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Richard Milhous Nixon was a paradox. He was Americas most deceitful chief executive who at the same time demonstrated a nuanced grasp of international balance of power diplomacy and the neglected importance of restoring diplomatic and commercial relations with China. During the Johnson administration, a minor incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was deceitfully used as the pretext for ongoing military escalation in Vietnam. American wealth and manpower were poured into Indochina out of proportion for the regions meager natural resources and strategic significance to the United States. Scenes of destruction and widespread suffering obscured the corruption of the sequence of generals who failed to develop a viable nation in southern Vietnam. The unsanctioned abuse of presidential authority diverted attention from domestic reform. Although troop levels decreased, Nixon expanded the geographic scope of the conflict without authorization. In an abortive effort to control the leak of sensitive information, the president and his closest aides engaged in widespread illegal domestic surveillance. Respect for presidential authority declined significantly all but overshadowing the bold policy of dtente to improve relationships with the two major communist superpowers, the Soviet Union and China. Domestic urban unrest in the late 1960s led Nixon to circumvent constitutional separation of powers and his deceitful behavior escalated into the Watergate scandal which consumed his presidency and led to his unprecedented resignation in 1974. The Vietnam conflict and Nixons blatant Watergate misconduct left the integrity of presidential leadership in shambles and escalated the polarization of the nation into warring political tribes.
Analyze and interpret this troublesome legacy and the deleterious impact it has had upon the nation.