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After Watergate (Hardback)

Political Scandals from Nixon to Trump

P&S History > Social Science & Culture > Politics

By Peter J Ling
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526764829
Published: 4th April 2024

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Scandals and high political office regularly coincide. Over the last five decades, with the world watching the American president as its preeminent international figure, scandals affecting the president have had both international origins and international consequences. Every president from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump has faced scandal but only a handful have faced a scandal so large that it threatened impeachment or even the political system itself. Hence, this is a study of five scandals or in the case of Clinton and Trump, scandalous presidencies that produced impeachments

· Nixon and Watergate

· Reagan and Iran-Contra

· Clinton and Impeachment

· Bush and the 2000 election/Trump and the 2016 election

· Trump and Impeachments

Along the way, several trends have shaped the course of presidential scandals. One set has been political. Scandal operates in tandem with partisanship. The intensity of party divisions was obviously a factor in creating the context for all the scandals discussed. Scandal also springs from personality. Few would disagree that the character of Nixon, Clinton and Trump was the seedbed for the scandals they faced. But more broadly, it seems the traits required of a successful presidential candidate have changed. What would once have damned a candidate is no longer an insurmountable obstacle. What blocked Gary Hart in 1988 could not stop Donald Trump in 2016. The second group of trends stem from the changing media landscape. Richard Nixon operated in a world dominated by major TV networks. Clinton in a time that saw the emergence of cable channels such as Fox News that tailored their coverage to the biases of their viewers; and Trump in a world of internet websites and social media, where securing attention takes precedence over accuracy. These trends have added fuel to gossip and therefore scandal. As the 2016 election demonstrated, they have also enabled a new form of cyber warfare that probes US weaknesses by fostering internal disunity. The question now is: Does scandal still carry a cost? In 2024, the jury is still deliberating.

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About Peter J Ling

Peter J. Ling is Emeritus Professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham where he taught both US political history, including the evolving presidency, and African American history for thirty years. He is the author of The Democratic Party: A Photographic History (2003) and two acclaimed biographies John F. Kennedy (2013) and Martin Luther King (2015) as well as many articles, reflecting his diverse interests, in both scholarly refereed journals and in popular magazines such as History Today and BBC World History, several of which have been anthologized on topics as diverse as Thomas Jefferson and the Environment and the impact of the car on courtship. He has also published a widely cited co-edited collection Gender and the Civil Rights Movement (2014) with his then Nottingham colleague Sharon Monteith and more recently Martin Luther King: A Reference Guide (2023) with David Deverick. He has been a consultant and contributor on television and radio, both in the UK and abroad, held guest lectureships at US universities such as Emory in Atlanta, and has lectured and taught across the world from North America and Europe to China and Malaysia. His writing can also be followed on the internet platform Medium.

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