Nixon Grand Jury Testimony
Many assumed that the former President Nixon would tell the truth in his Grand Jury Testimony, and take the opportunity to attempt to regain some of the honor he had lost in the drawn out Watergate Saga. However, I believe that these people misread Nixon and assumed that he wanted the Grand Jury, and eventually the general public, to know the truth when Nixon really wanted to continue to cover his tracks. From his antics we can learn important lessons about the limits of power and the power of the Constitution to punish those in power that act unethically.
What I found to be most interesting in the reports on the Grand Jury Testimony was the contradiction between the quote that began the page, that Watergate “should have warned us of the vital purposes of politics and government… the warning stands,” and Avi McClelland’s note that “reporting on the release of the Grand Jury testimony, Fox News stated that ‘On Watergate, Nixon reaffirmed what historians now generally believe: that he did not order the infamous break-in that triggered his fall from power, and did not have any advance knowledge that it would be carried out.’” The hope of many historians and Nixon scholars is that people will recall the Watergate Saga as a lesson on both the effectiveness of the Constitution and as a reminder to other politicians that may want to subvert the law as President Nixon did. We hope that the warning does actually stand. However, as McClelland’s note demonstrates, Nixon’s claims do still have some power in society, despite that they have been proven false over and over again. In fact, major news networks such as Fox have carried stories that completely miss the important lessons of the Nixon testimony.
As multiple accounts of the testimony from nixondetached.org demonstrate, the President didn’t really clear up anything in his testimony. On the contrary, for the majority of the tape, “he wandered and filibustered all over the map.” I don’t believe that this was because Nixon couldn’t keep track of his thoughts or was accidentally wandering in his speech. Instead, it seems that Nixon used wandering speech as simply another tact to hide the truth from the members of the Grand Jury. As Joel Antwi points out, Nixon wasted time as a way to obstruct the truth further, and so he could control the conversation and the subject of discussion. Nixon also effectively “claims not to remember anything that happened during his administration.” By simply asserting that he could not recall any information, the President continued to cheat the Grand Jury and the American People of the truth.
This makes it even harder to understand how Fox News’s major take away from the release of the Nixon Grand Jury Testimony was that it vindicated President Nixon. However, they weren’t the only news agency that did not cover the story the way I think it should have been. In fact, other news agencies, including The Washington Post, failed to cover the story of the release of the tapes in any depth, as Palak Gosar and Julianne Martin point out. This highlights just how important it is for historians and Nixon scholars to continue to teach about the wrongdoings of the Nixon Administration. There are very important lessons on the limits of power that should be learned from the Watergate Saga that every American should know and remember. Only by truly understanding the Nixon Testimony, and the actions Nixon took as President, can we effectively stop such actions from taking place again.