Watergate – The Aftermath

(Last Updated On: October 21, 2014)

Film: All The Presidents Men

Author: Malcolm Farnsworth

The Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel

A Look At the Aftermath of Watergate

Casualties & Convictions Resulting from Watergate


Political Values and Watergate

Casualties & Convictions Resulting from Watergate

  • One presidential resignation
  • One vice-presidential resignation
  • 40 government officials indicted or jailed
  • H.R. Haldeman & John Erlichman (White House staff) resigned 30 April 1973, subsequently jailed
  • John Dean (White House legal counsel) sacked 30 April 1973, subsequently jailed
  • John Mitchell, Attorney-General and Chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) jailed
  • Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy (ex-White House staff), planned the Watergate break-in, both jailed
  • Charles Colson, special counsel to the President jailed
  • James McCord (Security Director of CREEP) jailed



Some commentators attribute the increased level of cynicism about politics to the Watergate affair.

The media becomes more confident and aggressive. Watergate was unraveled by the Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their work led to the development of teams of “investigative” reporters on newspapers around the world. “Deep Throat” became an everyday term, referring to the anonymous official who leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein.

A new wave of Democratic congressmen is elected in 1976 and there are dramatic changes in the composition of committee chairmanships.

Many of Nixon’s subordinates are jailed, some discover religion, and others write books.

Political scandals are termed “–gate”.

Nixon sets about to rehabilitate his reputation, writing books and traveling the world. He dies on April 22nd 1994 at the age of 81.

In 1995, Oliver Stone produces a film called “Nixon”, starring Anthony Hopkins as Nixon. The film is condemned by the Nixon family.

Former Vice-President Spiro Agnew dies on September 17, 1995, in Berlin, Maryland, aged 77.


Political Values and Watergate

Watergate provides useful material for analyzing the operation of the President, Congress or Supreme Court. It gives some idea of the interplay between the 3 arms of the American political system and of the political values underpinning the constitutional framework.

Congressional committees (Senate Watergate & House Judiciary) – The operation of these committees demonstrate a fundamental difference between the Australian and American political systems. US congressional committees have much more independence and power than parliamentary committees in Australia. The inquiries undertaken by the Senate Watergate Committee were crucial in securing Nixon’s resignation. The recommendation by the Judiciary Committee to impeach the president was carried by the votes of both Democrat and Republican members.

Supreme Court Power Over The Executive Branch – The checks and balances built into the US system were demonstrated by the rulings of the Court that Nixon release the tapes of Oval Office conversations.

Presidential Executive Power, And The White House Office – Nixon claimed “executive privilege” for the White House tapes and other documents. His personal staff, particularly Haldeman and Erlichman, demonstrate the power that the White House office can exercise. Unlike Cabinet appointments, these positions are not subject to Senate confirmation.

Separation of powers – No member of any of the 3 arms of the US government may belong to any of the other arms.

Checks and balances – The Watergate scandal demonstrates the complex web of safeguards built into the American Constitution. On the one hand, the President is the Head of Government, but does not control the Legislature. Unlike a Westminster Prime Minister, the President cannot dissolve Congress. While the President may nominate members of the Judicial arm of our government, they require Senate approval. Similarly, the President serves a fixed 4-year term and may only be removed following an impeachment process that must begin in the House of Representatives. The President may only be removed from office by a vote of the Senate.

Values of accountability and responsibility – the removal of Richard Nixon demonstrates an array of accountability processes. Whilst serving a fixed term of office, the President is accountable to the House of Representatives, the chamber that most directly reflects the most recent opinion of the nation. However, in keeping with the Federalist values of the Founding Fathers, it is only in the Senate where each state, regardless of population, is represented by two Senators that may vote to remove the President.


These notes are Copyright © Malcolm Farnsworth.

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