The Presidential election of 1972 had two strong candidates,
President Richard Nixon and George McGovern. There were many issues
which had a great deal of importance to the election.
Paper Title:
The Presidential election of 1972 had two strong candidates,
President Richard Nixon and George McGovern. There were many issues
which had a great deal of importance to the election. The Vietnam war and
the stability of the economy at the time were two main factors. The election
ended in one the largest political scandals in U.S. history, being the
break-in, and cover-up, by President Richard Nixon.

The Democratic party had a large selection of candidates from which
to choose for the primary elections of 1972. There were many well known
candidates who entered the race for the nomination. The leading contenders
were Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Senator George McGovern of South
Dakota and Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. Other candidates who didn’t
receive quite as much recognition were Alabama governor George C.

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Wallace, Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, Rep. Wilbur D. Mills of
Arkansas, Sen. Vance Hartke of Indiana, former Senator Eugene J.

McCarthy of Minnesota, Mayor John Lindsay of New York City and Rep.

Shirley Chisholm of New York. Chisholm was the first black to run in a
series of presidential primaries.” (Congressional Quarterly, “Guide
to U.S.

Elections”, Third ed., 1994, pg.603-605.) 5
Governor Wallace had a devastating moment in his campaign while in
Maryland. “In early May a sick young man named Arthur Bremer altered the
politics of 1972. As Governor Wallace campaigned toward certain victory in
the Maryland primary, Bremer stepped forward out of a shopping-center
crowd and shot him four times. Wallace survived, but at the cost of being
paralyzed from the waist down. Maryland’s voters surged out on election day
to give Wallace a huge victory, his last of 1972. While Wallace recuperated,
the millions who would have voted for him as a Democratic or independent
candidate began to move in overwhelming proportions behind the candidacy
began to move in overwhelming proportions behind the candidacy of Richard
Nixon.” (Benton, William. “U.S. Election of 1972.”
Encyclopedia Britannica
Book of the Year. pg.12-13, 1973 ed.)1
When the California primary was approaching, Humphrey tried to
save the nomination for himself. “Humphrey excoriated his old senate
(McGovern) for his expensive ideas on welfare and his desire to cut the
defense budget. It almost worked. But McGovern won all of California’s
giant delegation, and beat Humphrey 44.3% to 39.1% in the popular
That loss spelled out the end for Humphrey’s Democratic nomination.

Many felt Edmund Muskie was sure to win the Democratic
nomination for the election of 1972. “All political observers agreed on
certainty that Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine would be the Democratic
party’s nominee.”1 “As the front-runner, he wanted to snare the
early and so was committed to running in all of the first eight presidential
primaries. Prominent Democratic politicians lined up eagerly to endorse him.

Among them: Gov. John Gilligan of Ohio; Leonard Woodcock, President of
the United Auto Workers; Iowa Senator Harold Hughes; and Pennsylvania
Governor Milton Shapp.”1 Muskie had many supporters, and a good chance
of receiving the nomination, perhaps even becoming the next President of the
United States. President Nixon knew that Muskie had a good chance of
winning and felt he had to do something to get Muskie out of the race. Nixon
had seven men who were loyal to him make up false press releases about
Muskie, and his wife. These press releases claimed that Muskie had had
affairs with both men and women, that he beat his wife, and then the topper
which claimed that Muskies’ wife was an alcoholic. These false statements
destroyed Muskies’ campaign and reputation of being a calm trustworthy
candidate. Then one day “mounting the bed of a truck parked outside the
offices of the archconservative Manchester Union Leader, Muskie launched
an attack on the paper’s publisher, William Loeb. As he spoke of Loeb’s
unflattering remarks about Mrs. Muskie, the senator’s voice cracked, and the
crowd saw tears form in his eyes.”1 This incident badly dented Muskie’s
image. After that event, people saw Muskie as a weak person. They didn’t
want a weak person running the country. “Muskie had finished fourth in
Pennsylvania, behind winner Humphrey, Wallace, and McGovern, and a
distant second to McGovern in Massachusetts. He then withdrew with
dignity.” 1 Muskie later said of this incident: “It changed
people’s minds
about me, of what kind of a guy I was. They were looking for a strong,
steady man, and here I was weak.” ” (Congressional Quarterly,
of Presidential Elections”, Fourth ed. 1994, pg.329-330)6
After a long primary campaign, and all the primary elections, Senator
George McGovern won the nomination for the Democratic party in the 1972
presidential election. “McGovern did not get to deliver his acceptance
speech–perhaps the best speech of his career–until 2:48 a.m., when most
television viewers were already in bed.”6 Senator McGovern had a
campaign ahead of him. His opposition, President Richard Nixon, already
had the upper hand on him because he had been elected President four years
before. President Nixon was the Republican candidate. “President Richard
Nixon told a reporter that “the election was over the day he (Sen.

McGovern) was nominated.” “1 McGovern campaigned very hard.

“Between September 3 and September 15, the South Dakotan barnstormed
through 29 cities and towns in 18 states covering some 14,000 miles and
being seen by more than 175,000 people.” (U.S. News and World Report,
“Can Democrats Close the Gap, Sept. 25, 1972, Vol. LXXXIII, No.13,
pg.17-22)3 McGovern knew, if he wanted to win, he had to focus on the
important issues of 1972.

There were four very important issues. These were the war in
Vietnam, the economy, foreign policy, and defense. The two major ones
were the war in Vietnam, and the economy. McGovern was sure that if he
was elected president, he would be able to end the war. “We will be able
end the war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate
total withdrawal of all Americans from Southeast Asia.” (Congressional
Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, “1972 Conventions”, Third ed.,
pg..127-132.)4 McGovern goes on to say in another interview that “I will
stake my whole political career on being able to withdraw our forces and get
our prisoners out within 90 days after inauguration. I really think I can do
faster than that.” (U.S. News and World, “How McGovern Sees The
August 7, 1972, Vol. LXXIII No.6, pg.18-22)8 McGovern, like everyone
else wanted to end the war in Vietnam as soon as possible. McGovern felt
the Nixon could have ended the war years earlier, and could have spared all
those lives. “There’s nothing that we can negotiate now in ending this
war that
we couldn’t have done four years ago. We haven’t gained anything in these
four years of continued slaughter that’s gone on in this present
Administration.”8 “I’ll be one of those rejoicing even if Nixon
does end this
war and it does accrue to his advantage. I just wish he had done it four
ago. If he had, I might not now be running for the President.”8 McGovern
makes it seem as though his sole purpose, and reason for wanting to become
President is to simply end the Vietnam war.

Nixon along with the Republican party, and their platform stated that
“We will continue to seek a settlement of the Vietnam War which will
the people of Southeast Asia to live in peace under political arrangements of
their own choosing. We take specific note of the remaining major obstacle to
settlement-Hanoi’s demand that the United States overthrow the Saigon
government and impose a Communist-dominated government on the South
Vietnamese. We stand unequivocally at the side of the President in his effort
to negotiate honorable terms, and in his refusal to accept terms which would
dishonor this country.”4 “We insist that, before all American
forces are
withdrawn from Vietnam, American prisoners must be returned and a full
accounting made of the missing in action and of those who have died in enemy
hands.” (U.S. News and World Report, “Promises Republican
Make,” Sept.

4, 1972, Vol. LXXIII No.10, pg.28-29)2 Although the Republicans held the
basic idea that the Democrats did, which was to end the war in Vietnam as
soon as possible, they didn’t specify an allotted amount of time in which
would accomplish this goal as did the Democrats.

The second major issue of 1972 was the economy. “The Nixon
record increased unemployment by 3 million people.”8 There were price
freezes, and wage-price controls. McGovern and the Democrats stated that
their goal was for full employment, and for those who are unable to work,
they would receive a guaranteed income. “The heart of a program of
economic security based on earned income must be creating jobs and training
people to fill them. Millions of jobs — real jobs, not make-work — need to
be provided. Public service employment must be greatly expanded in order
to make the government the employer of last resort and guarantee a job for
all.” “What I offer is a balanced, full-employment economy–where
we can
provide enough, both to protect our interest abroad and to bring progress at
home.”4 Part of McGovern’s economic plan included defense spending cut
backs. “What I offer is not simply a set of promises, but a specific
plan to
pay for those promises. First, I would reduce by approximately 10 billion
dollars in each of the next three years the rapidly escalating, lavish Nixon
military budget. Current spending wastes billions of dollars on planes that
not fly, and missiles that will not work. I will never permit America to
a second-rate power in the world. Neither can we permit America to
become a second-rate society. And if we choose a reasonable military
budget, we will not have to choose between the decline of our security and
the deterioration of our standard of life.”(U.S. News and World Report,
“From McGovern: A New Blueprint For Taxes, Welfare,” Vol. LXXIII
No.11, pg.14-16)7 Our country does not only need to be strong militarily
but also economically. Our military is an important part of our economy, but
it shouldn’t be one of the major influencing factors that determines the
of the economy. The Democrats felt that “Spending for military purposes
greater by far than federal spending for education, housing, environmental
protection, unemployment insurance or welfare. Unneeded dollars for the
military at once add to the tax burden and pre-empt funds from programs of
direct and immediate benefit to our people. Moreover, too much that is now
spent on defense not only adds nothing to our strength but makes us less
secure by stimulating other countries to respond.”4
Just as the Democrats want a healthy economy the Republicans want
the same thing. Our country needs a healthy economy to survive, and the
Republicans feel they can give us that strong economy. “We stand for
employment–a job for everyone willing and able to work in an economy
freed of inflation, its vigor not dependent upon war or massive military
spending. We will fight for responsible federal budgets to help assure steady
expansion of the economy without inflation. The right of American citizens to
buy, hold or sell goods should be re-established as soon as this is
The Republicans agree that the economy shouldn’t be based on war or huge
amounts of defense expenses to keep our economy, but they also feel that the
military is an important part of our country.

Traditionally the Republican party has always supported a strong military,
feels it is necessary to keep America as one of the world’s strongest

President Nixon, and the Republican party stated that “By adhering to a
defense policy based on strength at home, partnership abroad and a
willingness to negotiate everywhere, we hold that lasting peace is now
achievable. We will not let America become a second-class power,
dependent for survival on the good will of adversaries. We draw a sharp
distinction between prudent reductions in defense spending and the meat-ax
slashes with which some Americans are now beguiled by the political
opposition. We wholeheartedly support an all-volunteer armed force and
expect to end the draft by July, 1973. We will continue to pursue arms-
control agreements–but we recognize that this can be successful only if we
maintain sufficient strength.”2 Basically Nixon and the Republican Party
stating that we need a strong military and a healthy economy, but cutting
defense spending is not the solution to the economic problem.

Another major issue focused on during the election of 1972 was
foreign policy. Senator McGovern, and the Democratic party stated the next
Democratic Administration should “End American participation in the war
Southeast Asia. Re-establish control over military activities and reduce
military spending, where consistent with national security. Defend America’s
real interests and maintain our alliances, neither playing world policeman
abandoning old and good friends. Not neglect America’s relations with small
third-world nations in placing reliance on great power relationships. Return
Congress, and the people, a meaningful role in decisions on peace and war,
and make information public, except where real national defense interests are
involved.”4 The Democratic party didn’t want other countries to look
the U.S. as the policeman of the world. They also wanted to make sure the
U.S. remained friendly with small third world countries, because we may need
to trade with them, or we might need raw materials we don’t have.

The Republicans had a different idea on foreign policy. They said that
“Never before has our country negotiated with so many nations on so wide
range of subjects — and never with greater success.” They go on to say
will press for expansion of contacts with the peoples of Eastern Europe and
the People’s Republic of China, as long isolated from most of the
The Republican Party wanted to improve the relationships with countries that
have been cut off from much of the world. The Republicans felt they were
doing a good job with foreign policy, and didn’t think they should change
much of anything they were doing.

After all the months of campaigning, and voting were through, Richard
Nixon was reelected the new President of the United States. “Nixon swept
back into the White House on Nov. 7 with a devastating landslide victory
over McGovern. He carried a record of 49 states for a total of 520 electoral
votes.”5 Nixon did have a couple of advantages that McGovern didn’t. For
one, the people had confidence in him since he had been elected once before.

They knew what kind of a President he was, and what they as the constituents
could expect from him. Second, McGovern made a bad decision when he
chose his vice president running mate. McGovern had chosen Sen. Thomas
F. Eagleton of Missouri. “Barely 10 days after selection of the
ticket, on July 25, Eagleton disclosed that he voluntarily had hospitalized
himself three times between 1960 and 1966 for “nervous exhaustion and
fatigue. “McGovern strongly supported his running mate at the time, but
in the
following days, his support for the Missouri senator began to wane. After a
meeting with McGovern on July 31, Eagleton withdrew from the ticket.”4
Eagleton badly damaged the image of McGovern. The constituents lost their
confidence in McGovern and in his decision making power. They felt that
McGovern may not make wise decisions if he was elected the next President
of the U.S. McGovern was also somewhat radical views. “CRP focused
early and often on the more radical-sounding views of McGovern, highlighting
his support of amnesty for young people who fled to Canada to avoid the
draft, his sometime musings that marijuana might better be legalized, and his
purported support of legalized abortion.”1 Many felt that McGovern’s
may have been more radical and outlandish than some had supported.

After Nixon was elected to office, “It appeared in 1972 that
American politics was entering an age of calm consensus. The economy was
temporarily strong: opposition to the Vietnam War had faded as the two sides
negotiated in Paris for an end to the war.”6 Then in Nixon’s political
“A warlike atmosphere between the media (as well as other perceived
enemies of the administration that appeared on Nixon’s “enemies
list”) and the
mushrooming Watergate scandal combined to create a dark side to U.S.

politics in the 1970’s. At its simplest level, the Watergate affair
was “a third-
rate burglary” and a subsequent cover-up by President Nixon and his

In the summer of 1972, several employees of the Committee to Re-elect the
President were arrested after they were discovered breaking into and bugging
the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the posh Watergate complex
in Washington. The break-in was not a major issue in the 1972 election, but
the next year congressional committees began an investigation.”6 Along
the congressional committees investigation, two reporters from the
Washington Post, named Bob Woodward, and Carl Berstein did some
investigating of their own. They had a politician who knew about all that was
going on with the Watergate scandal, nicknamed “Deep Throat.” Deep
Throat supplied the two reporters with the information they needed to tear
open the Watergate scandal. These two reporters open up the Watergate
scandal, and all the participants involved. “During the investigation, a
presidential aide revealed that Nixon had secretly taped Oval Office
conversations with aides. When the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald
Cox ordered Nixon to surrender the tapes, Nixon ordered Cox fired. Then
the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to surrender even more tapes, which
indicated that he had played an active role in covering up the Watergate
scandal. Nixon resigned the presidency when his impeachment and
conviction appeared certain. The impeachment articles charged him with
obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers and contempt of
Congress. President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. The Watergate
affair was perhaps the greatest political scandal in U.S. history. For the
time, a president was forced to leave office before his term expired.”6
Vice President Gerald Ford became the President of the United
States. President Ford then granted Richard Nixon a full pardon of the
crimes committed against the presidency, and the people of the United States.



Watergate Sex, drugs, money, power, you name it and there is a scandal for it, but look back and you will see that from all the scandals there have been, Watergate was among the worst. The Watergate scandal had everything. From Nixon disgracing the presidency by lying to the country and abusing his power, to his committees being involved in illegal acts and a big cover up. All leading to little side roads of corruption and lies. Watergate is by far one of the worst presidential scandals in the history of the United States.

In the story of Watergate, five burglars were found breaking into democratic offices at the Watergate complex in Washington DC. The break-in was passed off as just another burglary, but when the burglars were found to have connections with the CIA, questions were starting to be asked. Then when the phone number of Howard Hunt was found in one of the burglars phone books, it made people think, “Why would one of the burglars have the phone number of one of the presidents men?” Then there is Richard Nixon, the man of the hour, plays the role of the president of the United States of America. The man that was voted into office by the people, and the man that swore to serve the people. When Watergate was uncovered, it revealed that the president was a liar and a cheat.

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The president lied to our country, lied about his involvement, concealed self incriminating evidence, abused his power, and planed to have the CIA stop the FBI investigations. He was also deeply involved with the cover up and still lied about his involvement. During the times of the unraveling of Watergate, questions were asked about connections with the White House and the president, but when the president was asked about it at a press conference he assured Americans that “The White House has no involvement whatever in this particular incident.” He was lying to the country like it was part of his job (Dorman 158). The lying did not end there, it went on and on for months, and as the scandal kept unraveling, “President Nixon and White House, and creep officials were deliberately misleading the public about the significance of the Watergate affair” (158). As Watergate was becoming a front-page article in the newspapers, new evidence was being uncovered. One piece of evidence that changed the peoples ideas of our president was the tapping of every conversation in the oval office “since about the 18th month of president Nixons term” (Kutler 368).

Those tapes would soon prove that the president was deeply involved in the scandal. During the trials, “the Nixon administration claimed that the March 21st, 1973 meeting was the first Nixon had heard of the cover-ups”, but after the tapes were heard it was discovered that Nixon was involved from the beginning (Heritage 36). The Nixon tapes brought out much controversy. The tapes alone could prove the president innocent or guilty, whichever one it was, Nixon refused to hand over the tapes. the courts then demanded the tapes, and Nixon still would not give them up.

After much struggle Nixon agreed to give a transcript of the tapes. The transcripts brought to light a significant amount of evidence against Nixon. The transcripts revealed payoffs, affiliation with the burglaries, and the OKs to the cover-up, But most important “the transcripts showed that Nixon had lied repeatedly after he had denied knowing anything about the conspiracy” (27). After much struggle, the courts finally got the tapes from Nixon, It was Archibald Cox that issued the subpoena for the tapes, and that started the bloodbath we now know as the Saturday night massacre. “The night of October 20,1973, possibly the most tumultuous in American political history, when the special Watergate prosecutor and the nations two top law officers lost their jobs within the space of an hour and a half.” (Heritage 38).

Soon the country would find a new problem with the tapes. “When the presidents lawyers were going over the tapes, they came along an 18 minute gap during a conversation with Nixon and Haldman” (34). Three weeks later, the gap was discovered, Rosemary Woods (Nixons secretary) testified that while transcribing the tape, she had accidentally erased perhaps five minutes when interrupted by a phone call, she said she had pressed the Record button instead of the Stop button and then kept her foot on the machines control pedal while speaking into the phone. (34) “Not everyone accepted this explanation; The maneuver would have been difficult to perform because of the distance between the recording machine and the telephone in her office” (34). Watergate was unraveling, and the story kept getting bigger. Nixon was just having to much fun in the white house.

Before he was busted, “He ordered the FBI to place wire taps on the phones of thirteen government officials, and four prominent reporters” (Fremon 28). Nixon was abusing his powers to the extent, and to him there seemed to be nothing wrong with it. Nixon needed the FBI to stop the Watergate investigation. Former attorney general John Michell knew that the FBI had a long-standing agreement with the CIA that neither agency would jeopardize the others operations. If the FBI could be convinced that the CIA had somehow been involved in financing or carrying out the Watergate burglary, the investigation could be curtailed on the ground of protecting “national security.” Dorman 159) Nixon then told the chief of staff: You call them [the CIA director, Richard M. Helms, and his deputy, Lt.

Gen. Vernon A. Walters] in. . .

. Play it tough. Thats the way they play it and thats the way were gona play it. . .

. Say: Look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs thing. . . .

and that they should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, dont go any further into this case– period! (Heritage 27) President Nixon was also deeply involved with the cover-up. When he was told about the burglary, he gave his full support to the cover-up plan. “On March 21, 1973 the president had a meeting with John Dean, and the president agreed that one million dollars should be raised to silence the burglars” (Kutler 247-257). The president also agreed in a March 21, 1973 meeting with John Dean, to get money to payoff Mr. Hunt (Heritage 34).

President Nixon also made some statements to the public, saying that there was no White House involvement with Watergate. In one statement he said: Within our own staff, under my direction, Counsel to the president, Mr. Dean, has conducted a complete investigation of all leads which might involve any present members of the White House or anybody in the government. I can say categorically that no one in the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident. (Dorman 167) Actually, Dean had conducted no such investigation and had given him no such assurances (168). Without question, the most notorious examples of dirty politics in the nations history occurred during president Nixons 1972 re-election c …


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