chapter  2
44 Pages

The Nixon Administration

WithRichard A. Melanson

On January 20, 1969, Richard Nixon became only the second Republican to serve as president since 1933. He had been elected with 43 percent of the popular vote—the barest of pluralities—and was the first new president since Zachary Taylor to face opposition-party control in both houses of Congress. Richard Nixon knew that the Cold War consensus had been shattered. A number of academic commentators in the late 1960s argued that its passing was inevitable, the result of inexorable impersonal forces that had eroded the bases of public support for containment. Richard Nixon in 1969 had not only inherited a stalemated war in Vietnam from an administration apparently imprisoned in a “more of the same” mentality, but he also felt himself burdened by a foreign policy that had seriously ossified during the previous decade. The Nixon-Kissinger grand design entailed the creation of a stable, ultimately multipolar international structure cemented by a shared sense of Great Power legitimacy.