IT was 45 years ago today that President Richard Milhous Nixon announced his resignation from the office of the Presidency of the United States of America, the only man ever to so.

Threatened with impeachment and inevitable exclusion from office due to the Watergate scandal, he announced his resignation in a speech broadcast live from the Oval Office of the White House at 9pm on August 8, 1974.

Nixon told the nation he would resign the following day at 12 noon and leave the White House, and with his wife Pat by his side as always, that is exactly what he did, making history of a sort he thought he never would.


IN a word, Watergate. It was, and despite Donald Trump’s worst efforts, remains the biggest political scandal in US political history. The modern generation perhaps know it best from documentaries and films such as All The President’s Men, Frost/Nixon, and The Post, but for those who lived through the crisis, Watergate was an almost daily accompaniment to existence.

The scandal involved people linked to the campaign for Nixon’s re-election in 1972 breaking into the Watergate complex in Washington to raid the offices of the Democratic National Committee. A “machine” politician, Nixon and his administration tried to cover up the scandal and used Federal officials to investigate his opponents, particularly Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post who led the media investigations.

The National: Watergate reporters Carl Bernstein, left, and Bob WoodwardWatergate reporters Carl Bernstein, left, and Bob Woodward

Throughout 1973, revelation after revelation followed as the Senate Watergate Committee was set up and probed the inner workings of the White House. It was revealed that Nixon taped all conversations in the White House. After he fired his aides and the Attorney General resigned, the tapes – full of swearing by Nixon – were finally released, but heavily redacted.


THE so-called “smoking gun” tape proving Nixon knew of the cover-up and tried to conceal his involvement was released after a Supreme Court judgement in July 1974. Impeachment proceedings were already under way and when Republican leaders advised him he did not have the full support of the party, Nixon decided to go rather than be shoved.


HERE are a few excerpts from that speech which show how Nixon came to the conclusion that he had to go: “Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me.

“In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort… “From the discussions I have had with congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the nation would require.”

The outgoing president added: “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time president and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”


THE old stager went out on his orator’s shield, reaching new heights of eloquence as he bid farewell to his cabinet, to some of his White House staff, and some close friends, many of them openly weeping.

The National:

One passage has stood the test of time: “The greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

Then he and Pat got into the Marine One presidential helicopter and flew off into exile.


WITH the Vietnam War dividing the country, the US needed a decent leader. While Nixon did improve relations with the USSR and China, Watergate ended his reputation and left a legacy of mistrust of politicians that Donald Trump exploited. WILL TRUMP EVER RESIGN?

ARE you kidding? If so he would have gone by now. The Congressional arithmetic is in his favour, as are the polls. And the Republicans know their future depends on keeping Trump in office.