Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Nixon Pardon

I read Barry Werth’s 31 Days during the holidays. The fast-paced narrative tells the story of the first 31 days of the Ford administration and focuses on the Nixon pardon and the battle for Nixon’s papers and tapes. It also documents other events such as the rise of Rumsfeld and Cheney.

The Nixon pardon offers two perspectives. If Nixon had stood trial with his subordinates, the trial most likely would have lasted for well over a year. Ford thought the nation could not endure further agony over Watergate.

Others have felt that the whole thing was a setup from the beginning of Ford’s appointment as Vice President. Nixon’s subordinates went to jail while Nixon received the perquisites of an ex-President. The unfairness still rankles. Yet those who work for a President ought to keep in mind that punishment for criminal activities will fall harder on them than it ever will for a President.

The pardon carries with it a tacit admission of guilt even though Nixon never publicly admitted to criminal activity. In fact, Nixon reneged on his commitment to Ford to admit his guilt in a public statement. Nixon watered down his statement after he received his pardon.

Nixon ended his life in disgrace. President Ford recently received a profile in courage award for the pardon.


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