Watergate is the biggest political scandal in modern American history. While the incident receives much discussion, it was really only emblematic of Richard Nixon’s bid for absolute power.
When in office, Nixon combined an obsession with winning power with a conviction that the US Presidency was the will of the American people embodied.
In order to win the 72 election Nixon engineered emergency powers for himself. He used a postal strike and a balance of payments crisis to seize unprecedented degrees of executive power in the early 1970s.
At the same time, Nixon was convinced that an enemy of his was an enemy of the American public. He instituted spying programs such as Operation Minaret and kept tabs on, among others, actors and entertainers.
A congressional report at the time said the following about Nixon’s power
[T]he President may seize property; organize and control the means of production; seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transport and communications; regulate the operation of private enterprises; restrict travel; and, in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens.
Watergate disturbed people like Dick Cheney who subscribed to Nixon’s thesis of the Presidency.