American Newspaper Editorials Urge President Nixon to Resign
When President Richard M. Nixon made his nationally-televised address to the nation on Aug. 8, 1974, announcing he was resigning the presidency, the news came as a relief to a public weary and frustrated by the Watergate scandal. For two years Nixon had denied any involvement in the scandal’s cover-up, but the Supreme Court ruled that the president had to release tapes of White House conversations he had secretly recorded. On Aug. 5 Nixon released a transcript of a conversation from June 23, 1972—just six days after the Watergate break-in—in which he ordered White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman to have the CIA stop the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate scandal by falsely claiming it was a matter of national security. This tape proved conclusively that Nixon was involved in the cover-up. Three days later he announced his resignation.
Nixon addressed the nation on the evening of Aug. 8. That morning, without knowing the president planned to resign that day, these three editorials were printed—all calling for the president to resign.
This copyrighted article was printed by the Mobile Register (Mobile, Alabama) on Aug. 8, 1974:
Why Nixon Should Vacate Presidency
Richard Nixon owes his presence in the White House more to the lack of appeal of his opposition than to his own appeal.
So many voters turned away from supporting him at the polls in the first place that his election in 1968 over Hubert Humphrey came almost as close to being a political miracle as it is possible to get in a presidential race.
Mr. Nixon received 31,785,480 popular votes to 31,275,166 for Mr. Humphrey.
A Democratic nominee only a hair’s-breadth stronger than Mr. Humphrey would have won that race and whatever else might have happened, Mr. Nixon would never have gone to the White House and made his resignation an urgent national need in his second term because of the Watergate scandal which has destroyed his executive leadership and left him presiding over an administration no longer able to function adequately.
He has lost so much public respect and confidence that the sooner he resigns the better it will be for the country—and for Richard Nixon.
If he had any prospect of regaining the respect and confidence he has kicked down the drain, at least a measure of ground could be claimed for willingness to go along with his lame-duck tenure and await the outcome of the impeachment debate.
But Mr. Nixon has less than a ghost of a chance of overcoming the damage his presidential stature has suffered. He has been twice honored by election to the public trust of the nation’s highest office. For a man so honored to persist in remaining in office in the circumstances which now surround and discredit the Nixon tenure is more than the nation should be asked to endure.
Mr. Nixon’s status is not helped by the fact that he still has not fully overcome the “Tricky Dick” reputation he acquired early in his political career.
We deeply deplore the crisis in government which impels us to urge the resignation of Mr. Nixon. Many times since his first inauguration we have been commendatory of Richard Nixon because we were convinced he was serving the best interests of the country and its people in these instances.
Now that his continued presence in office is more disservice than service to the best interests of the country and its people, we would be derelict in our own duty if we failed to speak out for his resignation.
Political enemies of Mr. Nixon have been relentless and ruthless in attacks on him—and we have been consistent and blunt in condemning that treatment. These Nixon enemies were not acting with the best interests of the nation in mind. Their design was to get Richard Nixon out of the presidency as their first order of interest.
But nothing in the record that we know of implies that the Watergate outrage was the dirty work of political enemies of Mr. Nixon. If he had been as wise and diligent as the American people have a right to ask of a President, he might have headed off the disaster that has come to his administration.
It is hazardous to predict the verdicts of history, but it easily could be that history will identify Richard Nixon himself as his worst political enemy on Watergate.
Even with him out of office from now on, the nation cannot escape paying an enormous price for the outrage of Watergate and its related effects.
The biggest and most essential lesson for the American people in the whole costly episode is the national necessity of protecting the presidency from misfits.
The United States is not so lacking in statesmanship that it must rely on misfits for the top job in executive leadership. Until it determines to fill the office of President only with men whose records recommend them as possessing all the needed qualifications, it will be inviting trouble and more trouble.
This copyrighted article was printed by the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) on Aug. 8, 1974:
To End the Agony
The resignation of Richard M. Nixon from the presidency of the United States immediately would end a paralysis of the government which afflicts both the executive and legislative branches. If the President is truly dedicated to the welfare and security of his country, he will resign now to prevent the unbearable and dangerous trauma of two or three more months needed for impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate.
Although Congress might well consider granting him immunity from prosecution on a charge he has admitted, obstruction of justice, the President should rise above self-interest in this historic moment and leave office without deals of any kind. He will fare better in the respect of his countrymen and in the annals of history if he breaks clean, having lost the game because of his own errors and abuses of executive powers.
If this strange, stubborn man is unable to see the best course for himself, he should consider a proper display of loyalty and assistance to his former aides whose loyalty to him led them into the Watergate scandals and other misuses of authority. His confession of guilt in the Watergate cover-up, although two years later than it should have been made, has already done incalculable harm to the defense of the men he trusted and who trusted him, whose trials on criminal charges will begin in September. He has blown their defense out of the water. He could, at least, not make their defense hopeless by his own televised struggles against overwhelming odds in the House and Senate.
Most of all, of course, he needs to discharge his debt to the millions of Americans who re-elected him in 1972 in the nation’s greatest outpouring of popular votes. The government is in a state of collapse. Even if his dimmed hope of acquittal by the Senate is realized, he surely would feel the impelling need to resign shortly thereafter, for there is no hope left that he would be able to reorganize the shattered executive branch, accomplish anything in Congress and take effective steps to slow inflation and other ills.
The reality of a disgraced President, furthermore, is that the admirable progress he has made for the United States in foreign leadership and reduction of war fevers will be threatened as long as he remains in office. Shorn of real power in his own country, a figurehead President, he could no longer wield the power overseas of a popular U.S. chief of state. By clinging to the office, he invites aggressive adventures in the very fields he has helped to pacify.
The President was accorded the presumption of innocence by objective citizens until he removed it by admission that he lied about his part in the Watergate cover-up. Of course, as is any citizen accused, he is entitled to a trial. But that is not in the best interest of the people of the United States. He must know by now that an overwhelming majority of Americans want him to relinquish the presidency to Vice President Gerald Ford.
This copyrighted article was printed by the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) on Aug. 8, 1974:
‘All that remains is to write a resignation speech’
Washington—Richard Nixon has gone to the police station, turned himself in and flung the smoking pistol on the sergeant’s desk.
The long chase is over. He can rest at last.
It was his first authentic “Operation Candor.” He has told all, signed his confession.
The transcript of the June 23 tape with H. R. Haldeman provides in it the “specificity” demanded by his die-hard defenders in the House Judiciary Committee and elsewhere.
Haldeman, discussing the FBI investigation, asks: “And you seem to think the thing to do is to get them to stop?”
The President, who for two years had denied that he knew anything about the cover-up until nine months later, replied: “Right. Fine.”
It was only a question of time, of course, before it came out. Judge John J. Sirica has the tapes. They would have blown up the trial of Nixon’s six confederates in September. It must be a satisfaction for him to have chosen his own moment of surrender.
And he may be relieved—as relieved as those members of his own party who 10 days ago fearfully voted against him. He has been on the run for two years past. Whatever happens, he no longer has to lie awake nights waiting for the call to tell him that Haldeman is cracking or that John Ehrlichman is wavering and John Mitchell restless. He can hear the name of John Dean without fear that that cold young man will recall yet another threat or promise in the Oval Office.
It is over. He doesn’t have to give that double-V sign, with weary arms flung high. He won’t have to limp through Egypt again or sit across a table from a grinning Leonid Brezhnev who, the last time they met, judged Dean’s “cancer on the presidency” to be fatal and refused to bargain.
No more sweaty huddles with ignorant advisers, no more dashes to “safe houses” in Florida, California, with stops at military bases and small southern towns. No more lies—for his aides, his lawyers, the country.
He was going to be impeached anyway. Even without that final nail in the coffin, which he offered out of season, the men in the House were waiting for him. The vote against him, by all signs, was going to be heavy.
House Democratic Leader Thomas P. O’Neill, badgered by reporters, flung over his shoulder that he heard there were no more than two votes for the President in New York, and a maximum of three in Illinois.
The House Republican Conference secretary, debonair John Anderson, who last May suggested the President step down and was bemused to hear the Senate whip, cautious Robert Griffin, echoing the heresy, said: “The death watch has begun.”
In a small, bare office in the Capitol, Chairman Peter Rodino and his fellow Democrats on the committee met to plan impeachment strategy. Their labors may have been academic for once. By late afternoon, Republicans were brandishing the statement of the President’s admission and regret, and, as one diehard after another bit the dust, it was prophesied that unless Rabbi Korff could be smuggled onto the floor, no one would speak for the President.
All that remains for Nixon to do is to write a resignation speech. He could rightfully claim that he knows in his aching bones the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and the strength of the system they devised. He can say he knows that even the first citizen of the country is not above the law. He was, after all, set upon by three branches. Leon Jaworski, his own creature in the Executive Department, sued him in court. The Supreme Court, largely of his own creation, forced him to turn over evidence against himself. The House of Representatives did him in, with a show of character he did not count on.
Even the public, that backward and apathetic mass he had manipulated so long and so effortlessly, has told him to be gone.
He could claim, and he would be believed, that he is the first president who inadvertently unified and restored the country and by his crime and punishment paved the way for a genuine bicentennial observance.
He may say none of those things, and insist, as he is led away, that he sought only peace. Now he has found peace for himself. It is peace with disgrace, but it is better than no peace at all.
—Washington Star-News Syndicate, Inc.