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Richard Nixon was the Best President of the United States


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Contender / Con

I will argue that Nixon was the best president of the US. My opponent must pick a president that they believe was better for this debate. Events leading to their presidency(ie. previous political career, humanitarian work, etc.) may be used as points and are encouraged if context is needed. Attacks against character are allowed, but should be kept to just 2-3 points. This is mainly based on policy.
Round 1: Opponent and I state our president and the main 3-5 points we will emphasize in the debate.
Round 2: We will argue the aforementioned main strengths of our president.
Round 3: We will discuss the negative points of our opponent's president.
Round 4: We rebut the negative points and iterate the main strengths of the president.

Round 1
I would like to thank my opponent for agreeing to debate this much disputed topic. I obviously choose to argue that Richard Milhous Nixon was the best president of the United States. 
My five main points as to why I believe this go as follows:
1. Civil Rights Legislation
2. The Moderate President that saved the Republican Party.
3. Environmental Policy
4. Economic Policy
5. Foreign Policy.
Greetings! I would like to thank my opponent for this debate. As mentioned in the previous debate, I will be selecting FDR for my president. First, let's define some important terms!

  • Better: of a more excellent or effective type or quality.
  • Best: of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.
With that said, here are the areas that I will be focusing on:

  1. Moral character
  2. Economic policy
  3. Foreign policy
  4. Environmental policy 
  5. Turned the US into a superpower 

Good luck! 
Round 2
I would like to thank my opponent for agreeing to debate this fascinating topic!

Civil Rights

The first point is Nixon's dedication to the Civil Rights movement.  His progressive record began well before his presidency. Eisenhower chaired Nixon on the President’s Committee on Government Contracts[1]. This allowed Nixon to gain connections with Civil Rights advocates Martin Luther King Jr, Ralph Abernathy, and Roy Wilkins. They lobbied companies to end discrimination and helped Blacks become company executives. These connections helped Nixon push the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through Congress, the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction[2]. Nixon was so crucial for the bill that MLK wrote to Nixon:“Let me say before closing how deeply grateful all people of goodwill are to you for your assiduous labor and dauntless courage in seeking to make the Civil Rights Bill a reality.”[3]

Nixon’s dedication to minorities continued during his presidency. First, he signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1970. This outlawed literacy tests, which discriminated against minorities[4]. The bill also prevented changes in state laws related to voting without federal permission[5]. He revised the Philadelphia Plan, which made quotas for Black workers. This was met with resistance, but Nixon held his ground[6]. He also took steps towards Affirmative Action in Executive Order 11478, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, and age, and promoted inclusive employment[7] Then Nixon passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. This allowed the EEOC to sue when employers discriminate based on these protected classes[8]. Even though many people question affirmative action today, nobody can deny that it was needed at the end of Jim Crow.

Nixon also improved Blacks’ education during his presidency. He increased funding to Black colleges by over $100 million[2]. Nixon also oversaw the integration of segregated schools. In 1968, 68% of black children in the South attended segregated schools. This number plummeted to 8% by 1974[9].

Nixon’s work on civil rights also applied to women. Title IX ensured no sex discrimination in federally funded schools. Before Nixon, 294,000 women were in high school sports versus 3.7 million boys. There has been a 940% increase in high school women athletes. In college, woman participation is up 456%. Nixon allowed for further advancement in women sports, and therefore scholarships[10].

The Moderate President that saved the Republican Party

Nixon was very loyal to his party. He was from the moderate wing of the Republican party and Barry Goldwater was much further right. Despite their differences and low chances of a victory, Nixon campaigned faithfully for Goldwater[11]. We must also discuss Nixon’s tireless efforts for his party. Republicans lost much of the House in 1964. There were 295 Democrats and 140 Republicans[12]. Then Nixon came to the rescue. During the two months before midterms, Nixon campaigned for 86 Republicans running for Congress and Governor position, rallying for almost three candidates each day! Of these 86 politicians, 59 of them won, which helping Republicans gain a foothold in Congress[13]. This level of party dedication and political savy has been matched by few if by any other politician in history.
Nixon, again, was a man that most Americans could get behind, supporting liberal and conservative ideas. Nixon was a pragmatist who would refuse to let ideology get in the way of progress.

First, to prove that he was able to bring Americans together as a moderate, compare him to his rivals:Wallace and Humphrey. Humphrey (about Long Hot Summer riots) said “I have enough spark left in me to lead a might good revolt under those conditions”. These were 159 race riots in which 83 died, thousands got hurt, and millions of dollars of property was damaged, and Humphrey was justifying these actions[13]. George Wallace conversely stated "I tell you when November comes, the first time they lie down in front of my limousine it'll be the last one they ever lay down in front of; their day is over!” Nixon gave a middle ground for America. He brought America together with bipartisan movements such as the War on Cancer. At the time, cancer was the second-leading cause of death, but death rates have steadily gone down since the “war” began[14].

Nixon was every man’s president. In terms of liberal policies, he supported a negative income tax, which would grant half the difference between a family’s income and the poverty level[16]. Nixon was also a Keynesian and he raised the minimum wage by 40%[17]. As a conservative, he continued the Vietnam War and advocated for “new federalism” which would give power back to the states. Finally, he was strong on law and order, not caving in to protesters during the Student Strike of 1970[18]. This bipartisan pragmatism explains his 520 electoral vote landslide victory[19].

Environmental Policy

Nixon was also a huge fan of saving the environment. In 1970, he created the EPA, which researches pollution, sets standards and enforces anti-pollution legislation[20]. They have protected the ozone, increased recycling, and kept air and water clean[21]. Nixon also passed the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to consider environmental effects when building[22]. He also created the NOAA, which is responsible to reducing pollution in the ocean[23].

Nixon passed the Clean Air Act, which has reduced the emissions of six common pollutants by 73% since 1970. This cleaner air has prevented hundreds of thousands of cases of serious health problems[24]. This disease prevention has likely saved millions of dollars that would be spent treating these diseases. The Clean Water Act outlawed disposal of pollutants in water without obtaining a permit. It also created guidelines for water purity, which have prevented companies from contaminating our water[25]. Finally, Nixon passed the Endangered Species Act. This bill has prevented many animals from extinction[26]. Without Nixon’s policies, we could expect the death of many species, contaminated water, smog-ridden cities, and more respiratory diseases.

Economic Policy

Some background is necessary for this point. Johnson created the Great Society, which had 4x the scope of the New Deal. He created Medicare/Medicaid, Food Stamp Act of 1964, and was fighting in Vietnam. Inflation was also almost 5% when Nixon entered the office because of this[27].

Despite this, Nixon reduced the deficit by over 70%[28]. Nixon also removed the US from the gold standard. This is supported by nearly every economist [29]. It allows us combat recessions with stimulus spending. Soon after employment and GDP began to rise[30]. Milton Freidman was also a fan of Nixon. He stated that leaving the gold standard was “long overdue”. Freidman also said that the Federal Reserve Board was responsible for the terrible monetary policy during this time(an institution empowered by FDR)[31]. Nixon’s decision made US exports cheaper, which led to a large increase in exports since 1971. This helped raise our balance of payments by over 200% from 1971 to 1974[32]. Another economic push of Nixon was Project Independence. This called for the US to become energy independent after the Oil Crisis. He wanted to construct 1,000 nuclear power plants and research alternative forms of energy. This could have made America self-sufficient, but
Watergate prevented this[33]. His dream of energy independence has lived on, though[34].

Foreign Policy

Nixon's foreign policy successes are likely his most notable. Vietnam was an unpopular war, and it is one that Nixon ended on peaceful terms in the Paris Peace Accords. The North released all prisoners of war, and the US agreed to remove all troops and dismantle bases[35]. Nixon also resumed trade with Russia and China. China proved to be a good trading partner to regain, since they previously received a quarter of their exports from the US[36]. This decision gave the US more leverage in Asia, which helped end the Vietnam War[37]. China is also one of the largest American trading partners to this day.

While most credit for ending the Cold War is given to Reagan, this wouldn’t have happened without Nixon. One of these major steps forward was the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Cold War tensions lessened since this treaty limited the number of antiballistic missiles each country could have and required that ICBMs stay at their current levels.[38]. The ABM Treaty reduced the number missile silos for each country[39]. Nixon also helped the US gain influence in the soviet-dominated Middle East. He began to shift support towards Israel, saving it during the Yom Kippur War. He also paved the way for Egypt and Israel to maintain peace in the future. Nixon reopened formal relations with Syria and strengthened support of Jordan. Our relationship with Israel has been very valuable, as they provide advanced military technology[40]. Finally, the Nixon Doctrine was another advancement in American foreign policy. It stated that the US would support allies with funds and equipment, rather than risking American troops’ lives for future agreements. It also required allies to contribute more to their own defense. This is why the US sold arms to the Middle East rather than send troops[41].
To conclude, Richard Nixon was crucial to the furthering civil rights for both minorities and women. He also saved his party through his tireless work and evinced a strong loyal character. Nixon can be thanked for the preservation of our environment and saving the lives of many endangered species. He also took America off of the gold standard, which allows us to effectively alter the money supply to combat recessions. Finally, Nixon’s deft foreign policy initiatives ended the Vietnam War, helped end the Cold War, and gained us many trading allies that have been boons to our economy and military.


I want to thank my opponent for this debate and for his patience. I am a huge history nerd and I have found the research for this debate to be quite fascinating. That being said, let’s go into my arguments.
I. Moral Character
The most important test for leadership is a moral character and a willingness to lead. FDR exemplified this vital trait more than most Presidents. First to consider is his education. He went to Groton School in 1904, Columbia Law School from 1904-1907, Harvard College, Harvard University, and Columbia University and excelled in his academics [1]. Second, FDR was self-confident and had the ability to disagree strongly with his advisors. Most importantly, FDR was bound to a wheelchair due to Polio, but he never let that stop him [2]. Finally, we must consider his fireside chats. Without a doubt, FDR had the hardest presidency in US history. He had to deal with the great depression and the start of WWII. From 1933-1944, FDR gave a series of 30 fireside chats that instilled confidence in the American public and calmed the nerves of the American people [3].
II. Economic Policy
When FDR was elected, the US was undergoing The Great Depression. When the economy crashed in 1929, half the banks failed, unemployment rose to 25%, international trade plummeted, among many other economic failures [4]. In response, FDR proposed the New Deal that has had a profound economic impact that can be felt today.
A. Banking Holiday
“I can assure you that it is safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress.” - Fireside Chat, March 12, 1933 [5].
FDR declared a bank holiday from March 6-March 13, 1933. The result was a resounding success. When the banks reopened, depositors stood in line to redeposit their cash. Within two weeks, Americans redeposited more than half the currency that it withdrawn [6].  
B. Fair Labor Standards Act
“Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, ...tell you...that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” – Fireside Chat [7].
The Fair Labor Standards Act is arguably the most important economic bill in US history. The act prohibited oppressive child labor, set a minimum wage, set overtime pay, and a 44-hour work week [8].  Without this act, we would still be employing children in dangerous working conditions and pay workers far less than $7.25/hour.
There are a lot of other points I could go into, but I feel these two are enough for the purpose of this debate.
III. Foreign Policy
FDR had the most challenging foreign policy test in US history. When he was elected, America still felt the aftershock of WWI. Balancing an anti-war, American-first populist with Hitler rising in Europe is no easy task. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, FDR remained calm and vigilant. FDR’s brilliance helped to defeat the Nazis and the Japanese. Without US involvement, the Nazis would almost certainly have won.  
IV. Environmental Policy
To make The Great Depression worse, the dust bowls created drought and crop failure. Unfortunately, the dust bowl was a self-inflicted wound caused by federal land policies, weather changes, and farming practices [9, 10]. In response to this, FDR created the soil erosion service, now called the National Resource Conservation Service. FDR also created the Prairie States Forestry Project not only stopped the dust storms but also changed the landscape of America for the better [11].
V. Turned the US into a superpower
At the conclusion of the great depression and WWII, America stood above all other nations and came out as the global As Sam Ellis et al. notes: “The United States was the only country to emerge from the war in strong economic and military shape, and thus was in a unique position to shape the terms of the peace. The result was a global financial system, called the Bretton Woods system, aimed at coordinating the global economy and preventing another Great Depression — and the United Nations, created to preserve the postwar peace.” [12]  
VI. Conclusion
To conclude, FDR had the hardest presidency in history, and he proved himself to be a strong leader who wasn’t afraid to act. Due to his courage, we were able to end the great depression, set up an economic policy that is still felt today, and helped us to win WWII. Not only that, but his policies single-handedly turned the US into a global superpower. The resolution is negated. FDR was a far superior president than Nixon.
VII. Sources
5. Quoted here:
7. Quoted here:

Round 3
I would like to once again thank my opponent for agreeing to this debate. I too am a huge fan of history and have learned a lot more about the accomplishments of both presidents during my research. Now onto the rebuttal and provision of more negative areas of FDR’s presidency.

Moral Character

I am shocked that my opponent chose to argue for the morality of FDR. My opponent, however, didn’t even explain why moral character and willingness to lead are “the most important test for leadership”. Con mentions that FDR was confident and had polio as president. These, while impressive, weren’t elaborated upon with specific policies that these strengthened. He also states that FDR didn’t listen to his advisors. He is correct, as Henry Morgenthau, his Secretary of Treasury said: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work." I will prove later that FDR did not listen to this advice[13].

I think my opponent neglects the true objective of fireside chats: propaganda. He reduced the license for radio stations to six months so that he could shut down unfavorable news stations quickly. NBC stated they would limit broadcasts “contrary to” US policies. CBS also wouldn’t broadcast anything “that in any way was critical of any policy of the Administration”. He limited all information so that no one could challenge his fireside chats[1].

FDR was also immoral obviously for his internment of over 122,000 Japanese men, women, and children purely on the basis of their ethnic heritage. 70,000 of these individuals were citizens of our great country, but that meant nothing to this tyrant. These Americans were never compensated by FDR for their $1.3 billion in property loss and $2.7 billion in income loss[2]. Doesn’t seem moral. Nor does his refusal to accept 937 Jewish refugees who sailed to America. They were sent back to Europe where a quarter died in the Holocaust[3]. FDR also helped cover up a massacre of 22,000 Polish officers by the USSR, which empowered the Russians to a much harsher rule after the war[4].
Economic Policy

You argue that the Banking Holiday was so good, but you ignore some of the darker portions of the bill. The Glass-Steagall Act separated investment and commercial banking. This prevented banks from growing by limiting their diversification abilities[5]. Executive Order 6102 required all but negligible amounts of gold to be turned in. Those who violated were threatened with $10,000($193,548) in fines and/or 10 years in prison. Not only did he violate their rights, but he also threatened violators with significant fines and prison time[6].

The FLSA wasn’t the shining accomplishment that you suggest. You say that it ended child labor, but the free market did most of that. By 1930, 6.4% males and 2.9% of female children were employed and much of this was agricultural work. Research into these types of laws show that it often hurts poor families because of the reduced income[7]. Also, I’m surprised Con brought up the minimum wage. You could argue for its use today but back then, its purpose was to keep Blacks out of the job market. Blacks often had less education and their labor was worth less, so they usually undercut white workers’ wages. Minimum wages made undercutting impossible, so it would help white people[8]. The minimum wage was largely pushed by eugenicists, as they wanted to keep “unemployables” out of the job market[9]. So, no, child employment wouldn’t be running rampant and more Blacks would have been employed.

FDR had other egregious economic policies. He created the AAA, which paid farmers to not produce crops. This made agricultural products much more expensive to consumers. The smaller crop yields increased our reliance on imports, which decreased the money supply. By 1935, we had to import 36 million lbs of cotton, 13 million bushels of wheat, and 34 million bushels of corn[18].

The AAA also gave millions of dollars to farmers, but it gave no relief to 600,000 Black sharecroppers. FDR even destroyed the jobs of many of these African Americans by having the TVA flood farmland. 15,000 people were removed from their homes. The Black tenant farmers again weren’t reimbursed. FDR had more power than any other president in history at the time. If he was so moral, why would he not use this power to help Blacks instead of hurting them? FDR also implemented the Wagner Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, and the National Recovery Administration. These allowed for the creation of 700 business cartels, they made it more expensive to hire employees(minimum wage, social security taxes, etc.), and raised taxes on corporations. Economists Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson stated that the increased taxes and regulation of the industries contributed to the high unemployment experienced throughout the Great Depression. FDR also created uncertainty among businesses by frequent tax code changes, with four between 1932-1936. This prevented them from expanding because they couldn’t accurately predict the future business environment that they would endure[19,20].

Foreign Policy

No sources are provided to prove “aftershock” from WWI, how FDR was specifically “brilliant” in his war waging, or that he remained “calm and vigilant”. I can, however, say that FDR caused the Pearl Harbor attack by freezing Japanese assets in the US and cutting off oil trade. We were 88% of Japan’s oil imports, and their reserves would only have lasted for 3 years, which caused their hasty retaliation[10].
I can say that FDR helped cause the Cold War. He agreed to give the Russians much of Eastern Europe, thus empowering this untrustworthy state. FDR ended the lend-lease program to Russia, which provided weapons to help the war effort. He also stalled in opening an Eastern front, and instead let Russians fight that battle entirely on their own. This seems to contradict your point of his “brilliance”. He also didn’t tell the Russians about his nuclear arms, so Truman’s use frightened them and started an arms race between already distrusting countries[10,11].

Environmental Policy

 I would say that your characterization of these policies’ success is quite misleading. While farmers did overplough their land, the main cause of the dustbowl was the years-long drought that baked this land. The dustbowl ended because the rain returned[12]. So, while some of these programs may have caused minor alleviation to the problem, they did not stop them, the rain did. I also think that it would be hard for you to compare FDR’s few policies to the enormous conservation efforts of the EPA, Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act, which I have mentioned have prevented hundreds of thousands of diseases and have prevented dumping waste in rivers freely.

Turned the US into a Superpower

The reason that the US stood above these other countries financially was not because of FDR’s economic policies, but because (barring Pearl Harbor) no fighting occurred in the US to destroy our assets. However, my opponent’s whole argument is based on a myth. The US did not become a superpower until 1956. Eisenhower saw that Britain was still the main world power(influentially), as it was dominant in the Middle East, manipulated us into intervening in Greece’s civil war, and had “veto” over our policy in Southeast Asia[14]. If we were such a superpower, why could the British influence our decisions like this? It is even hard to say that we were a financial superpower, as we were drowning in debt. Our debt to GDP ratio was the worst it has ever been under FDR, nearing the end of WW2. We had a debt 20% larger than our entire GDP[15]. The Bretton Woods System you mention was luckily ended by Nixon. This system was impossible to manage, as it mandated exchange rate stability. This is impossible because not all countries have the same rates of inflation. This caused an imbalance of foreign money reserves and caused the system to eventually collapse. A fixed-rate exchange never could have worked[16].

Also, you mention the UN, which utterly failed early on. They allowed the USSR to gain a veto on the security council, which prevented the UN from resolving issues caused by the USSR in the Cold War. By 1947, USSR had used 17 of the 18 vetoes. This prevented intervention against the Soviets who invaded Iran, and other international violations by them[17].


So, despite by opponent’s supposed negation of my resolution, I have quite covered how the opposite is true. FDR silenced all political opponents through media regulation and interned over one-hundred thousand Japanese. He also sent nearly one thousand Jewish refugees to Europe, where many died. Nixon, on the other hand, proved to be much more moral through championing minority and womens’ rights. FDR forcibly collected private property, supported racist minimum wage laws, and raised the prices of domestic products. He flooded farmland and created a hostile business environment that prolonged unemployment. FDR increased the debt to GDP ratio to its worse in history. Nixon on the other hand took us off the gold standard so we could combat future recessions, and he reduced deficits during wartime and following the Great Society.

FDR empowered the Soviets by promising them many lands after WW2 and UN veto power, thus preventing the UN from accomplishing its goals. He angered the USSR through not opening an Eastern front and ending Lend-Lease. Nixon had to deal with the Cold War, instigated partially by FDR, and Nixon actually reduced Cold War tensions with SALT and ABM treaties. FDR’s policies mentioned did not stop the dust storms, rain did. His environmental achievements are dwarfed by Nixon’s EPA and Clean Air/Water Acts. Finally, FDR did not turn us into a superpower in the sense that Britain still had a monopoly in world influence. FDR set up a doomed Bretton Woods system that Nixon ended. So, it is quite clear that Nixon is far more worthy of the title of best president than FDR.


Round 4
Disappointing. It would appear that my opponent and I have reached the same conclusion: Richard Nixon was without fault. Unfortunately, I have no points to rebut, so I will keep this conclusion short and sweet. As per my debate outline, I will simply iterate the main good things my president did and not repeat the negative aspects of FDR. No new points are allowed, and all sources have been cited for these points.

As I have stated, Nixon was a fervent supporter of Civil Rights. He was instrumental in desegregating schools, continuing to fight for minority voting rights, was thanked personally by MLK for his "assiduous labor and dauntless courage", and he expanded scholarship opportunities for women by preventing discrimination against their sports teams in Title IX. He created protected classes for which discrimination was outlawed and promoted small forms of affirmative action. He also saved the Republican party through tireless campaigning, often going to two or three rallies every day. He was a pragmatist that brought the country together, which was much needed after the radical liberal policies of LBJ's Great Society. Nixon was likely the most pro-environment president that we have ever had, as he created the EPA, and signed both the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. These institutions have prevented thousands of diseases according to the EPA. Richard Nixon also had a strong record in economic policy, even being applauded by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman. He removed us from the gold standard, which allows us to combat recessions through monetary policy. Finally, Nixon was an absolute genius in terms of foreign policy. He ended the Vietnam War on peaceful terms, he lessened Cold War tensions through the ABM and SALT Treaties, and he officially recognized China as a country, which has historically been a huge trading partner. 

All of these astounding achievements are just a portion of the reason that I believe Nixon was the best president that we have ever had. I truly hope that I was able to shed a more positive light on a president that is often criticized for a singular scandal. Thank you to everyone that read through this debate, and don't forget to vote for Pro!