On the night of June 17, 1972, former employees of the Nixon reelection campaign broke into the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building. This incident began the unraveling of the Nixon Administration's abuses of power and illegal actions and the administration's efforts to cover up these activities. Two days after the break-in, Herb Block drew cartoons of Nixon and his attorney general feigning surprise, and saying, "Who would think of doing such a thing?" This was followed by one of Nixon and Department of Justice officials saying, "Remember, we don't talk until we get a lawyer." He also did a cartoon showing scandal footsteps leading to the White House. Says Herb Block: "Watergate was not even the first by the Nixon plumbers.' They had previously broken into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. And in the Nixon tapes, he [Nixon] tells aides how to break into such places as the IRS offices." In 1974, Herb Block produced Herblock Special Report, a book of cartoons and text devoted to Nixon's political activities from the 1940s to his resignation in 1974.
Long before the Watergate scandals, Herb Block was pointing out excessive use of government power to wiretap or otherwise investigate the activities of citizens an administration felt were at odds with its policies. In 1970, the Civil Service Commission admitted to having a Security Investigations Index with over 10 million entries, and the armed forces revealed surveillance of Americans involved in anti-Vietnam war activities.
New figure on the American scene
On June 13, 1971, the New York Times began publishing installments of the "Pentagon Papers," documents about American involvement in Indochina from the end of World War II to the mid 1960s. The Nixon administration moved to block further publication of the papers, and Attorney General John Mitchell obtained a temporary injunction against The New York Times. The Washington Post then released two installments before being similarly enjoined. Other papers picked up the series, until June 30, when the Supreme Court rejected the government's request for a permanent injunction. The "New Figure" cartoon was one of many depicting President Richard Nixon's attempts to curb public information, partly through government control of broadcast stations owned by newspapers.
New figure on the American scene, June 20, 1971 Reproduction of original drawing. Published in the Washington Post (71)
For the championship of the United States
Campaign finance spending soared in the 1960s. The cost of the 1968 presidential campaign was $300 million — almost double that of 1964. With Republican coffers in 1971 comfortably filled while the Democrats were some $9 million in debt, the Democratic-controlled Congress considered proposals to provide public financing. But President Richard Nixon threatened a veto. Eventually, they compromised on some public financing of presidential elections starting in 1976. Since then, loopholes in the laws have permitted almost unlimited political spending far in excess of the government's contributions and of all previous campaigns. In the year 2000 campaign, more than $300 million had already been spent on political ads alone before the end of September.
"Now, as I was saying four years ago–"
In his 1968 bid for the presidency, Richard Nixon announced to the war-weary country that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. When he ran for re-election four years later, American troops were still fighting in Indochina, with casualties continuing to climb.
"There's no need for an independent investigation–We have everything well in hand"
As the 1972 presidential campaign progressed, reports surfaced of violations of campaign regulations and laws. On August 26, the General Accounting Office said that it had found irregularities in reports by the Republican Committee to Re-elect the President (known by the acronym CREEP). Democrats complained that an investigation by the Justice Department and the White House were insufficient and called for a special team to handle the matter.
"There's no need for an independent investigation–We have everything well in hand," September 8, 1972. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (74) LC-USZ62-126916
Nixon awash in his office
By June 1973, the country had become transfixed by the investigation of Watergate via the televised hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. On June 25, former presidential counsel John Dean began his testimony, the first before the committee to directly accuse President Richard Nixon of involvement in the coverup.
"Move over – We can't stay in a holding pattern forever"
Before the Watergate case, Herb Block had noted other Richard Nixon scandals. These concerned reports of improper influence by ITT Corp. on the location of the future Republican National Convention; Nixon's fluctuating decisions on milk price supports that amounted to a shakedown for campaign funds; and pressures on other businesses to meet quota "suggestions" on contributions. There were disclosures of taxpayer money spent to fix up Nixon's homes in Key Biscayne and San Clemente. Nixon also took large backdated tax deductions for the gift of his vice-presidential papers, which even included newspaper clippings.
"Move over – We can't stay in a holding pattern forever," July 29, 1973. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (77) LC-USZ62-126920
Nixon, with sign, "I am not a crook"
On November 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon told 400 Associated Press managing editors that he had not profited from public service. "I have earned every cent. And in all of my years in public life I have never obstructed justice. People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook," he declared. On April 3, 1974, the White House announced that Nixon would pay $432,787.13 in back taxes plus interest after an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and a congressional committee. Among Nixon's benefits to himself were improvements in his properties, supposedly necessary for his protection. These included a security ice maker, a security swimming pool heater, security club chairs and table lamps, security sofa and security pillows.
[Nixon, with a money-bag for a face, carries a sign, "I am not a crook"], April 4, 1974. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (78) LC-USZ62-126921
Nixon hanging between the tapes
Even more damning than President Richard Nixon's profiting from public office were the disclosures of his corruption and attempts at corruption of the government itself including the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon and even the Secret Service. A taping system that had recorded most of President Nixon's conversations in the Oval Office provided the "smoking gun" that spoke of crime and corruption. Nixon refused to release the tapes until the Supreme Court ordered him to do so.
[Nixon hanging between the tapes], May 24, 1974 Reproduction of original drawing. Published in the Washington Post (79)
Nixon, "unindicted co-conspirator"
By July 14, 1974, President Richard Nixon stood almost alone. His vice-president Spiro Agnew, pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of tax evasion, and was forced to resign. Many of Nixon's closest aides had been convicted of illegal activities. Nixon himself was named an "un-indicted co-conspirator" by the Watergate grand jury. A few days later, the House Judiciary Committee recommended impeachment, and the Supreme Court required him to turn over all subpoenaed tapes. When even his closest friends, reviewing these tapes, agreed that the evidence against him was overwhelming, Nixon bowed to the inevitable, resigning on August 9.
[Nixon, "unindicted co-conspirator"], July 14, 1974 Reproduction of original drawing. Published in the Washington Post (80)