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        #219: Nixon Resigns Over Watergate

        作者:Steve Ember 發布日期:9-18-2013

        Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post newsroom on May 7, 1973. Their reporting of the Watergate case won them a Pulitzer Prize.
        Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post newsroom on May 7, 1973. Their reporting of the Watergate case won them a Pulitzer Prize.

        STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

        This week in our series, we conclude the story of the thirty-seventh president of the United States, Richard Nixon.

        (MUSIC)

        Richard Nixon's first term ended with the hope for a complete American withdrawal from the war in Vietnam. Yet Americans were still angry about the war and its economic effects on life at home. Inflation and unemployment were both high.

        Some political observers thought Nixon would not win a second term. Nixon, however, was sure the American people would support him.

        He did not actively campaign in the state primary elections leading up to the Republican nominating convention. He focused much of his attention on foreign policy -- including his historic trip to China in February nineteen seventy-two. In May he traveled to Austria, the Soviet Union, Iran and Poland. In Moscow, he signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, or SALT, with the Soviets.

        But back in Washington, something happened. It was a small incident, but one that would have a huge effect.

        (MUSIC)

        On June seventeenth, nineteen seventy-two, five men wearing surgical gloves broke into the headquarters of the Democratic Party. The Democratic National Committee offices were located in one of the buildings in a complex called Watergate. Police caught the burglars and, at the time, the incident did not seem very important.

        But the men carried papers that linked them to top officials in the Nixon White House. The question was: Did the president know what was going on? Nixon denied any wrongdoing.

        In time, the Watergate break-in would lead to a congressional investigation.

        (MUSIC)

        But, in the summer of nineteen seventy-two, attention focused on the presidential nominating conventions. Democrats met in Miami Beach, Florida, and chose George McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, as their candidate for president.

        The Republicans also met in Miami Beach and, as expected, nominated Richard Nixon for a second term.

        McGovern, a liberal, attacked Nixon for his policies on Vietnam. However, Nixon easily won the nineteen seventy-two election. He defeated McGovern, carrying forty-nine of the fifty states.

        But the shadow of Watergate would not go away.

        Two young reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, had been following the story since the break-in. In early nineteen seventy-three, they found evidence that linked the break-in to White House officials. The evidence also showed that these officials tried to use government agencies to hide the connection.

        The burglars had been financed with money connected to the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

        Pressure grew for a full investigation. In April, President Nixon ordered the Justice Department to carry it out. Attorney General Elliot Richardson appointed law professor Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation.

        SENATOR SAM ERVIN (WATERGATE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN)): "The committee will come to order."

        In May, a special Senate committee began its own investigation. A former White House lawyer, John Dean, provided the major evidence.

        JOHN DEAN: "It is my honest belief that, while the president was involved, he did not realize, or appreciate at any time, the implications of his involvement. And I think that, when the facts come out, I hope the president is forgiven."

        By July, the public learned that President Nixon had made tape recordings of some of his discussions and telephone calls. The Senate committee asked him for some of the tapes. Nixon refused. He said the president of the United States has a Constitutional right to keep such records private.

        A federal judge, John Sirica, ordered the president to surrender the tapes. Lawyers for the president took the case to the Supreme Court. The high court supported Sirica's decision.

        After that, pressure increased for Nixon to cooperate. In October, he offered to provide written transcripts of parts of the recordings. Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor, rejected the offer. So Nixon ordered Attorney General Richardson to dismiss him. Richardson -- the nation's top law enforcement officer -- refused. Instead, he resigned, as did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, when Nixon ordered him to fire Cox.

        ABC NEWS REPORTER JERRY LANDAY: "The Watergate drama has taken a half-year to unfold. The president's unique actions in firing two popular and respected members of the Executive Branch, and forcing a third to quit, took less than eight hours. The impact of all this, clearly colossal, and yet to be measured."

        Jerry Landay, reporting for ABC News.

        (MUSIC)

        The incident happened on a Saturday night and became known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."

        Nixon then had acting Attorney General Robert Bork dismiss Cox, and the president eliminated the office of special prosecutor. He gave the Justice Department the responsibility of continuing the investigation.

        President Nixon had another political problem, in addition to Watergate. In late nineteen seventy-three, his vice president, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign. A court had found Agnew guilty of violating tax laws.

        President Nixon asked Gerald Ford to become the new vice president. Ford was a longtime member of Congress from Michigan.

        By that time, some members of Congress were talking about trying to remove Nixon from office. Was the president covering up important evidence in the Watergate case? Was he, in fact, guilty of crimes?

        In April nineteen seventy-four, Nixon surrendered some of the recordings of conversations in his office. However, three important ones were missing. The Nixon administration tried to explain, saying the tape machine had failed to record two of those conversations. The third recording, it said, had been erased accidentally. This became known as the famous "eighteen-minute gap."

        Many Americans did not believe these explanations.

        Two months later, the Supreme Court ruled that a president cannot hold back evidence in a criminal case. It said there is no presidential right of privacy in such a case.

        Congress moved ahead with efforts to bring charges against the president.

        REPRESENTATIVE OGDEN REID: "Congress has no alternative now but to institute impeachment proceedings."

        (MUSIC)

        In July nineteen seventy-four, a committee in the House of Representatives proposed to impeach Nixon. That is, put the president on trial in the Senate. If Nixon were found guilty of crimes connected to the Watergate case, he would be removed from office.

        Finally, Nixon surrendered the last of the documents sought by congressional investigators. These documents appeared to provide proof that the president had ordered a cover-up of evidence in the Watergate burglary.

        (MUSIC)

        Every president promises to protect and defend the Constitution. The congressional investigation showed that Nixon had repeatedly misused government agencies in an effort to hide wrongdoing and punish his critics. The hearings also showed that he had tried to block the investigation.

        Richard Nixon says goodbye to staff members outside the White House on August 9, 1974, after resigning
        Richard Nixon says goodbye to staff members outside the White House on August 9, 1974, after resigning

        On August eighth, nineteen seventy-four, Richard Nixon spoke to the nation. His long struggle to remain in office was over.

        RICHARD NIXON: "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. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow."

        (MUSIC)

        By resigning, Nixon avoided impeachment and possible imprisonment. Never before had an American president resigned. On August ninth, Nixon's vice president, Gerald Ford, was sworn-in as the nation's thirty-eighth president.

        Soon after becoming president, Gerald Ford made a surprise announcement.

        GERALD FORD: "I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. But it is not the ultimate fate of Richard Nixon that most concerns me, though surely it deeply troubles every decent and every compassionate person. My concern is the immediate future of this great country."

        (MUSIC)

        He pardoned Richard Nixon. Many Americans criticized Ford for doing this. But the new president believed he had good reason.

        Ford wanted to deal with the other problems facing the nation. He did not want Watergate to go on and on. But the investigation did go on. A number of officials in the Nixon administration went to prison.

        The effects of Watergate on public opinion and public policy would be felt for years to come.

        For example, Congress passed laws designed to prevent an administration from using its power to punish opponents. Nixon's abuses also led Congress to order government agencies to provide more information about their intelligence gathering activities.

        Nixon's actions violated the basic trust between the American public and their elected officials. It led to more aggressive reporting by a new generation of journalists hoping to follow in the footsteps of Woodward and Bernstein. Their coverage of Watergate won a Pulitzer Prize -- one of journalism's top awards -- and led to a movie based on their book "All the President's Men." It starred Robert Redford as Bob Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein. Jason Robards played Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee.

        MANAGING EDITOR HOWARD SIMONS (MARTIN BALSAM): "But do any of them have an axe?"

        BOB WOODWARD (ROBERT REDFORD): "No."

        HOWARD SIMONS: "Personal, political, sexual, is there anything at all on Mitchell?"

        BOB WOODWARD: "No."

        HOWARD SIMONS: "Then can we use their names?"

        CARL BERNSTEIN (DUSTIN HOFFMAN): "No."

        BEN BRADLEE (JASON ROBARDS): "When is somebody going to go on the record in this story? You guys are about to write a story that says the former attorney general, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook! Just be sure you're right."

        (MUSIC)

        The presidency of Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, will be our story next week.

        You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.squishedblueberries.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

        ___

        Contributing: Jerilyn Watson

        This was program #218. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

        美國總統尼克松的第一個任期結束時,美國人看到了美國從越南全部撤軍的希望,但是大家對戰爭給美國經濟和國內生活帶來的創傷還是深感氣憤。那個時候,美國的通貨膨脹和失業率都很高。

        有政治觀察家認為,尼克松不可能連任,但是尼克松卻堅信,美國人民會繼續支持他。共和黨召開全國代表大會提名總統候選人之前,尼克松沒有積極參加州內初選,而是把精力集中用于外交政策,其中也包括他1972年2月對中國進行的歷史性訪問。尼克松5月份還前往奧地利、蘇聯、伊朗和波蘭,在莫斯科跟蘇聯簽署了第一份戰略武器限制條約。

        這時候,美國首都華盛頓發生了一件小事,卻產生了重大的影響。1972年6月17日,五個帶著外科手術手套的人潛入民主黨全國委員會位于水門大廈的辦公室,被警察抓獲,這件事當時看來并不重要。

        但是后來發現,這些人跟尼克松政府高官有聯系,關鍵在于,總統是否知情。尼克松否認自己有任何不妥行為。最后,國會對水門事件展開了調查。

        1972年夏天,美國總統候選人提名是大家最關心的事情。民主黨人在佛羅里達州的海濱城市邁阿密召開全國代表大會,推舉南達科他州參議員喬治.麥戈文為總統候選人。共和黨人也在邁阿密開會,并推舉現任總統尼克松參選連任。

        麥戈文是自由派民主黨人,他對尼克松的越戰政策提出批評。最后,尼克松輕松獲勝,擊敗麥戈文,美國一共50個州,尼克松贏得了49個州的支持。

        然而,水門大廈夜盜事件并沒有被人遺忘。華盛頓郵報的兩個年輕記者鮑勃.伍德沃德和卡爾.伯恩斯坦從夜盜事件一開始,就一直追蹤報導。1973年年初,他們找到證據,證明夜盜跟白宮有關,而且白宮官員還試圖用政府部門來掩蓋自己跟案件的關聯,夜盜人拿的錢是支持尼克松連任的委員會給的。

        在外界壓力下,尼克松總統4月份下令司法部對此事展開調查。司法部長理查森指派法律教授考克斯擔任特別檢察官,全面負責案件調查。

        5月份,參議院一個特別委員會也開始了自己的調查。前白宮律師約翰.迪恩提供重要證據。迪恩說:"我相信,總統確實跟此事有關,但是他并沒有意識到,也不知道參與此事的嚴重性,我希望,大家知道所有事實后,能夠原諒總統。"

        7月份的時候,民眾了解到,尼克松的某些談話和電話都有磁帶錄音,參議院委員會要尼克松交出磁帶,但是遭到了尼克松的拒絕。他表示,美國總統根據憲法有權不把這些磁帶公開。

        聯邦法官約翰.西里卡裁決,要尼克松交出磁帶。尼克松的律師們一路把官司打到聯邦最高法院,但是最高法院支持西里卡的裁決。尼克松面臨的壓力越來越大。10月份的時候,他提出愿意提供錄音的部分文字記錄,遭到特別調查負責人考克斯的拒絕。尼克松于是下令司法部長理查森解除考克斯的職務,理查森斷然拒絕,并隨即提出了辭呈。尼克松又下令司法部副部長拉克爾肖斯解除考克斯的職務,拉克爾肖斯也不肯聽命于尼克松,并請求辭職。

        當時美國廣播公司的報道說:"水門事件已經歷時半年,如今,總統在不到八個小時里,就采取行動,開除了兩個倍受尊敬和支持的政府官員,現在又在逼第三個人辭職,這一切顯然會帶來巨大影響,但到底是什么,現在還無法衡量。"這一系列事件發生在一個星期六的晚上,后來被稱為"星期六之夜大屠殺"。

        尼克松隨后下令司法部代理部長博克解除了考克斯的職務,他又撤銷了特別檢察官辦公室,讓司法部接手案件的調查。

        除了水門事件外,尼克松還面臨著另外一個政治問題。1973年年底,他的副總統阿格紐因為被法院裁定違反了稅務法,而被迫辭職。尼克松請來自密西根州的資深國會議員杰拉爾德.福特接任副總統。

        那時候,國會的一些議員已經開始討論讓尼克松下臺的問題了。大家想知道,尼克松有沒有掩蓋水門一案的重要證據,是否違反了法律。

        1974年4月,尼克松終于交出了一部分談話錄音的磁帶,但其中少了三個很重要的談話。尼克松政府解釋說,其中兩次談話沒錄上,第三個不小心洗掉了,這就是后來著名的"18分鐘空白"。

        很多美國人都不相信尼克松的解釋。兩個月后,聯邦最高法院裁定,在刑事案件調查中,總統不得拒不交出證據,總統在這種情況下不享受隱私權。國會開始采取措施,對總統提出指控,啟動彈劾程序。

        1974年7月,國會眾議院的一個小組委員會提出了針對尼克松的彈劾案,讓尼克松在參議院受審,如果證明尼克松跟水門事件有關,就必須下臺。

        最后,尼克松不得不把剩下的一些文件交給了國會調查人員,從這些文件上可以看出,尼克松確實下令掩蓋水門夜盜案的相關證據。

        美國的每一屆總統都要誓言保護和捍衛憲法。美國國會調查結果顯示,尼克松三番五次濫用政府部門職權,掩蓋錯誤行為,懲罰批評他的人。國會聽證還顯示,尼克松曾試圖阻止調查的進行。

        1974年8月8日,尼克松發表全國講話宣布下臺。尼克松說:"在水門事件漫長和艱難的調查過程中,我一直覺得自己有義務堅持下去,竭盡全力做完自己的總統任期。但是過去幾天里,很顯然,我在國會不再有足夠的政治支持,讓我完成自己的使命。因此,我將辭去總統職務,明天中午生效。"

        尼克松是美國歷史上第一位辭職的總統,辭職讓他免去了彈劾和牢獄之災。1974年8月9號,副總統福特宣誓就職,成為美國第38任總統。福特就職后,出人意料地做出了如下宣布。

        福特說:"我深信,美國人在法律面前人人平等,不管他們現任或是曾經擔任過什么官職。盡管美國正直并有同情心的人都深感困擾,但我最關心的并非尼克松的命運,而是這個偉大國家的前程。"

        福特總統宣布特赦尼克松,受到很多美國人的批評,但是福特覺得自己這樣做有他的理由。他希望集中精力處理美國面臨的其他重要問題,不愿意看著水門事件一拖再拖。然而,調查并沒有停止,尼克松政府里好幾位官員都因為水門事件被判刑入獄。

        水門事件對日后的美國公眾輿論和公共政策帶來了持久影響。例如,美國國會后來通過法律,防止政府利用權力打壓反對派,國會還下令各政府部門提供信息,解釋自己搜集情報的活動。

        尼克松的行動違背了美國民眾和民選官員之間最基本的信任,也影響了一大批年輕記者,他們都希望追尋伍德沃德和伯恩斯坦的榜樣。伍德沃德和伯恩斯坦因為對水門事件的報道而贏得了新聞界的最高榮譽---普利策新聞獎。他們出的書《回放水門事件》后來改編成電影,羅伯特.雷德福扮演伍德沃德,達斯汀.霍夫曼飾演伯恩斯坦。賈森.羅巴茨飾演華盛頓郵報的執行總編本.布拉德利。

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