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Welcome Remarks for "Bridging the Branches: How President Nixon Worked with a Democratic Congress"

Good morning! I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Welcome to my house! Today, we have one of our Nixon Legacy Forums. We have been co-sponsoring these forums with the Richard Nixon Foundation since 2010.

We’ve produced about three dozen of these so far––all of which are available on our website and that of the Nixon Foundation. The forums feature individuals from the Nixon administration discussing some particular public policy initiative––and the documentation that is available to researchers in the archives we maintain at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.

Today’s topic is “Bridging the Branches: How President Nixon Worked with a Democratic Congress.”  Now, you all know that our Constitution divides Federal power between three separate, but co-equal branches: the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judiciary.  And while each has its own area of authority and responsibility, the system seems to work best when the branches are working together.

When President Nixon was elected in 1968, he was the first President in 120 years to take office without his party also having control of Congress. And, for the incoming President Nixon, control wasn’t even close: In the Senate, there were 43 Republicans and 57 Democrats; and in the House, there were 192 Republicans and 243 Democrats––or a 51 vote margin. For Nixon, governing without some help from Democrats was not much of a choice––it was a necessity. 

How he and his administration went about doing this is today’s topic––and we have with us four former members from President Nixon’s White House staff. Now, it’s been almost fifty years since they were there, so you will notice that their hair is a little grayer than in photos from that era.

One other thing I should point out is that researching this topic in particular has been helped considerably by a set of contemporaneous memos that analyzed Nixon’s relationships with the 91st, 92nd and 93rd Congresses. Since these archival records are so key, we are trying something new: We are going to post these documents on our respective websites, so you can access them in conjunction with the video of today’s discussion.

With that, let me introduce today’s moderator and co-producer of many prior Legacy Forums, Geoff Shepard. Geoff joined Nixon’s staff in 1969 as a White House Fellow and then spent the next five years staffing the President as a member of his Domestic Council.

Please welcome Geoff Shepard. . . .