Forty years ago today Richard Nixon tendered his resignation as president of the United States. The announcement was reportedly greeted with wild cheers throughout the capital, the sounds of which are said to have been carried all the way back to the White House itself. And while the humiliation President Nixon must have endured upon resigning must have been indescribable, he did so, by all accounts, with dignity and grace.
For what it’s worth, a recent poll commissioned by CNN released yesterday shows that, four decades after famously waving the American people goodbye before boarding Marine One for the last time, only about half of all respondents believe Watergate was a "serious" political scandal:
Fifty-one percent of those questioned say Watergate was a very serious matter because it revealed corruption in the Nixon administration, with 46% saying it was just politics - the kind of thing both parties engage in. The 51% is unchanged from 14 years ago, when CNN last asked the question.
And indeed, has been essentially unchanged since shortly after he left office. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that his resignation changed the course of world history (would, for example, Gerald Ford have ever served as president?) and reshaped the way we understand and discuss executive power and privilege.
I’ll leave you with this: President Nixon’s farewell address to White House staffers on the day of his resignation. Despite the somber atmosphere and Nixon’s disorganized delivery, it’s a classic speech to revisit and listen to on a day like today: