Richard M. Nixon

ON 9 August 1974, Richard Nixon arose in the White House and, after meeting briefly with the household staff and his cabinet, took a helicopter from the lawn to Andrews Air Force Base, where he boarded a presidential plane for a trip with his family to the West Coast. But this trip was different from all others, for at exactly noon, while Nixon was flying over Jefferson City, Missouri, his chief of staff, Alexander Haig, delivered a letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that read, "Dear Mr. Secretary: I hereby resign the Office of the President of the United States. Sincerely, Richard Nixon." The thirty-seventh president of the United States had become the first in American history to resign the office in disgrace. The tragedy of the Nixon presidency lies not in its politics or policies, or even in its confrontation with Congress and the courts over the extension of presidential prerogatives, but rather in its use of unconstitutional, illegal, and illegitimate means to achieve its ends.

Nixon had always played politics not merely as a game against worthy opponents but as a war against enemies. His first campaign for a congressional seat, in 1946, in California was conducted against Jerry Voorhis, a five-term Democratic liberal. Nixon linked Voorhis with a left-wing representative from New York City, Vito Marcantonio, and falsely claimed that Voorhis had been endorsed by a political action committee of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He won the election and two years later, taking advantge of the California primary law, entered and won both the Democratic and Republican primaries, thus avoiding potential defeat in an election year that favored Democrats. In 1950, Nixon defeated Helen Gahagan Douglas for a California seat in the United States Senate with the same techniques: he linked Douglas to Marcantonio by distributing the infamous "pink sheet," which tied their voting records together.

Nixon propelled himself into national politics through his skills as a tactician. A member of the California delegation to the 1952 Republican National Convention, he convinced the delegates to vote in favor of the "fair play" resolution that settled a dispute over credentials of rival Taft and Eisenhower delegates in favor of Eisenhower, thus ensuring the general the nomination. As a result, Nixon's name appeared on the shortlist of acceptable vice presidential candidates that Eisenhower submitted to a group of Republican leaders at the convention. The group recommended Nixon, because his anti-Communist credentials and tough campaign tactics would complement Eisenhower's political assets and because Nixon would help Republicans in the West.

Nixon took the low road in the presidential campaign, referring to Adlai Stevenson as an appeaser whose election would be welcomed by the Kremlin. In the midst of the campaign it became known that a group of seventy-six southern California businessmen had contributed to a secret fund that paid Nixon $900 per month (a total of $18,168.87 up to that point). Nixon defended himself by misrepresenting the uses to which the money had been put, claiming it was for office expenses only. In a nationwide television address on 23 September 1952, he claimed that he and his wife did not live well and that Pat Nixon did not even own a fur coat like corrupt Democrats but only "a respectable Republican cloth coat." Revealing that someone had given his children another gift, a dog that they had named Checkers, he said defiantly, "Regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep it." When the so-called Checkers Speech met with overwhelming public approval, Eisenhower realized that he would be better off keeping Nixon on the ticket. At a meeting a few days later, he announced, "You're my boy." The two were swept into office in November.

Nixon was given no substantial responsibilities as vice president. He presided occasionally over the Senate and chaired the President's Commission on Government Contracts, which dealt with racial discrimination by government contractors, and the Cabinet Committee on Price Stability for Economic Growth, a group with a long title but short reach in the councils of the administration. The extent of Nixon's influence on administration policy can be judged by Eisenhower's answer at a press conference when asked for an example of Nixon's contributions: "If you give me a week, I might think of one."

During Eisenhower's convalescence from a heart attack in 1955, an ileitis attack in 1956, and a stroke in 1957, Nixon handled himself with restraint. The vice president chaired nineteen cabinet sessions and twenty-six meetings of the National Security Council (NSC), but the reins of government were held by the principal White House aides. The Eisenhower-Nixon agreement on succession in the event of presidential disability served as a model for later administrations, as did Nixon's conduct in these situations.

Nixon was an integral part of the White House political operation. He campaigned for Republican members of Congress in 1954 and 1958. He criticized the Democratic-controlled Congresses. He was part of the White House operation that successfully contained Senator Joseph McCarthy attacks on the administration for being soft on Communism and helped devise the strategy that gave McCarthy enough rope to hang himself with his Senate colleagues. Nixon also participated in the negotiations with Senator John Bricker over changes in the Bricker Amendment, a proposal to place limits on the powers of the president to frame treaties and to ensure that treaties are consistent with domestic law. Eventually the amendment failed to pass Congress.

Nixon positioned himself as a moderate "Eisenhower Republican" on most issues, as well as a unifier within his party. A 1958 trip to Latin America during which he braved the wrath of street demonstrators and, a year later, his famous "Kitchen Debate" in Moscow with Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union also boosted his public standing. By late 1959 half the electorate believed he would make as good a president as Eisenhower or better, and most thought he would be better than Truman. Nineteen Gallup polls of Republican rank-and-file voters all ranked him first among contenders for the 1960 Republican presidential nomination.

Nixon won the nomination easily but ran a poor election campaign, allowing his opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, to take the offensive on issues, catch up in the polls, and win the first of four televised debates, which subsequent surveys indicated helped contribute to Nixon's subsequent defeat. The recession and Eisenhower's failure to take strong measures to stimulate the economy also contributed to the results. Nixon believed that voting irregularities in Cook County caused him to lose Illinois, but he was statesmanlike enough not to contest the results. Kennedy's popular-vote total was only 118,574 more than Nixon's. In the electoral college, the results were 303–219.

Nixon returned to California and ran for governor in 1962 in a fierce and somewhat underhanded campaign that included a fraudulent "poll," supposedly conducted by a group of Democrats but actually prepared as a form of campaign literature by the Nixon camp. A court injunction put a stop to this "dirty trick," and Nixon lost the election. In a postelection news conference, Nixon concluded a series of self-pitying remarks by observing that the press would not "have Richard Nixon to kick around any more." After his defeat, Nixon moved to New York City, where he joined a large law firm and continued his activity on behalf of Republican candidates in the 1966 congressional campaign. He continued to travel extensively, sharpening his knowledge of world affairs with wide-ranging discussions among leaders of other nations. By 1967, his financial backers, organized as Richard M. Nixon Associates, were raising funds to bankroll another drive for the White House.

Nixon was one of several viable contenders for the nomination. Moderates supported George Romney and later Nelson Rockefeller, while Ronald Reagan bid for conservative support. Nixon, situated as a centrist, had to dispel notions that he was a loser and then build a coalition consisting of professional party politicians, personal loyalists, and groups from both the moderate and conservative wings of the party. Nixon's tactical skills again brought success. He made a deal with Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, promising the South that he would appoint "strict constructionists" to the federal judiciary, name a southerner to the Supreme Court, oppose court-ordered busing, and pick someone acceptable to the South for the vice presidency. With this deal set, Nixon was able to win much southern conservative support and head off Reagan. A series of successes in primaries dispelled the loser image, and his standing in the preconvention polls indicated he could win the election, thus undercutting Rockefeller's premise that to back Nixon was to concede the election.

The election results put Nixon in the White House, but under inauspicious circumstances. The third-party candidacy of George Wallace left Nixon with only 43 percent of the vote, hardly a popular mandate. Nixon received 31.7 million popular votes (301 electoral votes); Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic candidate, won 30.8 million votes (191 electoral votes); and Wallace's American Independent party drew 9.4 million votes (46 electoral votes). Nixon won what political scientists call a deviating election—that is, one in which the advantage in party identification remains with the party that lost the election. In Congress, Democrats enjoyed a 57-43 advantage in the Senate and a 243-192 advantage in the House, with Republicans picking up just five House seats to go along with their gain of six in the Senate. Nixon would face a Congress controlled by the opposition and could not rely on a party-based legislative strategy. Instead, he would have to put together shifting coalitions: sometimes center-right, linking most Republicans with the southern Democrats to pay off his debts to the South or to support his foreign policies, and sometimes center-left, with moderate Republicans joining liberal Democrats to pass his own version of modern and progressive Republican social welfare, economic, and environmental legislation. At least in domestic affairs, the Nixon presidency promised to be eclectic and unorthodox.

Nixon never improved on this weak political position. His 1972 victory over George McGovern, with 59.7 percent of the vote, provided him with the support of the "Silent Majority" or "Middle America," as he called it, but he did not lead his party to victory. There were no appreciable changes in Democratic advantages in party identification and voter registration. In 1970 midterm elections the Republicans picked up two Senate seats but lost twelve in the House, and Nixon's strident campaign speeches contributed to this disaster, although the president claimed that he had won an "ideological majority" in the Senate. In 1972 the party lost the two Senate seats but regained the twelve in the House. By 1974 the Watergate investigations (see below) left the party in shambles: Republicans lost four Senate seats and forty-nine House seats, and held less than one-third of governorships and state legislative seats. Republicans did not make a comeback until 1978 and 1980.

Nixon refused to follow the Eisenhower pattern of consolidating Democratic programs and attempting to run them more efficiently. He was prepared to make major departures, in part to conciliate the South on race; in part to build a new coalition with policies on aid to parochial schools, opposition to abortion, and support for school prayer, all of which would appeal to Roman Catholics; and in part to appeal to his traditional Republican constituencies with attacks on President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society welfare policies.

Race was the most important domestic issue. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) stalled on implementing desegregation of southern school districts until prodded by federal court orders. By 1970 the administration had bowed to the inevitable, with Nixon setting the tone by declaring that legal segregation was inadmissible; almost all of the all-black southern schools were merged into unitary school districts by 1970, and less than 10 percent of black school-children attended all-black schools by that time, a major advance from the preceding administration.

The president remained strongly opposed to court-ordered busing and came out for the concept of the neighborhood school. He proposed that Congress ban court-ordered busing, ordered the Justice Department to oppose busing orders in pending lawsuits, and called for a $1.5 billion program of new federal aid for school districts in the process of dismantling their segregated facilities. These proposals bogged down in Congress, which did pass several measures, sponsored by southern Democrats, to end the use of federal funds for busing.

Nixon's proposed amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, up for renewal in 1970, were tilted toward the South. The president proposed that its provisions be extended to all states so as not to "discriminate" against one region and that voting-rights lawsuits be tried first in state courts, a change that would have diminished the prospects of effective enforcement of the law. A group of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee scuttled the Nixon draft, and a bipartisan coalition substituted its own extension of the bill, which also included provisions for granting the vote to eighteen-year-olds.

An unusual departure for the Nixon administration was the plan developed by Secretary of Labor George Shultz to provide training and employment openings for minorities on federally funded construction projects. The government, especially Labor Department and HEW officials, began using racial classifications and numerical goals in implementing their desegregation programs—the first example of "affirmative action."

Law and order was another administration priority. Antiwar and civil rights demonstrations and civil disturbances on the campuses and streets created a backlash among the constituencies Nixon was courting. With children of the post-World War II baby boom coming of age, the crime rates soared. The administration responded with the vigorous use of four measures: the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (1968), the Organized Crime Control Act, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (1970), and the District of Columbia Criminal Procedures Act. Provisions emphasized wiretapping, preventive detention, and other measures that aroused the opposition of civil libertarians. No appreciable dent was made in the crime rate, which was the province of local law enforcement, and a war on illegal drugs also had little success.

Other Nixon initiatives involved attacks on several of the most visible Great Society programs, which Republicans had strongly opposed. In January 1975, Nixon eliminated the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the coordinating agency for the so-called War on Poverty, begun in 1964. The controversial Community Action Program was reorganized, other OEO programs were moved to other departments, and funding for some activities was cut.

The Nixon administration had its own proposals to fight poverty. It rejected two approaches that were being considered at the end of the Johnson administration—nationalizing the existing welfare program or instituting a guaranteed minimum income through a negative income tax—and instead proposed a program of family allowances developed by the Urban Affairs Council under the direction of Daniel Moynihan. The program was eventually defeated in the Senate in 1970 by an unlikely coalition of conservatives and liberals. The administration did succeed in passing a welfare reform measure that gave the national government complete control over welfare programs for the aged, blind, and disabled, and that provided more than $2 billion in additional payments in the welfare programs annually.

Because Nixon was pragmatic in domestic matters, he could be persuaded or pressured into new initiatives. Bar associations, acting in concert to salvage the Legal Services Program from the wreckage of the Great Society, managed in 1972 to get Nixon to lift his veto threat against legislation converting the Legal Services Program into the Legal Services Corporation with a larger budget and an autonomous board of directors, in spite of Nixon's initial decision to curtail the program severely to please his conservative supporters. The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was greatly expanded to provide billions of dollars of purchasing power to the nation's needy, through the efforts of Senator Robert Dole, Republican of Kansas, and a coalition of farm-state senators and urban liberals. Nixon proposed the New Federalism program in response to the pleas of governors and mayors, hard hit by demands for new services and revenue shortfalls caused by recession. Various narrow categorical grants were consolidated into "block grants" to give states more flexibility in programming funds, although by the time Congress finished with the Nixon proposals, the new grants looked suspiciously like the older narrow grants. Congress also passed a Nixon initiative to provide the states and cities with $30 billion in federal revenues over a five-year period. Responding to the demands of environmentalists, Nixon proposed legislation that led to the creation of the Council on Environmental Quality (1969), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (1970), and the Environmental Protection Agency (1970). New laws provided tougher standards for water and air quality.

Nixon's domestic record was neither liberal nor conservative, but politically pragmatic. His civil rights policies, judicial appointments, and unsuccessful attempts to appoint southerners to the Supreme Court all represented political payoffs to the South. Nominees Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell were blocked by a coalition of legislators sensitive to charges by civil rights organizations that these men, while on the federal bench, had either demonstrated opposition to Supreme Court case law protecting the rights of blacks or demonstrated incompetence in applying the law. In spite of well-publicized attacks on some Great Society programs, transfer payments to the poor, the sick, and the elderly increased greatly. Federal expenditures for intergovernmental grants soared. Early in the Nixon presidency, Attorney General John Mitchell, meeting with a group of civil rights leaders, suggested that they "watch what we do, not what we say" in judging the performance of the administration. By that standard, the Nixon presidency must be adjudged innovative and responsive in practice, although it seemed conservative and uncaring in its rhetoric.

ike most presidents, Nixon had little grasp of complex economic issues but a clear understanding of his political stakes in them. At all costs a recession and high unemployment were to be avoided going into the reelection year of 1972.  The president inherited a mess. Johnson had not followed the advice of his economists, and the result was soaring inflation (up to 5 percent in the last quarter of 1968, double the average rate since 1956). Unemployment was low, at 3.3 percent. Given a tradeoff between unemployment and inflation, Nixon would accept higher unemployment rates in order to cool down the inflation, provided it would lead to prosperity by 1972.

Early economic policies, set by Treasury Secretary David Kennedy, Under Secretary Paul Volcker, and Labor Secretary George Shultz, called for a relatively tight budget and a moderately restrictive monetary policy by the Federal Reserve Board. A tax bill passed in 1969 incorporated several Nixon initiatives, including a repeal of the investment tax credit and removal of 2 million of the nation's poor from the tax rolls. But by 1970 it was clear that the program was not working. In June of that year the Council of Economic Advisers began issuing "inflation alerts." By July a shortfall in revenues led Nixon to embrace the concept of the "full employment balanced budget," which provided for large deficits if the amount of expenditures did not exceed the revenues that would have been obtained under conditions of full employment. When Nixon submitted his budget to Congress in January 1971, he used this concept to justify a proposed $11.6 billion deficit and even publicly embraced Keynesian economic principles to argue that government expenditures would pull the nation out of recession. For a Republican president, all this was quite unorthodox, as Democrats gleefully pointed out.

With inflation and unemployment both on the rise, Nixon's appointee to chair the Federal Reserve, Arthur Burns, shifted from a tight-money policy. Early in 1971 the president began to criticize unions and management for agreeing to excessive wage increases in the steel industry. Nixon established the Tripartite Committee to monitor union settlements in the construction industry. By late spring, recently appointed Treasury Secretary John Connally was convinced that bold new measures were needed. By early summer the balance of trade had deteriorated so much that a full-scale flight from the dollar ensued. Unemployment was over 6 percent and climbing.

Meetings held at Camp David in mid-August produced agreement on a new economic program. As outlined by Nixon to the nation on 15 August in a nationwide television address, it included the closing of the gold window and the ending of the convertibility of the dollar into gold; actions that amounted to an 8 percent devaluation of the dollar against other major currencies, thus stimulating American exports; a 10 percent surcharge on foreign imports to discourage their consumption; and measures to stimulate the domestic economy, including an end to the excise tax on automobiles, a 10 percent tax credit for business investment, and a speedup in the personal income tax exemption, to be reflected in reduced withholding taxes in workers' paychecks. To counter the inflationary psychology, Nixon announced a ninety-day freeze on wages and prices (under authority granted to him the year before by the Democratic Congress) and the establishment of the Cost-of-Living Council. These measures, dubbed the "Nixon shocks," were taken without any prior consultation with America's allies, which caused severe strains in relations with them. Inflation was halted temporarily and then slowed as a second phase was implemented on 14 November 1971, with creation of the Pay Board and the Price Commission, which could monitor compliance with guidelines for increases in wages and prices.

By the beginning of 1972, with 2 million more people out of work than in 1969, the administration began to stimulate the economy. The budget sent to Congress in January provided for a $25.2 billion deficit. Government agencies accelerated their purchases from businesses. The Federal Reserve Board expanded the money supply by 9 percent in the election year, leading to charges (which Burns vehemently denied) that Nixon and Burns had made a deal to ensure Nixon's reelection and Burns's reap-pointment. By the autumn the economy seemed to be turning around. Inflation remained under control, unemployment was dropping, and the recession had ended. Later the American public would pay the price for these election-year arrangements. Inflationary forces could not long be suppressed by wage and price controls, and when they were lifted, the effects of increased deficits, an expanded money supply, and the rise in oil prices made themselves felt: inflation increased to 8.8 percent in 1973 and 12.2 percent in 1974, beginning a decade of exceptional price instability marked by increasing inflation rates through the end of the Carter presidency.

The priorities of the Nixon presidency lay not in domestic social or economic policies—which were simply the means to the end—but in reelection through creation of a majority coalition. What really interested Nixon was statecraft, the application of American power and diplomatic influence to regional and global problems.

The key problem for his presidency clearly would be the Vietnam War. It had driven his predecessor from office, and if it were not resolved in a way that could be turned to political advantage, it would drive him from office as well. Two months after Nixon assumed the presidency, American combat deaths exceeded thirty-six hundred, and there seemed no end in sight. Nixon was in a dilemma, for during the campaign he had said that he had a "secret plan" to end the war but could not divulge it because it might upset the Paris peace negotiations. If his plan involved escalation, Democrats could charge that he was abandoning attempts to reach a peaceful solution and could point to mounting American casualties and prisoners of war. If he negotiated a solution that led to the fall of the government in Saigon, Democrats could charge that he had abandoned an ally. Nixon had to find a way to cut American commitments while preserving the non-Communist government in South Vietnam—at least for a "decent interval" so that the overthrow of the regime could not be blamed on the United States.

Nixon, his national security adviser Henry Kissinger, and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird settled on an approach with several elements. First, the Laird policy for "Vietnamization" was adopted. Responsibility for fighting would be turned over to the Vietnamese, in order to reduce American casualties. Gradually American forces would be withdrawn. This would buy time on the home front. Second, a variant of the "madman" approach in international relations would be adopted. The administration would warn the North Vietnamese that unless they settled soon they would be subjected to carpet bombing of cities, mining of harbors, and even the spread of radioactive debris to halt infiltration of the South. Irrigation dikes would be destroyed and forests defoliated. Third, Nixon and Kissinger would apply the principle of "linkage" in dealing with the Soviet Union: the arms and trade agreements to be proposed to the Soviets (see below) would require a quid pro quo—Moscow would have to pressure Hanoi to agree to a settlement.

The Vietnam policy failed. Nixon announced the withdrawal of a half million troops, and by May 1972 no American forces were on combat missions. By January 1973, only twenty-five thousand American troops remained in Vietnam. The level of fatalities and injuries dropped. But the combat effectiveness of the South Vietnamese did not improve. The invasion of Laos by South Vietnamese forces not only was ineffective but turned into a rout, leaving little doubt that they would be no match for the North Vietnamese.

The escalation of the air war also failed. In mid-March 1969 a secret bombing campaign against Cambodia began; it was kept secret from Congress and the American people for two years. The Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, which supplied the Communists in the south (Vietcong), was also bombed, and the number of targets in South Vietnam was increased. In the spring of 1970 bombing was renewed over North Vietnam (reversing a halt ordered by President Johnson in 1968) in the industrial complex between Hanoi and Haiphong.

Ground actions were also stepped up. Incursions into Laos doubled in 1969. South Vietnamese and American troops made incursions into Cambodia in April and May 1970 to clear out enemy units and headquarters in the "Parrot's Beak" salient, which was dangerously close to Saigon. The main effect of the intervention was to drive Cambodian Communist units to the west, into the heart of Cambodia, where together with their North Vietnamese allies they prepared for the overthrow of the existing pro-American regime. Not only was this policy unsuccessful militarily, but it triggered renewed antiwar protests at home. At a demonstration on 4 May at Kent State University, National Guardsmen killed four protesters. A huge antiwar demonstration was then held in Washington, D.C., between 6 and 9 May, at which Richard Nixon, in the middle of the night, visited the Lincoln Memorial to talk with some of the protesters about college football, campus life, and other trivialities, not reaching their concerns about the war and the direction of American foreign policy.

North Vietnam meanwhile had its own plans. It prepared for a general offensive in 1972, timed to put pressure on the Nixon administration to settle the war on Hanoi's terms prior to the presidential elections. In view of the failure of Vietnamization, neither the Soviet Union nor North Vietnam had any intention of giving to American negotiators in Paris what the South Vietnamese could not win on the battle-field. The linkage tactic would not work.

Nixon fared better in the home-front battle for public opinion. Although there were large antiwar demonstrations, including the November 1969 "March on Washington," the May 1970 Cambodia protests, and the April 1971 "Mobilization Against the War," there was rising support for Nixon's policies. Escalation of the bombing and the withdrawal of American combat forces resulted in a significant increase in presidential-approval ratings.

Peace negotiations dragged on throughout Nixon's first term. Even before entering office, Nixon had passed word to the South Vietnamese that he could probably get better peace terms for them than the Johnson administration. But in 1969 and 1970, each side rejected the other's eight-point peace plan. In November 1971 peace talks were suspended by Washington, and in 1972 each side in turn temporarily suspended its participation in the talks.

Talks resumed on 19 July 1972, and by the end of the summer two things had become clear to the negotiators: American escalation of the bombing could not induce the North Vietnamese to settle for terms that would require their withdrawal from the South, and no pressure from either the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China could induce the North Vietnamese to settle. But although the North Vietnamese had made major gains with their spring offensive, they had not achieved all their objectives, and they had been dislodged from several of the cities they had taken. Both sides, having played their hands, were now ready for a settlement.

Henry Kissinger and his North Vietnamese counterpart, Foreign Minister Le Duc Tho, reached an agreement on terms on 12 October 1972, and two weeks later Kissinger announced, "Peace is at hand." But when the South Vietnamese objected to the terms (chief of which involved a cease-fire in place, recognition of the territory controlled by each side, and preparation for a political settlement involving sharing of power), Nixon held up the agreement. Instead, he ordered massive bombing of North Vietnam after his reelection. The purpose seems to have been twofold: to convince the North Vietnamese that the United States would not allow the regime in Saigon to be overthrown and to convince the South Vietnamese that secret commitments (made in an exchange of letters between Nixon and President Nguyen Van Thieu) would be honored after American forces withdrew under terms of the proposed agreement. After more negotiations, an agreement was concluded on 27 January 1973, paving the way for an end to American participation in the war and an exchange of prisoners.

Nixon's commitments to Thieu could not be kept. Congress had imposed restrictions on presidential war-making powers in Southeast Asia, beginning in 1970 with the Cooper Amendment, which provided that no combat troops could be sent to Laos or Thailand, followed by the Cooper-Church Amendment (1970), which prohibited the reintroduction of ground forces into Cambodia, and culminating with passage of the Eagleton Amendment, which called for a halt in all American land, sea, and air military operations in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam after 15 August 1973. Any attempt by Nixon or his successors to use American armed forces to guarantee the survival of the Saigon regime would be illegal. Moreover, the War Powers Resolution, passed by Congress over Nixon's veto in 1973, required any American president to obtain congressional approval within sixty days for any military action; this presented yet another problem in shoring up the South Vietnamese government. The Nixon commitments to Thieu were therefore not honored by the Ford administration in 1975, which resulted in the reunification of North and South Vietnam under Communist rule.