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Overview: At 12:45 pm we will meet and buy our tickets.  At 1 pm we will go into the Watergate Exhibit. 

The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum:

Situated on nine rolling acres in Yorba Linda, California, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace offers visitors an insider’s glimpse into the events, people and world that shaped, and were shaped by, the 37th President.

The Watergate Exhibit:  " . . . the truth finally wins out"

From the L.A. Times of April 5,  2011

At the Nixon Library, a new exhibit presents the devastating facts of the Watergate scandal and the president's abuse of power.

Watergate was "the ultimate stress test" for the nation, says Timothy Naftali, director of the Nixon Library. It was also a stress test for the National Archives and the Nixon Library.

The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum's original exhibit about Watergate, designed in 1990 by Nixon loyalists before the National Archives took over operation of the library, explained Watergate as a third-rate burglary exploited by the president's enemies to reverse the results of the 1972 election. Now, with the long-awaited opening of the library's new Watergate exhibit, the public finally has a museum that tells the full story of what President Ford called "our long national nightmare"— and tells it with authority and rich detail, mobilizing up-to-the-minute interactive technology that might even engage middle school students brought here on tours.

That story is still devastating. The exhibit makes clear how, with the country in turmoil over an unpopular war, the president became obsessed with "enemies" and formed a secret unit, "the plumbers," to carry out illegal assignments. When its members got arrested breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee, the president discussed paying them hush money, talked about how to pardon them before they could tell their story, and then ordered the CIA to tell the FBI to stop its investigation of presidential wrongdoing.

In the end, the constitutional system of checks and balances worked. A Senate committee uncovered the White House taping system; the Supreme Court ordered the release of tapes containing key evidence of the cover-up attempt; the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment, starting with obstruction of justice. And the president resigned rather than face removal from office because his own party had turned against him in the Senate.

In Yorba Linda the new exhibit consists not of long panels of explanatory text but of vivid interactive video displays in which participants, witnesses and observers tell the story from their perspectives. For each "chapter" of the story, visitors can select excerpts from interviews (a total of 40 hours of interactive content, 131 interviews on video conducted by the library for this exhibit), including central figures G. Gordon Liddy, head of the plumbers unit; presidential advisor Charles Colson; Alexander Butterfield, the White House assistant who recalls how he revealed the White House taping system; and Sen. Trent Lott, then a Republican member of the House Judiciary committee, who recalls seeing the first transcript of the "smoking-gun tape" and concluding that "one article of impeachment for obstruction of justice was going to be inevitable."

One of the biggest innovations in Yorba Linda concerns the starting point for the Watergate story. Textbooks and journalists usually begin with the break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. But the Nixon Library exhibit starts much earlier, in July 1971, with the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the war leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, which led to Nixon's obsession with leaks and to his formation of the "plumbers" unit, ostensibly to stop them. Their first assignment was to get dirt on Ellsberg by breaking into the offices of his psychiatrist. The same unit then went on to break into the offices of the DNC at the Watergate complex. Thus the abuse of power by the president didn't begin with the election campaign, but started more than a year earlier.

Another innovation concerns the end of the Watergate story. Textbooks and journalists almost always conclude with Ford's pardon of Nixon. But the Nixon Library goes one big step further, closing with the legislation that resulted from Watergate: the broadening of the Freedom of Information Act to give individuals and journalists more tools to uncover government abuse of power; the Presidential Records Act, which forbids presidents from destroying their records; the creation of the Federal Election Commission to monitor campaign finance; and the Ethics in Government Act, which established the office of the special prosecutor.

A final, crucial innovation is the museum's emphasis on the many people within the government who refused to carry out orders from the president that were illegal. "Their story is now preserved," says Naftali, who curated the exhibit. "Students who come here will learn that you can say no when asked to say or do something that's wrong." Highlights here include Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz describing how he refused a president's order to audit the tax returns of anti-war Democrats, and Chief of Staff Alexander Haig saying he refused Nixon's request to burn the tapes.

Finally, visitors can also learn Nixon's version. At the end comes a panel, "The View From San Clemente," where we get Watergate in Nixon's own words — in his TV interview with David Frost, and in his bestselling memoir "RN."

Historians often complain that presidential libraries tend to present rosy pictures of former presidents, ignoring anything controversial. The Nixon Library's original Watergate exhibit was one of the worst offenders. It took a long time, but at the new Watergate exhibit at the Nixon Library, our long national nightmare really is over — at last.


See the C-Span video of this exhibit at:




Adult (over age 12): $11.95
Seniors: $8.50
Students: $6.95
Active Military: $6.95
Children (7-11): $4.75
Children (6-under): Free
Members: Free



Parking:  Free parking in the Nixon Library lot.


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  • A former member
    A former member

    We'll go here again in the near future. I have contacted the museum about group tour info. Stay tuned.

    May 13, 2013

  • Chris F.

    Very balanced and factual presentation of Watergate. Well worth the trip.

    April 8, 2013

  • Lori K.

    Excellent museum A special treat as Listz Competitors were in the Auditorium playing classical piano and opera Gorgeous grounds Recreation of the east room incredible History was fascinating A great meet up indeed Thank you John! Lori and Robert

    April 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    The exhibit was well done and very interesting. The missing star reflects the lack of objectivity in the intro film viewed before entering gallery. But the exhibit itself was fair and factual.

    April 7, 2013

  • John B.

    Well done informative presentation of the events of Watergate.

    April 7, 2013

  • Renee

    Bombarded by homework and will not be able to make it. Sorry

    April 7, 2013

  • Joy

    Too busy to get there in time. Enjoy!

    April 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi John - Please consider me a "maybe". My daughter might be visiting this weekend and in that case, I probably will not come. I agree that doing this event again might be a great idea!

    April 3, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Actually, I just noticed the length of the waiting list! I will change my RSVP and I'll hope to go next time!

      April 3, 2013

  • Grace

    Tacos San Pedro says it is closed on Sunday. Is this accurate?

    April 2, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Considering the number of members interested, you might want to post this event again sometime this year.

    March 31, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    March 25, 2013

  • Lyn

    Hope you do this again. I have wanted to visit that library, but I already have committed to another activity on that date. Thanks

    March 25, 2013

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