Presidential Reorganization

July 11, 1973

Report Outline
Watergate Focus on While House Staff
Growth of Presidential Staff System
Proposals for Diffusing White House Power
Special Focus

Watergate Focus on While House Staff

Disclosures That Assistants Misused Their Authority

The unfolding of the Watergate scandal is subjecting not just President Nixon and some of his former top aides to intense public scrutiny and questioning. It can be said that the presidency itself is very much on trial. As portrayed in the press and congressional hearings, the existing White House staff system made it possible for presidential assistants to misuse power of almost unlimited scope in Nixon's name without audit or accountability. Moreover, there is the contention—raised by the President himself in his defense—that the system left him isolated from events he should have been informed about.

“For non-Americans,” the British philosopher and historian Arnold Toynbee wrote recently, “the strangest and most questionable feature of the government of the United States is the President's political family.…The President, after his election, appoints a band of personal aides and advisers.…The electorate has no say in this. Yet some of the President's personal minions have greater power de facto than any officer of the United States government who has been appointed by constitutionally established procedures.”

On Inauguration Day 1973, before the Watergate scandal had decimated the top echelon of the Nixon staff, Carroll Kilpatrick of The Washington Post wrote that “Nixon men are clearly and emphatically in charge, everywhere in the executive agencies. They can no longer blame ‘wasteful, musclebound government’ on old-line bureaucrats. The President and his loyal supporters have complete power—everywhere but in Congress—and they intend to operate independently of the Congress to the maximum degree possible.” Such control might have continued had it not been for the disclosures of White House involvement in political espionage and fund-raising with disregard for law to “fix” the 1972 presidential election—series of events that collectively have assumed the name Watergate.Once the story broke, Newsweek magazine commented on May 7, “an administration built around top-down rule from the White House was suddenly adrift.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Executive Powers and the Presidency
Feb. 24, 2006  Presidential Power
Nov. 15, 2002  Presidential Power
Feb. 02, 2001  The Bush Presidency
Jun. 20, 1997  Line-Item Veto
Jun. 14, 1996  First Ladies
Oct. 21, 1988  Dangers in Presidential Transitions
Jun. 10, 1988  The Quandary of Being Vice President
Jan. 06, 1984  Presidential Advisory Commissions
Jul. 28, 1978  Presidential Popularity
Feb. 13, 1976  Evaluating Presidential Performance
Dec. 12, 1975  Presidential Protection
Jul. 11, 1973  Presidential Reorganization
Mar. 07, 1973  Presidential Accountability
Sep. 24, 1971  Presidential Diplomacy
Nov. 11, 1970  Vice Presidency
Oct. 02, 1968  Presidential Power
Mar. 14, 1966  War Powers of the President
Nov. 23, 1960  Transfer of Executive Power
Apr. 04, 1956  Vice Presidency
Oct. 15, 1952  Change of Presidents
Jun. 09, 1950  President and Mid-Term Elections
Oct. 20, 1948  Federal Patronage
Mar. 24, 1948  The South and the Presidency
Dec. 05, 1947  Military Leaders and the Presidency
Apr. 16, 1947  Veto Power of the President
Sep. 20, 1945  Succession to the Presidency
Sep. 12, 1940  The War Powers of the President
Feb. 11, 1938  Emergency Powers of the President
Jan. 06, 1938  The Power to Declare War
Dec. 28, 1937  Extension of the Veto Power
Dec. 28, 1936  Limitation of the President's Tenure
Mar. 12, 1935  The President and the Congress
Dec. 16, 1932  The Veto Power of the President
May 28, 1931  Presidential Commissions
Oct. 23, 1928  Presidential Appointments and the Senate
Mar. 21, 1928  Business Conditions in Presidential Years
Jan. 20, 1927  The Monroe Doctrine
Mar. 18, 1925  The President's Power of Appointment
Sep. 10, 1923  The President's Position on Patronage
Investigations and Discipline
Powers and History of the Presidency