The Watergate scandal was the break in of the Democratic National Committees headquarters in Washington, DC on June 17, 1972. During the investigation, tapes were taken from the white house containing evidence that the president Nixon tried to cover up the scandal. Before Nixon could take his punishment (other than resigning), newly sworn in President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon. President Richard Nixon deserved prison time for his part in the Watergate scandal. President Nixon obstructed justice several times during the investigation through tape modifications, bribery, and perjury. Nixon abused of the power of the presidency through the CIA and IRS. Even though Nixon was pardoned for his crimes by Gerald Ford, he still deserved punishment just like the 25 others involved.
President Nixon’s obstruction of justice justified punishment. In any case; past, present, or future, obstruction of justice in a criminal case gives you jail time, Nixon deserved what he got himself into. Seven tapes released from the white house were of bad quality, almost inaudible, and had several gaps. The longest gap in a tape was 18 minutes (Bernstein, Woodward 333-334). These gaps were purposely put in but Nixon had nothing to say about them, it was hard for Nixon to release some tapes in the first place. On March 23rd 1973, Nixon discussed with his other advisors of hush money to give out to people involved or had any information on the Watergate scandal. In this meeting they estimate about a million dollars to be given out for bribery (Amster 178-179). Nixon in his own words said “Just be damned sure you say I don’t…remember; I can’t recall, I can’t give an honest answer to that” (Amster 179). This clearly shows that he was instructing his White House aids to give false statements about the break in and Nixon’s involvement in the cover up. In the articles of Impeachment drawn up for Nixon, the first article states that he approved payment of substantial sums on money for the purpose of obtaining silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses (Articles of Impeachment, 318).
President Nixon’s misuse of presidential power should have been punished. Presidential misuse of power is a very big concern in our society because this is a democratic society, and any sign of a president using more power than they have reflects poorly on the president (just like Franklin Roosevelt when he tried to stack the Supreme Court for republican rule). In a meeting on June 23rd 1972, President Nixon wanted the CIA to take over the investigation from the FBI. All five men who were arrested for the break in were ex-CIA members and the FBI saw this as a possible CIA operation. The president ordered that the CIA should take over the investigation (Amster 136-137). Nixon’s reasoning for the CIA intervention was: “the FBI and the CIA should coordinate together to not expose these sensitive national security matters(Nixon 325). In the end the CIA did not take over the investigation and it showed that the president really was covering something up. Nixon also used the IRS to slow down his political enemies through tax audits. This list was known as “Nixon’s enemies list” (Axtell, Nixon’s First Enemies List). John Dean III made a memo that states ways to “use available federal machinery to screw our political enemies” (Amster 113). President Nixon approved of this memo and put it to use. In article two of the Articles of Impeachment states that Nixon used the IRS to obtain confidential information and issue income tax audits in an discriminatory manner (Articles of Impeachment 320). Using the IRS this way is a huge misuse of presidential power and it is a very good reason why Nixon should have been sentenced time for his wrong doings.
Newly sworn in Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon for his crimes, but Nixon should of still owned up for what he did. It was completely wrong of Gerald Ford to pardon Richard Nixon for all the crimes that he committed while he was president, Nixon should of served time just like everyone else. On March 1st 1974, the federal grand jury indicted seven of President Nixon’s administration for the attempted cover up of the Watergate scandal (Amster 243). Nixon was the only one who didn’t have to answer for the crimes that he was originally behind. He was the biggest conspirator, Nixon was so paranoid towards the end of his presidency that he fired special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox because he released seven recorded White House tapes and Nixon feared he would prosecute him (Bernstein, Woodward 333). This was one of many people who were fired or resigned during this time, and these events were nicknamed the “Saturday Night Massacre” (Kilpatrick). Also from the first Article of Impeachment, Nixon was found guilty of withholding relevant and material evidence (Articles of Impeachment 318). This really shows that Nixon was trying to cover up what happened, everyone else took the fall for what he was originally behind. At Disneyworld in Florida, Nixon said to an audience that, “I am not a crook”(Bernstein, Woodward 334). That statement (I am not a crook) is an outright lie to the American public. Back when Nixon was trying to cover up the scandal he approved briberies for about a million dollars (Amster 179). That does sound like a crook, he also approved of perjury to try to keep the scandal under wraps. The pardoning of Nixon was wrong, he certainly deserved to serve prison time for what he had committed.
In conclusion, Richard Nixon did in fact deserve prison time for his part in the scandal. Nixon’s obstruction of justice through tape edits, bribery, and perjury should have given him prison time. Nixon’s abuse of presidential power through using the CIA and the IRS illegally should have given him prison time. Even though Nixon was pardoned by Gerald Ford for the crimes that he committed and the things he tried to cover up, Nixon should of served prison times with the rest that were found guilty. For all that Nixon had done in his part of the Watergate scandal; he should have faced prison time just like everyone else that was in on the cover up. Americans can only hope that this will never happen to our government again. “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”- Philosopher Santayana. We as a nation must learn of what happened during the Nixon administration so that a scandal such as this will never occur, and so that a more truthful commander in chief of the United States of America can emerge as the years go on.