Nixon resigns: At first, a party atmosphere. And then reality set in.

At first, a party atmosphere. And then reality set in.
Nixon Resigns: At first, a party atmosphere. And then reality set in.

– News Reports and Nixon Resignation Address – August 8, 1974 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.-

Forty-nine years ago today, everything stopped and all eyes were on Washington. After days and weeks of speculation and the virtual tornado of rumors (some false, some true), it was finally announced President Nixon would address the nation at 9:00 pm EDT and break the news to the country that Nixon was in fact, resigning.

So, for roughly the next two hours – here is a capsule view of that day – the news and bulletins leading up the address and the reaction after it. The address itself is almost anti-climatic; it was expected and it was expected to sound that way. It was the reaction to the speech and the speculation as to what a President Ford administration would be like that was the great unknown. It was also pointed out that Ford needed a vice-President, and again, speculation was rife over who that might be.

And on this day in 1974, the country and in the rest of the world sat and listened:

President Nixon: “This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of this Nation. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the national interest.

In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me.

In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.

But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.

I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations.

From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require.

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.

To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.

But the fact didn’t fall unnoticed that Gerald Ford was the first President of the United States not elected and was appointing a vice-President, also not elected.

It was new territory and a new precedent and with Nixon resigning, August 8th 1974 was jammed with them.

Here is that one-hour and fifty-eight minute capsule view of the day as presented by CBS Radio, ABC Radio and NBC Radio. The resignation of Richard Nixon, along with comments and reactions.

Brave new world. Brave new times.

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