American Samizdat

Monday, January 01, 2007. *
The following is from one of my favorite commenter's over at MOA

In the spirit of informed debate, let's present both sides of an issue to weigh the relative merits of each. Today's theme seems to be complicity in high crimes, so let's discuss former stuntpresident Gerald Ford's pardon of his predecessor. Representing the "anti-" side today is Slate'sTimothy Noah:Why Pardoning Nixon Was Wrong

Why was Ford wrong to pardon Nixon? Mainly because it set a bad precedent. Nixon had not yet been indicted, let alone convicted, of any crime. It's never a good idea to pardon somebody without at least finding out first what you're pardoning him for. How can you possibly weigh the quality of mercy against considerations of justice? Yet it would happen again in December 1992, when departing President George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, former defense secretary, 12 days before Weinberger was set to go to trial for perjury. As I've noted before, this was almost certainly done to prevent evidence concerning Bush's own involvement in Iran-contra (when he was vice-president) from becoming public. The final report from Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called it "the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness," but in fact it was the second. Ford's motive was less self-protective, but, as Slate's Christopher Hitchens notes here, it had the same effect of shutting down further investigation into illegal activities. Without the precedent of Ford's pre-emptive pardon, Bush père might have lacked the nerve to attempt one himself, and certainly would have created a much bigger ruckus if he went ahead and did it anyway.

If Ford hadn't issued the pardon, would Nixon have stood trial, or perhaps even been sent to jail? If so, his successors might have learned the valuable lesson that presidents are not above the law. But odds are that no prosecution would have taken place. In a Dec. 28 editorial, the Wall Street Journal stated that Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski "seemed determined to pursue" a criminal trial. The precise opposite is true. By his own account, Jaworski was reluctant to pursue prosecutorial alternatives to impeachment. Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski "seemed determined to pursue" a criminal trial. The precise opposite is true. By his own account, Jaworski was reluctant to pursue prosecutorial alternatives to impeachment. James Cannon's 1994 book Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment With History quotes Jaworski saying, "I knew in my own mind that if an indictment were returned and the court asked me if I believed Nixon could receive a prompt, fair trial as guaranteed by the Constitution, I would have replied in the negative." In a Dec. 29 op-ed in the Washington Post, Jaworski's former employee, Richard Ben-Veniste—yet another person who changed his mind and now thinks Ford was right to pardon Nixon—writes that Jaworski was "of the view that Nixon's precipitous fall from the highest office was punishment enough." " Even if Jaworski had been talked into indicting Nixon, the prosecution's constitutionality—at best, uncertain—would have been a matter for the courts to decide, and the judiciary tends to err on the side of caution when considering separation of powers.That probably helps explain why President Bill Clinton was never indicted for perjury, even after congressional efforts to remove him from office failed.
So... reading into Mr. Noah's analysis a bit, the 1974 attempt to avoid a potential "Constitutional crisis" might have led directly to the unitary executive that we see today. Interesting. Let's move on.The "pro-" statement comes from former "Deputy Assistant to the President" (1974), "Assistant to the President" (1975- 1977), Vice-President of the United States (2000- present) and Chief Enabler of Satan Himself (emeritus, the post is shared with Henry Kissinger), Richard B. Cheney representing the War Criminals Covering Their Own Asses Party:Cheney Hails Ford's Pardon of Nixon.
Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon, so divisive at the time that it probably cost him the 1976 election, was dealt with squarely in his funeral services by his old chief of staff, Vice President Dick Cheney.

"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who led our republic safely though a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe," said Cheney, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda where Ford's body rested. "Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon."
I'm not sure how to properly summarize the view you've expressed here, Mr. Cheney. Your former boss was "almost alone" in his opinion while representing the will of a democratic republic... and it's laudable that he went against the majority's wishes anyway? Is that what you're saying? Or are you saying that without a back room pardon, we might have faced and resolved the potential Constitutional crisis to which Mr. Noah alluded, and that we'd have a precedent on the books that would not permit you to profiteer to the degree you most obviously have in the present? Is that the "healing" you are talking about? Or is this simply peremptory doubletalk that gives lip service to the will of the people while simultaneously thanking the powers-that-be for handing you a "get out of jail free" card you might need to cash in later yourself?

Truly, this has been a productive debate and I think it's been made abundantly clear that there are always at least two sides to every issue. Some might call those sides "right" and "wrong"... but, still, there you are.
posted by Uncle $cam at 1:51 AM
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