Watergate: How Nixon's downfall impacted the world.



Watergate ‘Changed the World’ (Estadao, Brazil)


“All democratic regimes - even non-democratic ones - learned a lot from it. … This demonstrates the power of American institutions. … . If Brazilian institutions had had the strength, seriousness and speed that American institutions have, the Big Monthly Payment scandal would have brought down President Lula. … they [U.S. institutions] imposed themselves on the interests and dangers of the time. He (Nixon) ended up resigning, but only after seeing that he had no way out.”


-- Cristian Lohbauer, Professor of International Relations at the University of São Paulo


By Bruna Ribeiro


Translated By Brandi Miller


June 16, 2012


Brazil – Estadao – Original Article (Portuguese)

Nixon leaves the White House after resigning on August 8, 1974: In many ways, Watergate was one of America's finest hours, demonstrating that in the United States, no one - even the president - is above the law.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Robert Redford on the state of journalism, politics and film, March 29, 00:05:32RealVideo

SÃO PAULO: The Watergate case was so renowned that it became a screenplay for the film All the President’s Men in 1976, which won four Oscar statuettes the following year. The production, based on a book of the same name by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, tells the story of two journalists who uncover a network of espionage and money laundering (Woodward and Bernstein themselves).


Published in the Washington Post, two years and two months later the story led to the resignation of then-President Richard Nixon. The Watergate case was “the biggest scandal of its time, and one of the biggest in modern history,” in the opinion of defense journalist Roberto Godoy, who closely followed coverage of the case in the newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo precisely 40 years ago.


Professor of International Relations and member of the International Outlook Group [Grupo de Conjuntura Internacional] at the University of São Paulo, Cristian Lohbauer, believes the world changed after the impeachment of the American president. “All democratic regimes - even non-democratic ones - learned a lot from it,” he said, referring to the scandal.


Lohbauer ventures to say that the trials that occurred with former Brazilian Venezuela Presidents Fernando Collor (1990-92) and Carlos Andrés Pérez (1989-93) may never have had an appropriate legal path to follow had there not been international jurisprudence to base it on, despite how different the situations were.


‘Moral and sociological’


For Cristina Pecequilo, Professor of International Relations at the Federal University of São Paulo, the impact of Watergate on the world is more moral and sociological than practical. According to her, later legislative changes that were an attempt to prohibit abuses of power had little practical effect, as the issues continue to be handled from a political point of view - not a legal one.

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But although she questions how many practical changes resulted, Cristina points to a moral crisis without precedent, which had an impact on the election that followed the Watergate scandal. She considers Jimmy Carter, who took office in January 1977, as a different type of candidate altogether. “He came to moralize political discourse on all of these issues,” she says.


The unexpected result of the election was a reflection of the disappointment of people who had elected Nixon to a second term by a huge margin. “It’s something that hit the United States at time of great difficulty, and society was marked by it. People had voted for Nixon and were suddenly confronted with this great deception,” she says.


The first impeachment


According to Lohbauer, with this backdrop of high popularity and with the risk of a president falling at the height of the Cold War, the impeachment of an American leader became the first and most important in the history of the democratic world. For the professor, this shows the power of American institutions. “They imposed themselves on the interests and dangers of the time. He (Nixon) ended up resigning, but only after seeing that he had no way out,” he said.


Lohbauer compared Watergate to the Big Monthly Payment scandal [mensalão], which was a scheme for buying and selling votes that created the biggest political crisis suffered by the Lula government. “The Big Monthly Payment scandal was a case for impeachment. If Brazilian institutions had had the strength, seriousness and speed that American institutions have, the president would have fallen,” wagers the professor. Cristina compared Watergate to the Collor case, which brought down the former president in 1992, after allegations of political corruption emerged involving campaign treasurer Paulo César Farias. The allegations were made by the president’s brother, Pedro Collor de Mello. “In terms of content, this is the most similar. He [Collor] is a reference point for corruption and the abuse of power and position in general,” she said.


For the specialists, Watergate was a great example for the rest of the world - and it shook up U.S. politics, known for being an uninterruptable democracy. Lohbauer describes the outcome of the democratic world’s first impeachment as a striking historical snapshot, “almost grotesque.” After his resignation, President Richard Nixon rose up in front of the presidential helicopter, turned to photographers and made a victory sign. “He’s the traditional politician: he left as if nothing unusual had happened, and following legal procedure, the vice president took over.”




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[Posted by Worldmeets.US June 18, 6:49pm]





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