Creative Destruction

December 27, 2006

Heel, Liberty

Filed under: Current Events,History — Robert @ 2:52 am

President Gerald Ford, dead at 93.

It’s almost alien to our experience of politics now, but Ford – an unassuming and by all accounts decent man – was viewed with such relief by most Americans after the Nixon debacle that gentle parodies such as this one were viewed as somewhat unfair and hitting below the belt. He lacked stature as a policy leader, but he brought the country back together and did so with humility and grace.

In speaking to the country following Nixon’s self-exile, he told America “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.” He was denied the former accolade when put to the test, but none can doubt that the latter request was fulfilled.

God bless you, President Ford, and thank you.

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11 Comments »

  1. I’m old enough to remember Ford as President. Not old enough to remember anything he did or stood for, just that he was President.

    Comment by Daran — December 27, 2006 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  2. I must be getting old and conservative. I agree with Robert on this one.

    Comment by Dianne — December 27, 2006 @ 12:18 pm | Reply

  3. And of course, rather than draw out a long, dangerous trial, Ford pardoned Nixon a month after he became President. He knew it was political suicide and that it would end his career, but he sacrificed that for the nation. I’m not sure the RNC has ever really given him his credit on that one.

    Comment by Ken — December 30, 2006 @ 10:08 pm | Reply

  4. Eh. I’m not much for the proposition that because someone has been President, he should get a pass on crimes committed. I think what Ford did may have been good for the Republican party, but I’m not convinced that it was good for the nation.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 31, 2006 @ 5:25 am | Reply

  5. Barry, the value of the Nixon pardon was that it set a precedent for future executives and set up a behavior pattern: if you’re the big cheese and you get caught doing something incontrovertibly illegal, go quietly. You won’t be humiliated and destroyed.

    Given the power of the top job, it’s better to have a precedent of allowing surrenders than to make it win-or-die.

    Comment by Robert — December 31, 2006 @ 5:34 am | Reply

  6. Robert wrote:

    the value of the Nixon pardon was that it set a precedent for future executives and set up a behavior pattern: if you’re the big cheese and you get caught doing something incontrovertibly illegal, go quietly. You won’t be humiliated and destroyed.

    This seems pretty well off the mark to me. Nixon was indeed both humiliated and destroyed leaving office. He wasn’t rehabilitated until close to his death and especially after it. Whether he should have been punished or pardoned for his crimes is a good question. It was a tumultuous time. We could certainly have weathered the storm of an impeachment or other trial, but as I recall, things settled down pretty quickly after Ford’s pardon of Nixon.

    I doubt that a precedent was set that in leaving office (by resignation or the expiration of a term) the executive receives a get out of jail free card.

    Comment by Brutus — December 31, 2006 @ 7:04 am | Reply

  7. Barry, the value of the Nixon pardon was that it set a precedent for future executives and set up a behavior pattern: if you’re the big cheese and you get caught doing something incontrovertibly illegal, go quietly. You won’t be humiliated and destroyed.

    Given the power of the top job, it’s better to have a precedent of allowing surrenders than to make it win-or-die.

    I see. ‘Punishment for crimes committed’ is only for the lower classes.

    Comment by Daran — December 31, 2006 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  8. Systems without flex break.

    Comment by Robert — December 31, 2006 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

  9. Robert, I have no idea if the pattern you’re talking about was actually set up, and neither do you. So your claimed benefit seems purely speculative to me. Nor do I really feel that there was a grave danger that Nixon, if he hadn’t had the option of a pardon, would have ordered the army to march on Congress.

    On the other hand, many people’s faith in the system was severely shaken in exactly the way Daran describes. A justice system that winks at crimes committed by the high and mighty isn’t a justice system at all. Of course, it’s inevitable that the powerful will get away with a lot; but that doesn’t mean that the President is obligated to release the ones that get caught.

    I agree that a judicial system needs some flex – as in the case of someone who shoots a home intruder only to find out that the intruder was an unannounced cop. I don’t agree that “wow, he’s really powerful, I guess he should feel free to break the law and never be punished” is the kind of flex that’s needed.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 31, 2006 @ 6:39 pm | Reply

  10. Nor do I really feel that there was a grave danger that Nixon, if he hadn’t had the option of a pardon, would have ordered the army to march on Congress.

    No. He would have just pardoned himself and set a horrible precedent.

    Comment by Robert — December 31, 2006 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

  11. At that time, a Nixon self-pardon might well have been followed by a constitutional amendment forbidding future presidents from self-pardoning (although we can’t know for certain). That would have been a positive step.

    Edited to add: In any case, the precedent that actually was set – that presidents are allowed to commit crimes and get off scot-free because their cronies will pardon them – was, if anything, even worse. At least if Nixon had been forced to pardon himself, that would have implied a bad apple problem, rather than a corrupt system.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 31, 2006 @ 6:45 pm | Reply


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