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Even today, nearly thirty years after his presidency ended, Richard M. Nixon is viewed as a bad president by many Americans. In a 2000 survey of 78 presidential scholars, Nixon ranked 33 out of 40 presidents rated. At the time of his resignation as a result of the Watergate Scandal, some of his aides assured him that history would be kind to him. Nixon himself spent many of his remaining twenty years trying to reshape his image. Despite his many successes, Nixon is still tainted by Watergate and has not been rehabilitated yet. He may never be. But there are many reasons to contend that Nixon was a successful president and would have been viewed as such if not for Watergate. Nixon had momentous foreign policy successes and visionary domestic policy accomplishments long sought by his predecessors. An unbiased examination of Nixon's record shows that his administration was one of the most successful of the twentieth century.
Richard Nixon is one of the most controversial presidents ever and is regularly ranked among the worst men ever to hold the office. His character and motivations will be debated for many years, possibly centuries. His actions while in office unquestionably merit the scorn heaped on him. But a careful examination of the record also reveals that Nixon was one of the most successful presidents ever and that, on balance, more good than bad came from his administration. Supporters of this view can point to a host of accomplishments, including:
- Ending the war in Vietnam
- Opening up China
- Detente with the Soviets
- Civil rights advances
- Revenue sharing
- The EPA
- Environmental legislation
- Improvements in Native American life
Any president would be proud of those accomplishments. They do not erase Watergate, but they certainly mitigate it.