvering space to the United States in the strategic contest with the USSR.

Their confrontation in the Korean War began two decades of confrontation at a number of strategic points, especially in the Taiwan Straits and in Vietnam, where the United States was embroiled in a ground war supporting South Vietnam and while China provided backing to its then-ally North Vietnam.

The turn in U.S.-China ties from confrontation to rapproachment was a result of a host of factors, but mainly because both nations were concerned about the dangers posed by the Soviet Union. The U.S. Senate began a review of U.S.-China policy. China too was moving from Maoist ideological puritanism toward greater pragmatism, spurred on by the Sino-Soviet border dispute.


The Soviet Union’s intervention in Czechoslovakia in August 1968 led to its pronouncement of the Brezhnev Doctrine that as the leading country of the Marxist bloc, the USSR had the right to determine the correct interpretation of Marxism and to intervene in socialist countries that deviated from the correct line.

Since China under Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) had developed its own version of Marxism, it feared that it could become a Soviet target for its deviations. Hence came China’s quest to end its diplomatic isolation with a rapprochement with the United States.

The Nixon administration saw an opening with China as a graceful way out of the Vietnam War. It therefore needed China’s leverage to facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. The opening came when U.S. and Chinese table tennis teams met in an international table tennis tournament, with the result that the U.S. team was invited to China.

President Nixon took steps to expedite visas for visitors from China to the United States, relaxed currency controls, and lifted restrictions on U.S. oil companies to provide fuel to ships and aircraft traveling to and from China.

Since Washington and Beijing had no diplomatic ties, Pakistan acted as intermediary. In July 1971 National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger secretly visited China via Pakistan "to seek normalization of relations" and an exchange of views of common interest.

The announcement heralded an atmosphere of warmth and cordiality in U.S.-China relations, which had been frozen for two decades. Meanwhile the United States had also departed from its hard-line stand that blocked the People’s Republic of China from seating its legitimate representation in the United Nations. In August 1971 the United States dropped its opposition, paving the way for the seating of China in the United Nations.

In his report to the U.S. Congress on February 9, 1971, Nixon stressed the importance of his forthcoming visit to China as the starting point for changing "the post-war landscape". While a quick resolution of outstanding issues were not possible, it signaled the end of "a sterile and barren interlude" in ties.

Nixon arrived in Beijing on February 21, 1972, accompanied by Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. The visit generated global interest as a watershed in redefining the balance of power of the world.

Transcending previous differences, Nixon emphasized "common interests" in a new era. The two countries signed the Shanghai Communiqué, wherein China stated its stand on Cambodia, Korea, and Vietnam.

The United States envisaged "the ultimate withdrawal" of all forces from Indochina; significantly, both countries declared opposition to hegemony in the Asia-Pacific area, implying that both had an interest in limiting Soviet power in the region. The Taiwan issue evaded a solution, but U.S.-China ties had moved from deep hostility to détente, facilitating major changes in the global balance of power.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was one of the most eloquent 20th-century voices for religion in an increasingly secular world. As a distinguished paleontologist and a Jesuit priest, he tried to synthesize evolutionary science with the incarnation of Christ.

His ideas were new, speculative, and bold enough to figure into deliberations as diverse as the founding of the United Nations and the formulation of several Vatican Council documents. Even today his name is cited for a spiritual perspective on the convergence of human communication due to the Internet.

He was born in France into a devout Catholic family of 11 children in 1881. His father was an intellectual and a farmer, and his mother was a great-grand-niece of Voltaire. Teilhard’s father provided his son a keen interest in science, and his mother an inclination toward mysticism.

He received a top-notch Jesuit education and entered their novitiate aktivitas by 1899. By 1911 he was ordained a priest after doing assignments in England and Egypt. World War I interrupted further studies in geology, and he saw action on the front lines. His close calls with death prompted him to consider a more speculative approach to science.


After the war he brilliantly defended his doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1922. Soon thereafter he accepted the chair of the geology department at the Institut Catholique. From this platform he now began to publicize ideas about the synthesis of science and religion, and the resulting controversy cost him his license at the Institut and forced him abroad to do his research and study.

For almost the rest of his career he lived abroad, almost as in a self-imposed exile. Most of that time he spent in China (1926–46), and there he collaborated with the Chinese Geological Survey and helped to discover the Peking Man skull. He wrote his important books, The Divine Milieu and The Human Phenomenon, during these years.

For one brief time after World War II he returned to France, but the Jesuits refused to allow him to take an academic position lest he receive more critical scrutiny. He was banned from lecturing in public or publishing his writings. He decided to go to New York in 1951. Lonely and suffering, he died on Easter Sunday, 1955, and is buried in a Jesuit cemetery there.

From a scientific point of view it is difficult to establish the methodology and provability of Teilhard’s ideas. He has clearly advanced the fields of geology, stratigraphy, and paleontology, with a supreme competence in the areas of China and the Far East. However, his dominant interest and the source of his infamy was in "anthropogenesis", a new study focusing on the evolutionary position of humanity.

He proposed that evolution had entered a new phase with the emergence of humanity, whereby complexity and consciousness converged and spiritualized evolution. The selesai development of humanity he termed the "Omega Point", and he connected this perfection with Christ.

In 1962 the Catholic Church issued a warning against the uncritical acceptance of Teilhard’s theories, though it did not question his scientific contributions or his integrity of faith. The best way of categorizing his unsystematized though eloquent speculation is as process theology, or perhaps even as a form of Christian pantheism.

U.S. Suburbanization

Suburbanization describes a process by which U.S. city dwellers moved from central cities into residential areas characterized by single-family homes with lawn space. It is generally associated with the period directly following World War II, but suburbanization is a much older process.

The term "suburb" has been in use since 1800. Although it originally applied to a pastoral existence, connected to but outside the central city, it is now associated with the basic ideals of U.S. family life.

The form of the U.S. city has been changing since the development of the steam engine. As the railroad replaced the stagecoach as a means of transportation, it became possible to live farther from the center of the city while still working in the central business district.

The streetcar accelerated this outward movement, and automobiles accelerated it even more, creating "bedroom communities" with access to commuter trains, buses and ferries, and parking lots. By 1940 only 20 percent of U.S. citizens lived in the suburbs, which were regarded as communities for the upper class.


A shortage of housing in cities with significant concentrations of war-related industries led to the building of suburban communities to house workers during World War II, but the diversion of resources for the war effort created a national housing shortage for returning servicemen. Ninety-seven percent of all new single-family dwellings built between 1946 and 1956 were surrounded by their own plots.

The period saw the cottage industry of single-family home construction transformed into a major manufacturing process. The most famous example of this is Levittown, which is named after the family who built it.

In 1946 Levittown was 4,000 acres of potato fields in Long Island, New York; by 1950 it was a town with 17,400 separate houses. Similarly the developers of Lakewood, in Los Angeles County, California, purchased 3,500 acres in 1949 and had built and sold 17,500 houses by 1953.

The new suburbs were characterized by low density, architectural monotony, and economic and racial homogeneity. Soon businesses, especially retailers, opened branch stores in the suburbs, creating shopping malls to reach consumers who had moved there. The suburbs continue to grow as the urban/suburban relationship in the nation’s metropolitan areas evolves.

This is evident in the explosive growth of suburbia in the formerly rural hinterlands of cities in the southern and southwestern United States, now known as the Sun Belt, which attract homeowners with promises of fine weather, large acreages, and air-conditioning.

Student Movements (1960s)

The most striking result of the baby boom was the activism of college students during the 1960s. In the United States, the initial impetus for student activism came from the Civil Rights movement. As the decade wore on, students in the United States and elsewhere found more elements of the "establishment" that required political action: the Vietnam War, the draft, and charges that universities were complicit with the military.

The first major student protest organization, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was founded in 1960 by Ella Baker, who had organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for Martin Luther King, Jr. She believed that existing civil rights organizations were out of touch with African-American students who were willing to push the movement further. Also in 1960 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) emerged from the Student League for Industrial Democracy, created in the 1930s to try to build a political left in Great Depression America.

SDS became the central institution of what would soon be called the New Left. In June 1962, 59 SDS members and sympathizers, including some SNCC members, assembled at an AFL-CIO camp in Port Huron, Michigan, to develop a political manifesto.


The resulting Port Huron Statement was written by student Tom Hayden. It suggested that U.S. universities should become the locus for a new movement concerned with empowering individuals and communities.

SNCC was the first of these organizations to achieve national prominence. Its members, who had initiated sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, took part in the Freedom Rides of 1961, testing federal court orders desegregating interstate bus terminals. They conducted voter registration programs in several southern cities and demonstrated against segregation.

In 1964 SNCC and CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality) staged "Freedom Summer", during which white college students were invited to teach African-American children and assist with voter registration efforts in Mississippi.

During that summer, three student activists, whites Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman and African-American James Chaney, were murdered by white racists. The University of California, Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement began when students returning from Freedom Summer found their university restricting political activity on campus.

White resistance to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act led activists in both SDS and SNCC to see themselves as allies of revolutionaries in the rest of the world and to move further left.

Stokely Carmichael (later Kwami Ture), who became chairman of SNCC in 1966, coined the slogan "Black Power" to express African-American pride, which had the effect of driving white activists out of the organization.

SDS and other white-dominated activist groups had, by this time, become outraged at the escalation of the war in Vietnam. The first "teach-in" against the war took place at the University of Michigan during the spring of 1965. In April a march on Washington organized by SDS drew 20,000 protesters. It was the first of many.

Concentration on antiwar politics had an unforeseen consequence. In 1964 SNCC staffers Mary King and Casey Hayden anonymously circulated a position paper noting male dominance in movement organization.

Later, they publicly raised the importance of feminism in civil rights and antiwar groups. Some men in the movement saw women’s issues as a trivial distraction from their own concerns about the draft. King and Hayden’s work led to women’s caucuses.

In May 1968 youth uprisings in Paris nearly brought down the government of Charles de Gaulle. A general strike led by elite Sorbonne university students, joined by many French workers, decried France’s education system and its role in the Vietnam War.

That same year, Czechoslovakia’s "Prague Spring" tried to implement "socialism with a human face" in the teeth of Soviet domination. In August Warsaw Pact troops crushed the movement, while in the United States riots erupted between Chicago police and student activists during the Democratic National Convention.

Violence escalated in 1970 when National Guard units shot and killed students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State and Jackson State Universities, touching off protests on many other campuses. But by then SNCC and SDS were collapsing. SDS had splintered at its 1969 convention into a number of groups, the best known of which, the Weathermen, took its name from a Bob Dylan song.

Renamed the Weather Underground, this group is best remembered for a Greenwich Village explosion in which three members blew themselves up while assembling explosives. Broad-based student activism declined after the draft was discontinued in 1973.

St. Lawrence Seaway

Begun in 1954 and completed in 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway, a wonder of engineering for its time, is a 2,342-mile-long series of canals, locks, and seaways constructed jointly by Canada and the United States to allow ocean-going vessels access to the Great Lakes. It streamlined shipping and created additional hydroelectric facilities along its route.

The seaway opened to commercial traffic on April 25, 1959. The total cost was $470 million, of which Canada provided $336.2 million and the United States $133.8 million. Canada’s St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation manages 13 locks, while the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation manages two locks.

The hydroelectric facilities are administered by Ontario Power and the New York State Power Authority. Depending on weather conditions and ice management, the seaway is generally open from April to mid-December, approximately 250 days per year.

There are seven locks between Montreal and Lake Ontario, a distance of 187 miles. Each lock is 766 feet in length, 80 feet wide, and 30 feet deep, and all channels are dredged to a depth of 27 feet. To ensure proper depth it was necessary to flood some areas, displacing and relocating residents of river towns. Technically not part of the seaway, the two Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, are slightly larger and connect the upper Great Lakes with Lake Superior.


Ninety percent of the freight shipped consists of bulk commodities. Westbound traffic primarily carries cargoes of steel, coal, and iron ore; 40 percent of eastbound cargo is grain. Inter-lake trade accounts for four times the tonnage handled for international markets.

In recent years, proposals by the U.S. and Canadian governments to deepen the seaway and enlarge its locks have met with resistance. Those who seek to expand seaway traffic point out that the St. Lawrence project is operating at only half the capacity envisioned when the project began in the 1950s, while another, even older, water "highway", the Panama Canal, is achieving full capacity and more.

Opponents of the seaway’s expansion fear damage to water quality in the world’s greatest freshwater system and point to damage already caused by invasive animal and plant species introduced by shipping on the seaway. Studies claim that 182 nonnative species have entered the Great Lakes system, two-thirds of them since 1959 when the seaway opened.

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant body in the United States. Baptists emerged after the First Great Awakening in New England and quickly found the southern United States a fertile region for growth. Committed in equal degrees to a conservative doctrine, aggressive evangelism, and local congregational autonomy, Baptists felt the strains of slavery.

In 1845 tensions led to the formation of the SBC, which allowed Baptists in the South to pursue missions and educational efforts on their own. Their regional seclusion protected the denomination from the schisms of the early 20th century. Indeed, Baptists eschewed the kind of denominational controls exercised by many other churches, particularly regarding doctrine.

Free of theological controversies and experiencing numerical, institutional, and regional expansion, Southern Baptists enjoyed great self-confidence. Baptists believed that they were called to convert the South, that the South would lead the nation, and that the United States would lead the world.

Denominational unity was critical to fulfilling this mission, but by the second half of the century expansion brought diversity, and a series of small theological rifts in SBC educational efforts portended greater controversies in the future.


Although their divisions were mild in comparison with debates in other denominations, Baptists in the South suffered a more shattering blow during the Civil Rights controversies of the 1940s–70s. Many southerners saw these changes as a threat to their traditional way of life.

Conservatives grew anxious and less tolerant of change of any kind; progressives felt remorse over decades of SBC inaction. By the 1970s prosperity and urbanization seemed to be taking the South into the secular currents sweeping the rest of the nation. It was against that background that a bitter battle between conservatives and moderates exploded during the 1980s.

For years, conservatives contended, denominational boards and seminaries had been controlled by liberals who were allowing liberalism to undercut the theological foundation of the church’s evangelistic mission. Now they were organizing to take back their church.

From the moderates’ perspective this same effort appeared a departure from Baptist traditions of respect for local autonomy and the right of believers to interpret the Bible for themselves. Moderates charged that conservatives were advocating the kind of coercive denominational intrusions and the mingling of religion and politics that Baptists traditionally rejected.

Conservatives successfully framed the debate as one of accepting or rejecting the Bible, and the majority of SBC members sided with them. Moderates charged them with securing power through questionable parliamentary maneuvers, but, by the end of the 1980s, the conservative takeover of the SBC was all but complete.