Last Updated 19 May 2021

President Nixons International and Domestic Challenges

Category Challenges
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President Richard M. Nixon’s administration had to face many international and domestic challenges in the United States between 1968 and 1974, some positive and some negative. His achievements in expanding peaceful relationships with both China and the Soviet Union are contrastingly different with his continuation of the Vietnam War. In the end, Nixon’s scandals and abuse of presidential power caught up to him, and his administration did much to corrode America’s faith in the government. In 1968, Richard Nixon gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

He said that it was time for a new leadership for the United States of America, and that new leadership was him. Nixon won in a very close election against Hubert Humphrey and promised to restore law and order to the nation’s cities. What everyone didn’t know was that for him to achieve his future accomplishments, he would destroy the nation’s trust. A positive international challenge that Nixon was involved in was seeking better relations with China. Early in his first term, Nixon and his adviser, Henry Kissinger, began sending subtle proposals hinting at warmer relations to the People’s Republic of China’s government.

When both countries hinted at this, Kissinger flew on secret diplomatic missions to Beijing and in July 1971, the President announced that he would visit the PRC the following year. This confused most American’s at the time because they believed that all communists countries were evil. When Nixon flew to China in February and he met with Mao Zedong. Nixon’s visit included a vast shift in the Cold War balance, putting the U. S. and China against the Soviet Union. Several months later, Nixon traveled to the U. S. S. R. and met with Leonid Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders.

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The result this trip was the signing of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The treaty restricted the number of ICBMs each nation could manufacture and stockpile and it was part of SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks). Nixon’s visits to China was a triumph because it contained the Soviet Union from expanding and gaining power. His visit to the U. S. S. R. was a diplomatic accomplishment because it improved relations with them. Nixon faced many international disputes during his presidency and some of them, he responded to negatively.

Throughout the Vietnam War, President Nixon had sent a letter to President Ho Chi Minh stating that he believes the war has gone on to long and it needs to stop. When the letter didn’t work, the biggest international challenge for Nixon was how to end the Vietnam War. Nixon and Kissinger both had a belief that they could end the war in six months, but they were proved wrong. In 1968, the same year Nixon was elected, there had been two huge events of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive and My Lai Massacre. President Nixon had inherited the burden of the Vietnam War and he asked the American citizens for their support.

Two months into his presidency, Nixon realized that there seemed to be no end in sight to the war. In 1969, Nixon ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia. The targets of these attacks were sanctuaries and base areas of the People’s Army of Vietnam and forces of the Viet Cong, which used them for resupply, training, and resting between campaigns across the border in the Republic of Vietnam. Nixon’s purpose for the bombing raid was because the first had been unsuccessful. The purpose of the secrecy was to protect Sihanouk. The way Nixon responded with the secret bombing was negative.

He never told America or the Congress about it and that led to the distrust of the American citizens. Environmental concerns were a challenge but Nixon responded to them positively. In Nixon’s presidency, he started out opposing environmental laws. But then he realized that protecting the environment was popular and he saw it as a politically beneficial area. By the time of his resignation, he created more laws than any other president before him. In early 1970, President Nixon signed the legislation that became the National Environmental Policy Act. He announced it was the first symbolic act of “the environmental decade. Between the years of 1970 and 1972, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Another thing he did was sign executive orders and international agreements on environmental issues. In early 1973, an international conference was held to discuss endangered species. The product of the conference was the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The U. S. needed a new legislation to meet some of the agreement’s provisions and it led to the Endangered Species Act.

In Nixon’s State of the Union speech in 1973, he called for stronger wildlife protection. The results of these environmental laws and international agreements made the public extremely happy. Even though Nixon’s intentions were selfish when he got involved in environmental concerns, he responded unquestionably positive. All his hard work helped pave the way for a cleaner society. In 1973, an oil crisis began when the members of the OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) proclaimed an oil embargo in response to the United States decision to resupply the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur War.

The embargo happened when 85% of American workers had to drive to work every day. President Nixon had to set the course of voluntary rationing. He proposed an extension of daylight savings time, had gas stations hold their sales to a max of ten gallons per customer and a maximum speed limit of 5o miles per hour, and asked companies to trim down work hours. The price at the pump rose from 30 cents a gallon to $1. 20. Nixon also had Congress approve of a Trans-Alaskan oil pipeline. Nixon responded to the recession the best way possible. The embargo was lifted on March 18, 1974.

The downfall of Nixon was his worst domestic challenge. America found out about his scandals and it led to his resignation as president. The Watergate Scandal starts when Nixon won the 1968 election, one of the closest elections in U. S. history. In 1970, Nixon approves a plan for a greatly expanding domestic intelligence gathering by the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. A few days later he has second thoughts and revokes his approval. Then in June of 1971, New York Times begins publishing the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers is about the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War.

In September of the same year, the White House “plumbers” unit burglarizes a psychiatrist’s office to find files on the former defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg. The White House plumbers unit got their name from their orders to plug leaks in the administration. The year of 1972 is a busy year. On June 17, five men were arrested trying to bug the Democrats offices at the Watergate hotel. The Washington Post reported many things that year. One was that a $25,000 check wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar.

Another was that John Mitchell controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance widespread intelligence-gathering operations against Democrats. Nixon was re-elected president in one of the largest landslides in U. S. history in 1972 against George McGovern. His inaugural address said that since he was elected in 1968, America has been better. But the truth was, that in 1973, Nixon was turning out to be anything but great. In the beginning of 1973, former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCordJr. , convicted of wiretapping in the Watergate incident. Then, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst all resigned over the scandal. John Dean, a White House counsel, was fired. In May, Elliot Richardson taps Archibald Cox as the Justice Department’s special prosecutor for Watergate. Later, in June, John Dean tells the Watergate investigators that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with Nixon at least 35 times and the Washington Post reports it. In July, Alexander Butterfield revealed in his congressional testimony that since 1971, President Nixon had recorded all conversations in his office.

When the Senate asked Nixon for the tapes, he refused. On the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon fired Archibald Cox and Elliot Richardson and William D. Ruckelsshaus resigned. When Nixon reluctantly agreed to hand over the tape, there was an 18 minute gap. Nixon kept giving them pieces of the tape when they asked for them. He never just handed over all the tapes. The Supreme Court ruled that Nixon must turn over the tape recordings. In 1974, the Washington Post reported that the inevitable was nearing.

Nixon was faced with certain impeachment, so in August of 1974, Richard Nixon became the first ever president to resign and Gerald Ford became the next president. President Richard Nixon’s presidency had many ups and downs when it came to dealing with the international and domestic challenges in the United States between 1968 and 1974. His most notable domestic actions were economic, and his international actions were his priority. Despite his ruination and disgrace in keeping secrets from America, Nixon did help establish relations with Communist China and ended the Vietnam War.

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