The Downfall of the President – The Incredible Journey

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The Downfall of the President – The Incredible Journey

I can think of a plot for a great movie Imagine a movie set in the background of Washington DC, imagine the plot unfolds in the context of a nasty campaign for president of the United States, imagine though, criminal activities coming directly from the White House itself, all in order to help the incumbent president win the election Imagine top White House staffers involved in break-ins, acts of sabotage, theft and illegal slush funds worth millions of dollars, imagine secret tape recordings along with arrests and perjury and corruption reaching to the office of the President himself. Sounds like it could be a good movie, couldn’t it? Well the fact is, this eventually was made into a movie, but it was a movie based on a true story; the Watergate scandal that rocked the United States in the early 1970s and led to the only time in history a United States president was forced to resign, in this program, called The Downfall of the President, we’re going to look at the scandal, why? Because I think there’s a bit of the president in all of us Those old enough will remember the 1960s as one of the most incredible decades, JF Kennedy was elected president of the United States, only to be taken out by a sniper’s bullet three years later, the Soviets put the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, the Beatles exploded into popular culture in a big way, student riots and strikes all but shut down France, famine hits Biafra, now known as Nigeria, about 1 million people died between famine and war, the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, the Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared and has never been heard from again APRANET, the precursor of the internet, was created, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, hundreds of thousands of concert goers converged in a rural New York area known as Woodstock, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, the Russians test a 15 Megaton hydrogen bomb – the biggest man-made explosion in history and Americans landed on the moon Yes a lot happened in the 1960s, but amid it all one event started to dominate the decade and that was the Vietnam War. What began with 600 United States military advisers in the early 1960s, had swelled to five hundred and thirty six thousand US troops by 1968 and as the war dragged on people began to turn against it. The results were protests, riots and violence in the streets of America and elsewhere Probably no one in America hated the war more than the one who kept committing troops to it and that was President Lyndon Baines Johnson, wornout, bedraggled and personally defeated by the conflict, Johnson stunned the world with his announcement that he would not run for president in 1968, instead Richard M Nixon, a man many thought was done politically, succeeded Johnson into the White House, now, when we hear the name Richard Nixon most people conjure up images of corruption, scandal, evil and deceit, he was even known as ‘tricky dick’ and yet here’s the thing about Richard Nixon, in many ways he’d been a very good and successful president, he founded the Environmental Protection Agency whose job is to protect the environment, Nixon ended the draft in America, Nixon poured money into the war on cancer that still has a positive impact around the world, he signed legislation that greatly reduced gender discrimination in America, Nixon was the president who opened the door to good relations with communist China, an event that has radically changed the world, Nixon saved the nation of Israel from sure destruction in the 1973 Yom Kippur

War when a host of Arab nations attacked and yes, lest we forget, Richard Nixon ended the war in Vietnam, however as I just said, when most people think of Richard Nixon they don’t think of these good and positive things, rather they associate him with corruption, deception and evil Now I would like to argue though, that Richard Nixon is a bit like all of us What do I mean? I mean that we’re all a mixture of good and bad aren’t we? Richard Nixon, like you, like me, had some very good traits, some very good qualities and they served him well, but he also had some bad traits – I mean who among us doesn’t have a bad side, who doesn’t have thoughts, feelings and maybe even habits that we would just assume others didn’t see or even know about, thoughts, feelings and habits that we really wish we didn’t have to begin with. Well as with us, so with Richard Nixon and I want to talk about the story of his fall, because however dramatic and however consequential the downfall of Richard Nixon was there is a lesson here, not just a history lesson but a moral one, a lesson about how we need to be careful because no matter all the good we might do, or want to do, only a little bit of unrestrained evil could ruin everything Now I want to pick up the story in the middle of 1972, in the months before the presidential election, this should have been a great time for Richard Nixon, yes the first four years of his term were tumultuous for sure, but the Democrats have nominated a very liberal candidate George McGovern who was running on an anti-war platform, only one problem though, true to his word Nixon was already ending the war, peace talks were going on in Paris, and American troop levels were at only 24,000 and dropping fast and so Nixon was way ahead in the polls and heading into an election that he would win by a landslide, however in a recent biography of Nixon, called ‘Being Nixon – A Man Divided’, author Evan Thomas told about Nixon’s cronies sitting around a pool at the Doral Hotel in Miami Beach in August 1972, this was during the Republican National Convention, the eyewitness described what he saw like this: “One afternoon at the pool, I noticed a sizable group of administration stalwarts huddled together at the outdoor bar, they were whispering worriedly, chain-smoking, chain-drinking and obviously not having any convention fun. With Nixon sure to win what were they worried about?” Well a lot as it turns out. Two months earlier, just after midnight, on July the 17th 1972 at the Watergate complex in Washington DC a security guard noticed tape placed on door latches leading from the underground parking lot to offices in the Watergate, he removed the tape and left thinking little of it, when he returned an hour later he saw that someone had re-taped the latches, he called the police, they arrested five men who had broken into the Democratic National Committee main office, they were attempting to wiretap phones and steal documents. Where did these men break into and try to steal documents and wiretap phones? Well it was the headquarters of Richard Nixon’s political rivals in the upcoming election, now if that wasn’t bad enough, FBI investigations soon lead money found on the burglars to a slush fund from an organisation called The Committee For The Re-election Of The President, this was the official organisation of Richard Nixon’s election campaign, so money from Nixon’s re-election campaign was tied to men who had broken into the headquarters of Nixon’s campaign rivals in order to steal documents and wiretap phones. Hmm sounds suspicious, now historians still question if Richard Nixon had any advanced knowledge of or if he had even authorised the burglary itself, most think not but it was

certainly possible, in fact, Nixon had been recorded on tape ordering the break in of a local think tank called the Brookings Institute Because he believed that Brookings had papers that Nixon wanted he ordered his own people to break in and steal those papers. Nixon said, verbatim on tape, “Get those files, blow the safe and get it” Blow the safe and get it? The President of the United States ordering people to break into a building, blow a safe and steal documents. Now this hardly proves that Nixon knew about the Watergate break-in, or even approved of it in advance, but it certainly shows that it would not have been past him Anyway the burglary was in June of 1970, two months before the election, Nixon then made a critical decision, he decided on a cover-up and though more evidence pointed to the White House, Richard Nixon openly lied to the American people, saying that no one in the White House was involved in Watergate. The American people believed him and he easily won a second term, he was confident that he could get away with it and, at first, all went well for months and months after the break-in, most Americans didn’t care about it, however, as with most cover-ups, one sin leads to another and so, over the next two years, the scandal came to dominate the country and the president had to keep lying, but despite Nixon’s assurances to the contrary, more and more evidence pointed directly to his White House and though questions remain, what is certain is that Richard Nixon violated the law in an attempt to thwart the criminal investigation and cover up the crime. But the more he lied, the deeper he got sucked into the quicksand of deceit, he was on a slippery downward slope, one dishonest act led to another, it was like a domino effect, indeed not too long after the break in Nixon was recorded agreeing to pay money to keep the burglars quiet, in the tape Nixon was talking to John Dean, his top White House lawyer. Can you believe that? Here is the President of the United States agreeing to bribe people in order to obstruct a criminal investigation Another time, again in the context of stopping the investigation, Richard Nixon said he didn’t care about what happened, “I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the fifth amendment, cover-up, or anything else if it’ll save the plan” Nixon and his cronies might actually have succeeded in getting away with everything, were it not for the work of Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein both were young, and not very high up the ladder in the organisation, in fact the editor of the newspaper was getting ready to fire Bernstein, nevertheless over the next two years the two journalists pursued the story. Their work was immortalised in the movie, All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Also someone in the government, known as deepthroat had been secretly feeding them information, about 31 years later it was revealed that deep throat had been Mark Felt, the second highest in command at the FBI at that time. Anyway, the work of Woodward and Bernstein, following up the Watergate break-in, revealed an extensive program of political espionage and sabotage run by Nixon subordinates at the White House, many ending up in jail for what they did For instance G Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent, along with E Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent had organised the Watergate break-in, in his autobiography Liddy said that they talked about killing journalist Jack Anderson because of the things he’d been writing against Nixon, nothing ever came of that plot but after the Watergate scandal started to unfold Liddy wrote that he told John Dean that

he, Liddy, should take the heat for the botched job “Look John, I said that I was the captain of the ship when she hit the reef and I’m prepared to go down with it If someone wants to shoot me, just tell me what corner to stand on and I’ll be there, okay? Dean searched my face to see whether I was joking or not. I wasn’t, and he could see that. ‘Well uh’ he stammered, I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet Gordon'” Wow, this was the chief lawyer for the president speaking, now no one is saying that Nixon knew about these specific events, but accounts like this show just how corrupted his White House had become under President Nixon. The web of deceit spread wider and wider, more and more people became ensnared in it, and the president was becoming more and more entangled. During Senate Watergate hearings, it came out that Nixon had been secretly taping all conversations in the Oval Office, when investigators realised what great potential these tapes had they subpoenaed them, Nixon, claiming executive privilege, fought the release all the way here, to the United States Supreme Court. On the 24th of July 1974 the Supreme Court voted eight to zero in United States versus Nixon that he must turn over the tapes, even with a mysterious 18 and 1/2 minute gap in tapes they revealed more evidence of lies, cover-up and criminal activity by the President of the United States and so, on the 9th of August 1974, just a little over two years after the Watergate break-in, facing certain impeachment, Richard Nixon became the first United States President to resign the office. “Therefore I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour” What started out initially as a small cover-up spread like a cancer to infect and taint the highest office in the land and those associated with it It brought about the downfall of the President and it was such a tragedy because Nixon had some very good characteristics and in many ways had been a very good president, some who knew him talked about how kind, caring and ethical he could be. Just one story from even before he was president captures this side of the man, Nixon became friendly with Martin Luther King Jr after a trip to Africa in 1957 and was close to Jackie Robinson the baseball player who broke the colour barrier when he became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, on the campaign trail Nixon practiced what he preached in Springfield Missouri, when a hotel refused to rent rooms to some black reporters covering the campaign, Nixon moved his whole entourage out I said in the beginning of this program, we’re all not that different from Richard Nixon, in the sense that we all have good and bad points, the problem however is when you ascend so high as did Nixon, your bad side, if not contained, can lead to a very big fall. Most of us, even if we do fall, don’t fall from such a big height do we? But who amongst us hasn’t suffered at least somewhat from some of the character defects that we have? Who among us hasn’t fallen, maybe not from the heights that Richard Nixon did, but fallen nonetheless? I want to read you a few verses from the New Testament, from the writings of the Apostle Paul, he was quoting the Old Testament when he wrote this in Romans chapter 3 verses 10 to 12, “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; There is none who does good, no, not one”. Kind of strong words aren’t they? But look at our world, I don’t think those words are too exaggerated are they? You’d have to be blind not to sense a big disconnect with the way things are in contrast to the way things should be, and I don’t just mean the world picture,

global warming, Isis, income equality, terrorism and many others, I mean even in our own individual lives, who doesn’t sense that things are just wrong, that things are not the way they should be, even in our own personal lives and sometimes it’s not our fault but sometimes it totally is our own fault. In Nixon and Watergate I see an image of our own lives, a mixture of good and bad, and unless we are careful the bad can do us in just as it did the president, there’s a story in the Bible about Jesus and how early on, because of his words and deeds, people started believing in him, but according to the Bible Jesus was still very careful with them, “But Jesus did not commit himself to them. Because he knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man. For he knew what was in man.” Now did you notice what it says? For he knew what was in man, in other words Jesus knew just how corrupt and unstable people could be and yet what? This same Jesus died for these people, this same Jesus gave his life for these people, this same Jesus offered them a chance to change, to have new lives in him. As with those people, as could have been with Richard Nixon, so it is with us, with you with me, if we but choose to accept Jesus and give our lives to him But you might think, I’m not good enough for God, and you’re right, you’re not, so you might as well forget about making yourself good enough for God, trust me, you can’t, we only deceive ourselves if we think we can cover up our mistakes, our sins and make ourselves good enough for God. Listen to what the Bible says in proverbs chapter 28 and verse 13 “People who conceal their sins will not prosper.” So it’s impossible to cover up our mistakes and deal with our sin problem on our own, but the great news of the Bible is that you don’t have to, God’s grace covers you, please notice the rest of proverbs chapter 28 and verse 13 “People who conceal their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and turn from them they will receive mercy.” Jesus has already paid the penalty for your mistakes, your sins, he truly has covered your mistakes, it doesn’t matter how big, black or bad your mistakes may be. If you accept Jesus as your Saviour he will forgive you and cover them. Please notice what the Bible says in 1John chapter 1 and verse 9 “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You are accepted and loved by God right now, just as you are, God will change you and make you into a new person, just accept Jesus as your Saviour and follow him. President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal remind us of four important spiritual truths Firstly we all make mistakes. Secondly trying to cover up our mistakes, our sins only makes matters worse. Thirdly God promises that if we come to him and confess our sins he will forgive us and fourthly, each one of us has a choice, we can unsuccessfully try to cover up our own mistakes ourselves or we can ask God to forgive us and cover our sins Really there’s only one sure way to deal with our mistakes, our sins, confess them to God and he will cover us, but you and you alone have to make the choice to accept Jesus and ask him to forgive you Why not do it now? Why not reach out to Jesus right now as we pray? Dear Heavenly Father, we’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all done things we regret, like Richard Nixon we have our faults, but we thank you that despite our weaknesses and mistakes you still love us, you forgive us and want to help us. Lord, today we reach out to Jesus

and commit our lives to you, we commit our lives fully and unconditionally to you, and now we invite you to come into our lives and change us, so that through the power of Jesus in our lives we will not engage in behavior that will lead us in the wrong direction and do things that we will later regret. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen The story of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal has fascinated people around the world for decades, people struggle to understand how someone in such a prominent and trusted position could become involved in activities that would bring dishonor to his office and ultimately lead to the downfall of the President of the United States of America, but this story is relevant to all of us, because in a sense there’s a bit of the president in all of us, it’s a reminder that we all make mistakes and do things that we regret, it tells us a lot about human nature, many of us struggle with sin and issues for a long time, but the best way to deal with them is to give them up to God, because despite our mistakes and weaknesses he still loves us and wants to help us. If you would like to know more about God’s love and forgiveness, then I’d like to recommend the gift we have for all our viewers today, it’s a booklet called Keeping Broken Promises. This booklet is our gift to you and is absolutely free, there are no costs or obligations whatsoever, this booklet will bring you fresh courage and hope, in fact it could change your life forever So please don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to receive the free gift we have for you today. Here’s the information you need: Phone us now on 0481 315 101 or text us on 0491 222 999 or visit our website to request today’s free offer. So don’t delay. contact us right now If you’ve enjoyed today’s journey be sure to join us again next week when we will share another of life’s journeys together and experience another new and thought-provoking perspective on the peace, insight, understanding and hope that only the Bible can give us The Incredible Journey truly is television that changes lives Until next week, remember the ultimate destination of life’s journey: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away