The scandal that forced Nixon from power prompted Congress in the months and years that followed to pursue a series of good-government reforms designed to clean up elections and make the executive branch more accountable.
Spurred by the discovery of Nixon's secret campaign funds, lawmakers imposed finance limitations and set new disclosure requirements. They moved to prevent the abuse of federal agencies after Nixon was accused of using them to monitor his perceived enemies.
One controversial measure enacted after Watergate, the independent counsel law that has been used to investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch, expired toward the end of the Clinton administration.
But lingering weaknesses remain in the executive branch's authority, officials around Bush have said.
"One of the things that I feel an obligation on -- and I know the president does too, because we talked about it -- is to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors," Cheney told ABC's "This Week" in 2002. "And we are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 or 35 years."
At the time, Cheney was defending his refusal to disclose information about private meetings with energy industry representatives to help formulate the administration's national energy policy. Cheney's actions were upheld by the Supreme Court, a ruling that legal experts said enhanced the powers of the executive branch.
Another boost to executive authority came a month after the 2001 terrorist attacks, when Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft ordered agencies to "carefully consider" national security, business confidentiality and privacy before disclosing records under the Freedom of Information Act. Experts said this marked a shift from the prior standard emphasizing disclosure.
Critics point to other examples of the Bush White House acting to enhance or preserve executive power. For example, the White House initially refused to let then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice testify before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. She ultimately testified. For the Bush family, Watergate was a dramatic period.
As Republican Party chairman, George H.W. Bush flew across the country defending Nixon against the growing public sentiment that the president was not being truthful.
Taped conversations between Bush and Nixon reveal Bush's skepticism toward the news media. In one 1973 exchange, transcribed in Kutler's book, Bush assured Nixon the country was with him, "in spite of some of the crap you're reading."
In a July 1974 letter to his sons, Bush extolled Nixon's virtues and laid out his faults. But he kept returning to one conclusion: "I can understand the President's hostility towards press for they despise him," Bush wrote.
Bush later was among the first to tell Nixon he should resign.
Years later, Bush's anger toward the press showed itself when the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who forged the relationship with Felt and drove much of the newspaper's Watergate coverage, requested an interview with the former president. Bush declined.
"I think Watergate and the Vietnam War are the two things that moved beltway journalism into this aggressive, intrusive 'take no prisoners' kind of reporting that I can now say I find offensive," Bush wrote Woodward in a 1998 letter. "The new young cynical breed wants to emulate you. But many of them to do that question the word and the integrity of all in politics. It is almost like their code is 'You are guilty until proved innocent.' "
Under President George W. Bush, leaks are kept to a minimum and White House officials are rarely off-script. The president often criticizes reporters' use of anonymous sources, although his administration regularly makes officials available under the condition that they be identified only as a "senior administration official."
"On the scale of whether sources are being smoked out or not smoked out, it is clearly on the side of not smoked out,'' Bush told a group of radio and television news directors last week. "There is a lot of sourcing here in Washington, D.C., that never gets called into account. I mean, a lot. I'd say it's a million to one. That would be the ratio."
Times researchers Robin Cochran and Benjamin Weyl contributed to this report.