"The long national nightmare" Isn’t Over Yet

Nearly the only rational thing said about this business in the past few days.

Pardoning Nixon Saved the GOP, Not the USA
Posted by Jon Ponder | Jan. 2, 2007, 2:34 pm

Gerald Ford was a solid and even-tempered Old School pol. But I agree with Margie Burns that Ford’s motives in pardoning Pres. Nixon were much more basic than the stated goal of sparing the nation the agony of witnessing an ex-president on trial — and that, contrary to the conventional wisdom in D.C., pardoning Nixon was not “the right thing to do”:

[The pardon] did not spare the nation; it spared Richard M. Nixon. The nation had not undergone a long nightmare with Nixon’s resignation; Nixon had. The nation had not endured a virtual state of siege with Nixon’s attempt to spy on and to steal from the opposition and then to stonewall investigation into his actions (assisted by then-head of the Republican National Committee George H. W. Bush); Nixon had. And with all due respect, most of the graybeards on television probably know that. If they don’t, they’re not qualified to be either reporters or commentators. Anyone who recollects the Seventies as being a period when public adoration of Dick Nixon was at its peak -– such that seeing him answer questions about Watergate would have been simply unbearable -– is remembering wrong.

I think Margie Burns is being generous. I believed then, and still do, that Ford’s objective in pardoning Nixon was less about saving his friend from trial and punishment and more about saving the Republican Party from going into the 1976 election cycle with Nixon’s trial dominating the news.

Had Nixon’s case gone to trial, Ford knew that Watergate’s cancer on the presidency was likely to spread to the GOP body politic, with potentially fatal consequences. Nixon’s secret Oval Office tapes would be played in open court, and the complete record of the skullduggery, break-ins, spying and lying by the president and his men would have been exposed in the worst light possible. As the leader of his party, Pres. Ford could not afford to let that happen.

Ford paid a heavy price for the Nixon pardon. Within a month after the pardon in September 1974, Ford’s popularity sank from the 70s into the 30s. His reputation never recovered, and voters turned him out in the 1976 elections.

Every Republican elected since Nixon was pardoned owes a debt of gratitude to Gerald Ford. However, for the act of pardoning Nixon, the nation owes him nothing.

Read it here.

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