President Richard Nixon
First Watergate Speech
April 30, 1973
(The "Saturday Night Massacre")
I want to talk to you tonight from my heart on a subject of deep concern to every
In recent months, members of my Administration and officials of the Committee for
Re-Election of the President including some of my closest friends and most
aides have been charged with involvement in what has come to he known as the
affair. These include charges of illegal activity during and preceding the 1972
election and charges that responsible officials participated in efforts to cover
up that illegal
The inevitable result of these charges has been to raise serious questions about
the integrity of the
White House itself. Tonight I wish to address those questions.
Last June 17, while I was in Florida trying to get a few days rest after my visit
to Moscow, I first
learned from news reports of the Watergate break-in. I was appalled at this
action, and I was shocked to learn that employees of the Re-Election Committee
among those guilty. I immediately ordered an investigation by appropriate
authorities. On September 15, as you will recall, indictments were brought
defendants in the case.
As the investigations went forward, I repeatedly asked those conducting the
whether there was any reason to believe that members of my Administration were in
involved. I received repeated assurances that there were not. Because of these
reassurances, because I believed the reports I was getting, because I had faith
in the persons from
whom I was getting them, I discounted the stories in the press that appeared to
members of my Administration or other officials of the campaign committee.
Until March of this year, I remained convinced that the denials were true and
that the charges of
involvement by members of the White House Staff were false. The comments I made
period, and the comments made by my Press Secretary in my behalf, were based on
information provided to us at the time we made those comments. However, new
came to me which persuaded me that there was a real possibility that some of
these charges were
true, and suggesting further that there had been an effort to conceal the facts
both from the
public, from you, and from me.
As a result, on March 21, I personally assumed the responsibility for
coordinating intensive new
inquiries into the matter, and I personally ordered those conducting the
investigations to get all
the facts and to report them directly to me, right here in this office.
I again ordered that all persons in the Government or at the Re-Election
cooperate fully with the FBI, the prosecutors, and the grand jury. I also ordered
that anyone who
refused to cooperate in telling the truth would be asked to resign from
Government service. And,
with ground rules adopted that would preserve the basic constitutional separation
between the Congress and the Presidency, I directed that members of the White
should appear and testify voluntarily under oath before the Senate committee
I was determined that we should get to the bottom of the matter, and that the
truth should be fully
brought out no matter who was involved.
At the same time, I was determined not to take precipitate action and to avoid,
if at all possible,
any action that would appear to reflect on innocent people. I wanted to be fair.
But I knew that in
the final analysis, the integrity of this office public faith in the integrity of
this office would
have to take priority over all personal considerations.
Today, in one of the most difficult decisions of my Presidency, I accepted the
resignations of two
of my closest associates in the White House Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman two of
finest public servants it has been my privilege to know.
I want to stress that in accepting these resignations, I mean to leave no
implication whatever of
personal wrongdoing on their part, and I leave no implication tonight of
implication on the part
of others who have been charged in this matter. But in matters as sensitive as
integrity of our democratic process, it is essential not only that rigorous legal
standards be observed but also that the public, you, have total confidence that
they are both being
observed and enforced by those in authority and particularly by the President of
States. They agreed with me that this move was necessary in order to restore that
Because Attorney General Kleindienst though a distinguished public servant, my
friend for 20 years, with no personal involvement whatever in this matter has
been a close
personal and professional associate of some of those who are involved in this
case, he and I both
felt that it was also necessary to name a new Attorney General.
The Counsel to the President, John Dean, has also resigned.
As the new Attorney General, I have today named Elliot Richardson, a man of
integrity and rigorously high principle. I have directed him to do everything
necessary to ensure
that the Department of Justice has the confidence and the trust of every
law-abiding person in
I have given him absolute authority to make all decisions bearing upon the
prosecution of the
Watergate case and related matters. I have instructed him that if he should
appropriate, he has the authority to name a special supervising prosecutor for
matters arising out
of the case.
Whatever may appear to have been the case before, whatever improper activities
may yet be
discovered in connection with this whole sordid affair, I want the American
people, I want you to
know beyond the shadow of a doubt that during my term as President, justice will
fairly, fully, and impartially, no matter who is involved. This office is a
sacred trust and I am
determined to be worthy of that trust.
Looking back at the history of this case, two questions arise:
How could it have happened?
Who is to blame?
Political commentators have correctly observed that during my 27 years in
politics I have always
previously insisted on running my own campaigns for office.
But 1972 presented a very different situation. In both domestic and foreign
policy, 1972 was a
year of crucially important decisions, of intense negotiations, of vital new
in working toward the goal which has been my overriding concern throughout my
career the goal of bringing peace to America, peace to the world.
That is why I decided, as the 1972 campaign approached, that the Presidency
should come first
and politics second. To the maximum extent possible, therefore, I sought to
operations, to remove the day-to-day campaign decisions from the President's
office and from the
White House. I also, as you recall, severely limited the number of my own
Who, then, is to blame for what happened in this case?
For specific criminal actions by specific individuals, those who committed those
actions must, of
course, bear the liability and pay the penalty.
For the fact that alleged improper actions took place within the White House or
campaign organization, the easiest course would be for me to blame those to whom
the responsibility to run the campaign. But that would be a cowardly thing to
I will not place the blame on subordinates on people whose zeal exceeded their
who may have done wrong in a cause they deeply believed to be right.
In any organization, the man at the top must bear the responsibility. That
therefore, belongs here, in this office. I accept it. And I pledge to you
tonight, from this office,
that I will do everything in my power to ensure that the guilty are brought to
justice and that such
abuses are purged from our political processes in the years to come, long after I
have left this
Some people, quite properly appalled at the abuses that occurred, will say that
demonstrates the bankruptcy of the American political system. I believe precisely
the opposite is
true. Water- gate represented a series of illegal acts and bad judgments by a
individuals. It was the system that has brought the facts to light and that will
bring those guilty to
justice a system that in this case has included a determined grand jury, honest
courageous judge, John Sirica, and a vigorous free press.
It is essential now that we place our faith in that system and especially in the
judicial system. It
.is essential that we let the judicial process go forward, respecting those
safeguards that are
established to protect the innocent as well as to convict the guilty. It is
essential that in reacting to
the excesses of others, we not fall into excesses ourselves.
It is also essential that we not be so distracted by events such as this that we
neglect the vital
work before us, before this Nation, before America, at a time of critical
importance to America
and the world.
Since March, when I first learned that the Watergate affair might in fact be far
more serious than
I had been led to believe, it has claimed far too much of my time and my
may now transpire in the case, whatever the actions of the grand jury, whatever
the outcome of
any eventual trials, I must now turn my full attention and I shall do so once
again to the larger
duties of this office. I owe it to this great office that I hold, and I owe it to
you to my country.
I know that as Attorney General, Elliot Richardson will be both fair and he will
be fearless in
pursuing this case wherever it leads. I am confident that with him in charge,
justice will be done.
There is vital work to be done toward our goal of a lasting structure of peace in
the world work
that cannot wait, work that I must do.
Tomorrow, for example, Chancellor Brandt of West Germany will visit the White
talks that are a vital element of "The Year of Europe," as 1973 has been called,
We are already
preparing for the next Soviet-American summit meeting later this year.
This is also a year in which we are seeking to negotiate a mutual and balanced
armed forces in Europe, which will reduce our defense budget and allow us to have
other purposes at home so desperately needed. It is the year when the United
States and Soviet
negotiators will seek to work out the second and even more important round of our
limiting nuclear arms and of reducing the danger of a nuclear war that would
as we know it. It is a year in which we confront the difficult tasks of
maintaining peace in
Southeast Asia and in the potentially explosive Middle East.
There is also vital work to be done right here in America: to ensure prosperity,
and that means a
good job for everyone who wants to work; to control inflation, that I know
housewife, everyone who tries to balance a family budget in America; to set in
motion new and
better ways of ensuring progress toward a better life for all Americans,
When I think of this office of what it means I think of all the things that I
want to accomplish
for this Nation, of all the things I want to accomplish for you.
On Christmas Eve, during my terrible personal ordeal of the renewed bombing of
which after 12 years of war finally helped to bring America peace with honor, I
sat down just
before midnight. I wrote out some of my goals for my second term as
Let me read them to you:
"To make it possible for our children, and for our children's children, to live
in a world of peace.
"To make this country be more than ever a land of opportunity of equal
opportunity, full opportunity for every American.
"To provide jobs for all who can work, and generous help for those who cannot
"To establish a climate of decency and civility, in which each person respects
the feelings and the dignity and the God-given rights of his neighbor.
"To make this a land in which each person can dare to dream, can live his dreams
not in fear, but in hope proud of his community, proud of his country, proud of
what America has meant to himself and to the world."
These are great goals. I believe we can, we must work for them. We can achieve
them. But we
cannot achieve these goals unless we dedicate ourselves to another goal.
We must maintain the integrity of the White House, and that integrity must be
transparent, There can be no whitewash at the White House.
We must reform our political process ridding it not only of the violations of
the law but also of
the ugly mob violence and other inexcusable campaign tactics that have been too
and too readily accepted in the past, including those that may have been a
response by one side to
the excesses or expected excesses of the other side. Two wrongs do not make a
I have been in public life for more than a quarter of a century. Like any other
calling, politics has
good people and bad people. And let me tell you, the great majority in politics
in the Congress,
in the Federal Government, in the State government are good people. I know that
it can be very
'easy, under the intensive pressures of a campaign, for even well-lntentioned
people m fall into
shady tactics to rationalize this on the grounds that what is at stake is of such
importance m the
Nation that the end justifies the means. And both of our great parties have been
guilty of such
tactics in the past.
In recent years, however, the campaign excesses that have occurred on all sides
have provided a
sobering demonstration of how far this false doctrine can take us. The lesson is
clear: America, in
its political campaigns, must not again fall into the trap of letting the end,
however great that end
is, justify the means.
I urge the leaders of both political parties, I urge citizens, all of you,
everywhere, to join in
working toward a new set of standards, new rules and procedures to ensure that
will be as nearly free of such abuses as they possibly can be made. This is my
goal. I ask you to
join in making it America's goal.
When I was inaugurated for a second time this past January 20, I gave each member
Cabinet and each member of my senior White House Staff a special 4-year calendar,
day marked to show the number of days remaining to the Administration. In the
each calendar, I wrote these words: "The Presidential term which begins today
consists of 1,461
days no more, no less. Each can be a day of strengthening and renewal for
America; each can
add depth and dimension to the American experience. If we strive together, if we
make the most
of the challenge and the opportunity that these days offer us, they can stand out
as great days for
America, and great moments in the history of the world."
I looked at my own calendar this morning up at Camp David as I was working on
this speech. It
showed exactly 1,361 days remaining in my term. I want these to be the best days
history, because I love America. I deeply believe that America is the hope of the
world. And I
know that in the quality and wisdom of the leadership America gives lies the only
millions of people all over the world that they can live their lives in peace and
freedom. We must
be worthy of that hope, in every sense of the word. Tonight, I ask for your
prayers to help me in
everything that I do throughout the days of my Presidency to be worthy of their
hopes and of
God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.
Carrie was established in June of 1993.
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