Nixon served as president of the United States from 1969 to 1974. His tenure was marked by one of the biggest scandals in the history of the country. This set him on the path of becoming one of the country’s few presidents who have ever resigned. He resigned from office in 1974 due to his role in the Watergate scandal. This act is contrasted to the Machiavelli prince’s act of being good. Machiavelli stated that if a prince wished to remain in power by doing good, he must learn and practice not to be on the right side or do good things. This is because of the fact that doing the right thing affects so many bad people. President Nixon’s action goes against the Machiavelli principles of the prince. Some of the actions that the president engaged in depicted and portrayed arrogance and failure to honor the promises. His political career started long before his election as the president. Moreover, as a politician, he was susceptible to politics which in most cases affected his decisions. The pursuit of political goals inhibited the realization of the countries vision during his tenure. This essay outlines the reason why Machiavelli’s principle does not apply to President Nixon’s case by focusing on the Nixon failures such as the Cambodia bombing and Watergate scandal among many others (Drew 20). President Nixon does not represent Machiavelli’s prince.
Before assuming power, President Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War because most of the American soldiers lost their lives in the war. Contrary to the expectations, he launched and approved bombings to be executed in North Vietnam to intimidate the leaders in the region. He went against the wishes of the American leaders as well as the public by failing to withdraw the soldiers. In addition, Johnson administration volunteered to end the bombing by having peaceful negotiations that would see the end of the struggle. After causing much destruction, Nixon decided to initiate talks that led to the withdrawal of troops. As a leader, Nixon failed his voters after delayed application of justice despite the numerous pleas from the public and his fellow leaders. Local politicians advocated for the military pullout through protests that accelerated the political temperature in the country (Drew 23). The process of ‘Vietnamization’ kicked off after a solution was found after Nixon and other leader’s interventions. He attempted to act for his own good while ignoring advice from fellow leaders and war experts. The Vietnamese war remains a big scar both to the Americans and the families of those that were affected by the war. Some of them are the remnants of the fallen soldiers and citizens. The memories of the horrible experiences rekindle the tears in the eyes of those who visit the memorial parks to lay a wreath in remembrance of their loved ones.
Latin American policy instituted in 1961 by President Kennedy found its way in Nixon administration. He was dedicated to frustrate the president of Cuba by using the Cuban American exile people who would advise him on the strategy to execute. Bebe Rebozo was one of the exiles who informed Nixon on matters to do with Fidel Castro administration and its strategies to tackle crisis. His predecessor J.F Kennedy established peace through ceasing missile crisis with his counterpart President Khrushchev. Unlike them, Richard cared less about peace deals that would avoid violence. The bigger percentage of the self-instigated violence led to massive shedding of blood. At the same time the Chileans, were holding election that were marred by violence. Kissinger and Nixon fuelled the violence through supporting opposition. To the extreme extent, he authorized the release of $700,000 to be delivered to protestors. Allende was killed in the event the coup took over power led by General Augusto Pinochet. These actions defeat the Machiavelli principles and actions of a prince. Niccolo expectation for a prince in this case would insinuate that Nixon support the newly elected leaders instead of planning to instigate violence or coup d’état (Rodman& Kissinger, 30). Placing Richard Nixon’s action on one side of the balance and Machiavelli’s principle on the other would result in an imbalance whereby the principles will bear no weight compared to the weighty injustices committed by President Nixon. Morally, Nixon held personal decision so emotionally that it was hard to make him change or adapt any correction from his colleagues. At his time, most of the leaders believed in leadership through autocratic systems. Leaders like him feel ecstatic when they are feared and their decisions are taken to the last word. If Machiavelli had Nixon in his mind when forming the principle, probably he could have formulated a null hypothesis or a counter hypothesis to connote Nixon’s actions. However, Machiavelli’s principle focuses on what should happen ideally and was not based on any real scenario but would wish the principle was applied in real life.
The Watergate scandal cost the president his legacy and tainted his image as the leader of the country, locally and internationally. Before he resigned, plans were underway by leaders and public to impeach him because the scandal took place under his watch. Nixon, as the head of the states kept quiet instead of condemning the acts or corrupt officer. However, through some characters from his offer his hand was seen trying to maneuver public opinion towards government. The scandal revealed the underhand tricks Nixon’s administration used to maintain its dominance by influencing and harassing the opposition and activists. In addition, it involved money laundering and misuse of public funds. The scandal showed that Nixon did not act within the constructs of Machiavelli’s prince. The principle requires the leader to investigate all opinions that are raised by them that are not good. He or she has to learn ‘how not to be good and choose whether to use it or not depending on necessity’. This means that a leader must be able to reach a viable decision after listening to both sides of debate. He must not impose his decisions on his team (Machiavelli 24).
In a psychobiography on Richard Nixon, Volkan et al 2013 highlighted some prior exhibition of the traits that Nixon had. Richard was born in Yorba Linda, California. He hailed from a family of a hot-tempered dad, Frank Nixon. His mother, Hannah Nixon was a charitable woman who had compassion for others. The reason behind this recap is to portray that Nixon’s leadership was not necessarily due to his upbringing but rather because of his association with others and his internalized values. Richard attached Whittier College after his parents were unable to pay train fare to Harvard where he had received a scholarship. He had developed a self-esteem that made him start a working-class fraternity known as Orthogonian Society. He established the society to distinguish between those who had a say in the society and those whose voices were not to be heard (Volkan et al, 45). This portrays the initial stage where Nixon’s political career took a threshold.
Moreover, the administrators who implemented President Nixon’s manifesto and policies for service delivery to the public used force and improper conduct. Forty-eight prominent officials were convicted of wrongdoings including Mark Felt who tried to cover up the scandal by dismissing it as mere politics. Therefore, President Nixon fell short of managing his own administration instead resorted to blaming the opposition for his misfortunes. His attrition tendency continued and was a major ill that negatively influenced his leadership. This was one of the primary reasons for his eventual downfall. In case a prince is unable to tame his followers or people who supported him to power like Richard, the reign is always short-lived. This is platonic and those leaders who ever practiced similar leadership ended up out of office (Greenstein, 67)
By bombing the Vietnam, President Nixon planned to scare and intimidate the Vietnamese to surrendering without opposition. To this day Vietnamese still suffer the consequences of the atomic bombing that claimed the lives of thousands of lives and distorted the biological components of the inhabitants. His tactics were brutal and in violation of ethics and human rights. The American citizens were extremely disappointed as they overwhelmingly voted him in for the second term because his first term was very successful through establishment of peace deals such as the Chinese peace deal of 1972 (Petersen, 38). Hardly could they know or predict his imminent behaviors.
The Movie by Oliver stone only provides a glimpse of what really happened. This is because it portrays the leader’s life and occasionally portrays the real actions that the leader actually committed (Youtube). From the audience’s point of view mixed reactions would be exhibited. Nonetheless, President Nixon’s character by the movie and interpretation using Machiavelli’s principle is a total negation of ethical leadership. Machiavelli’s principle can be viewed as ethical and desirable leadership.
In conclusion, Nixon’s actions were contrary to Machiavelli’s views about the ideal prince. His actions, leadership style, and failure to effectively manage and control people close to him contravened what would otherwise be expected of a great prince. Leading a country of over 40 states and hundreds of leaders, Nixon’s conduct was expected to be exemplary. He resigned at a time the country needed him to intervene and defend his administration against the mistakes he had triggered. As a matter of fact, his resignation was overdue considering the dissatisfaction of his leadership by the citizens. Protestors regularly demanded his impeachment owing to the fact that he had caused them a lot of distress and hence they lost confidence in his leadership. The political class in America and Nixon’s own party disowned him.
Drew, Elizabeth. Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall. New York, NY: Overlook Duckworth, 2014. Print.
Greenstein, Fred I. The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from Fdr to Barack Obama. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009. Print.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Petersen, Tore T. Richard Nixon, Great Britain and the Anglo-American Alignment in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula: Making Allies Out of Clients. Brighton [England: Sussex Academic Press, 2009. Print.
Rodman, Peter W. Presidential Command: Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.
Volkan, Vamik D, Norman Itzkowitz, and Andrew W. Dod. Richard Nixon: A Psychobiography. New York: Columbia UP, 2013. Print.
Youtube. “How Accurate Is Oliver Stone’s Nixon Film: History and Cultural Commentary – George McGovern (1997).” YouTube. Youtube, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.