Richard Nixon Back Again
By Nina Satterwhite

Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. He appealed to what he called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators, and secured the nomination in August. His running mate, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew, became an increasingly vocal critic of these groups, solidifying Nixon's position with the right.

Nixon waged a prominent television campaign, meeting with supporters in front of cameras and advertising on the television medium. He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States' nuclear superiority. His campaign was aided by turmoil within the Democratic Party: President Lyndon B. Johnson, consumed with the Vietnam War, announced that he would not seek reelection. After a contentious Democratic primary campaign, Vice President Hubert Humphrey held a moderate but not decisive lead over Senator Robert F. Kennedy; however, Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles following the final, California primary. Humphrey was nominated at a convention marked by mass protests. Nixon appeared to represent a calmer society.With regard to the Vietnam War, he promised peace with honor, and campaigned on the notion that "new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific." He did not give specific plans on how to end the war, resulting in media intimations that he must have a "secret plan". His slogan of "Nixon's the One" proved to be effective.

In a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon defeated Humphrey by nearly 500,000 votes to become the 37th President of the United States on November 5, 1968.In response to a congratulatory message from Humphrey, Nixon said: "I have received a very gracious message from the Vice President, congratulating me for winning the election. I congratulated him for his gallant and courageous fight against great odds. I also told him that I know exactly how he felt. I know how it feels to lose a close one."


Nixon was inaugurated on January 20, 1969. Pat Nixon held the family Bibles open to Isaiah 2:4, reading, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." In his inaugural address, which received almost uniformly positive reviews, Nixon remarked that "the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker." He spoke about turning partisan politics into a new age of unity:
  • In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another, until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.
Nixon set out to reconstruct the Western Alliance, develop a relationship with China, pursue arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, activate peace process in the Middle East, restrain inflation, implement anti-crime measures, accelerate desegregation, and reform welfare. The most immediate task, however, was the Vietnam War.

In addition to desegregating public schools, Nixon implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first significant federal affirmative action program in 1970.Nixon also endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment after it passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification as a Constitutional amendment. Nixon had campaigned as an ERA supporter in 1968, though feminists criticized him for doing little to help the ERA or their cause after his election, which led to a much stronger women's rights agenda. Nixon increased the number of female appointees to administration positions.Nixon signed the landmark laws Title IX in 1972, prohibiting gender discrimination in all federally funded schools and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. In 1970 Nixon had vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, denouncing the universal child-care bill, but signed into law Title X, which was a step forward for family planning and contraceptives.
It was during the Nixon Presidency that the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade ruling, legalizing abortion. First Lady Pat Nixon had been outspoken about her support for legalized abortion, a goal for many feminists (though there was a significant pro-life minority faction of the Women's Liberation Movement as well). Nixon himself did not speak out publicly on the abortion issue, but was personally pro-choice, and believed that, in certain cases such as rape, abortion was an option.

U.S. space program

external image 220px-Apollo_11_crew_in_quarantine.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.pngNixon visits the Apollo 11 astronauts inquarantine aboard USS Hornet.
Further information: Space policy of the United States
In 1969, Nixon's first year in office, the United States sent three manned missions to the moon, becoming the only nation in the world to do so. On July 20, Nixon addressed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, two of the astronauts, live over radio during their historic Apollo 11 moonwalk. Nixon also placed a telephone call to Armstrong on the moon, the longest distance phone call ever,and called it "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House." He observed their landing in the ocean from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.All U.S. Project Apollo moon landings, and the attempted moon landing of Apollo 13, took place during Nixon's first term. On November 14, 1969, he became the first incumbent president to attend a rocket launch, Apollo 12. Nixon's signature is included on the plaque left by the Apollo 11 astronauts on the Moon in 1969.
On January 5, 1972, Nixon approved the development of NASA's Space Shuttle program, a decision that profoundly influenced American efforts to explore and develop space for several decades thereafter. Under the Nixon administration, however, NASA's budget declined. NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine was drawing up ambitious plans for the establishment of a permanent base on the Moon by the end of the 1970s and the launch of a manned expedition to Mars as early as 1981. Nixon, however, rejected this proposal.
On May 24, 1972, Nixon approved a five-year cooperative program between NASA and the Soviet space program, culminating in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a joint-mission of an American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in 1975.

Indo-Pakistani War

Main articles: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War
A conflict broke out in Pakistan in 1971 following independence demonstrations in East Pakistan; President Yahya Khan instructed the Pakistani Army to quell the riots, resulting in widespread human rights abuses. President Nixon liked Yahya personally, and credited him for helping to open a channel to China; accordingly, he felt obligated to support him in the struggle. There were limits to how far the U.S. could associate itself with Pakistan, however. American public opinion was concerned with the atrocities and the emigration of over 10 million people into India.
Nixon relayed messages to Yahya, urging him to restrain Pakistani forces. His objective was to prevent a war and safeguard Pakistan's interests, though he feared an Indian invasion of West Pakistan that would lead to Indian domination of the sub-continent and strengthen the position of the Soviet Union, which had recently signed a cooperation treaty with India. Nixon felt that the Soviet Union was inciting the country.
Nixon met with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and did not believe her assertion that she would not invade Pakistan. Having previously met her in 1969, he did not trust her and once referred to her as an "old witch". On December 3, Yahya attacked the Indian Air Force and Gandhi retaliated, pushing into East Pakistan. Nixon issued a statement blaming Pakistan for starting the conflict and blaming India for escalating it because he favored a cease-fire. The United States was secretly encouraging the shipment of military equipment from Iran, Turkey, and Jordan to Pakistan, reimbursing those countries despite Congressional objections. A cease fire was reached on December 16 and Bangladesh was created.


Main article: 1972 Nixon visit to China
external image 220px-Nixon_shakes_hands_with_Chou_En-lai.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.pngPresident Nixon shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai upon arriving in Beijing
Relations between the Western powers and Eastern Bloc changed dramatically in the early 1970s. In 1960, the People's Republic of China publicly split from its main ally, the Soviet Union, in the Sino-Soviet Split. As tension along the border between the two communist nations reached its peak in 1969 and 1970, Nixon decided to use their conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War.
Nixon had begun entreating China a mere month into office by sending covert messages of rapprochement through Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania and Yahya Khan of Pakistan in December 1970. He reduced many trade restrictions between the two countries, and silenced anti-China voices within the White House.
In April 1971, the Chinese table tennis team invited the American table tennis team to attend a demonstration competition for a week in China. The invitation came upon the order of Mao Zedong himself, who had taken note of Nixon's "subtle overtures" to improve U.S.-Chinese relations, including the conflict in Pakistan. This was significant in that the fifteen-member table tennis team were allowed to enter mainland China after a period of over twenty years in which Americans, except on very rare occasions, had been denied visas (the term "ping pong diplomacy" arose from this encounter).
Chinese Premier Chou En-lai, through Pakistani intermediaries, had relayed a message to Nixon reading: "The Chinese government reaffirms its willingness to receive publicly in Peking a special envoy of the president of the United States, or the U.S. secretary of state, or even the president himself."Nixon sent then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger on a secret mission to China in July 1971, to arrange a visit by the president and first lady. Soon, the world was stunned to learn that Nixon intended to visit Communist China the following year.
external image 220px-Nixon_Mao_1972-02-29.pngexternal image magnify-clip.pngPresident Nixon greets Chinese Party Chairman Mao Zedong (left) in a historic visit to the People's Republic of China, 1972.
In February 1972, President and Mrs. Nixon traveled to China, where the president was to engage in direct talks with Mao and Chou. Kissinger briefed Nixon for over forty hours in preparation. Upon touching down, the President and First Lady emerged from Air Force One and greeted Chou. According to Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose:
  • "[Nixon] knew that when his old friend John Foster Dulles had refused to shake the hand of Chou En-lai in Geneva in 1954, Chou had felt insulted. He knew too that American television cameras would be at the Beijing airport to film his arrival. A dozen times on the way to Peking, Nixon told Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers that they were to stay on the plane until he had descended the gangway and shaken Zhou Enlai's hand. As added insurance, a Secret Service agent blocked the aisle of Air Force One to make sure the president emerged alone."
Over one hundred television journalists accompanied the president. On Nixon's orders, television was strongly favored over printed publications, as it would capture the trip's visuals much better while snubbing the print journalists Nixon despised.
Nixon and Kissinger were soon summoned to an hour-long meeting with Mao and Zhou at Mao's official private residence, where they discussed a range of issues.Mao later told his doctor that he had been impressed by Nixon, who was forthright, unlike the leftists and the Soviets. He also said he was suspicious of Kissinger, though the National Security Advisor referred to their meeting as his "encounter with history."A formal banquet welcoming the presidential party was conducted that evening in the Great Hall of the People. The following day, Nixon met with Chou; during this meeting he stated that he believed “there is one China, and Taiwan is a part of China.”When not in meetings, Nixon toured architectural wonders including the Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, and the Great Wall. Americans received their first glance into China via Pat Nixon, who toured the city of Beijing and visited communes, schools, factories, and hospitals accompanied by the American media.
The visit ushered in a new era of Sino-American relations. Fearing the possibility of a Sino-American alliance, the Soviet Union yielded to American pressure for détente.

Soviet Union

Nixon used the improving international environment to address the topic of nuclear peace. Following his successful visit to China, the Nixon administration drew up plans for the president to visit the Soviet Union. The President and First Lady arrived in Moscow on May 22, 1972 and met with Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Chairman of the USSR Council of MinistersAlexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny, the Soviet head of state among other leading Soviet officials.
external image 220px-Leonid_Brezhnev_and_Richard_Nixon_talks_in_1973.pngexternal image magnify-clip.pngNixon meets with Brezhnev during the Soviet Leader's trip to the U.S. in 1973
Nixon met with Soviet leader Brezhnev, and engaged in intense negotiations regarding international issueswith his Soviet counterpart.Out of this "summit meeting" came agreements for increased trade and two landmark arms control treaties: SALT I, the first comprehensive limitation pact signed by the two superpowers,and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned the development of systems designed to intercept incoming missiles. Nixon and Brezhnev proclaimed a new era of "peaceful coexistence" and established groundbreaking new policy of détente (or cooperation) between the two superpowers. Détente would replace the hostility of the Cold War and the two countries would enjoy peaceful relations. A banquet was held that evening at the Kremlin.
Nixon extended the Nixon Doctrine from Vietnam to his policy toward the Soviet Union, believing that helping Iran become stronger would check the Soviets' power.To win American friendship, both China and the Soviet Union cut back on their diplomatic support for North Vietnam and advised Hanoi to come to terms.Nixon laid out his strategy:
  • "I had long believed that an indispensable element of any successful peace initiative in Vietnam was to enlist, if possible, the help of the Soviets and the Chinese. Though rapprochement with China and détente with the Soviet Union were ends in themselves, I also considered them possible means to hasten the end of the war. At worst, Hanoi was bound to feel less confident if Washington was dealing with Moscow and Beijing. At best, if the two major Communist powers decided that they had bigger fish to fry, Hanoi would be pressured into negotiating a settlement we could accept."
Having made great progress over the last two years in U.S.-Soviet relations, Nixon planned a second trip to the Soviet Union in 1974. He arrived in Moscow on June 27 to a welcome ceremony, cheering crowds, and a state dinner at the Grand Kremlin Palace that evening Nixon and Brezhnev met in Yalta, where they discussed a proposed mutual defense pact, détente, and MIRVs. While he considered proposing a comprehensive test-ban treaty, Nixon felt that it would take far too long to accomplish.