The Battle for Public Opinion: The President, the Press, and the Polls during Watergate

By Gladys Engel Lang; Kurt Lang | Go to book overview

In a sixteen-minute address to the nation, Richard Nixon announced on Thursday evening August 8, 1974, that he would resign the Presidency effective at noon next day. At 11:35 A.M. EDT the following morning, White House aide Alexander Haig delivered a one-sentence letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It read:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I hereby resign the Office of President of the United States.

Sincerely,
Richard Nixon

Less than a half hour later, in the East Room of the White House, Chief Justice Warren Burger administered the oath by which Gerald Ford succeeded to the Presidency.

There were none of the customary celebrations, inaugural parades and festive balls to signal the end of one administration and the beginning of another. Only a brief low-keyed swearing-in ritual followed by a brief and equally low-keyed acceptance speech marked the passage of power. The circumstances through which Ford had come to office were unprecedented. He had no electoral mandate and he was the hand-picked Vice President of the man now so clearly repudiated. His inaugural statement acknowledged the potential weakness of his position, but reminded his audience that the oath he had just sworn was the same that had been "taken by George Washington and by every President under the Constitution." Now that he was assuming the Presidency

under extraordinary circumstances never before experienced by Americans. . . . I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers. . . . If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. I am indebted to no man and only to one woman, my dear wife. . . .

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