As one who despised Nixon I was angry to say the least when Gerald Ford pardoned him. Ford always thought he had done the right thing for the country. I would still disagree. I had forgotten that Ford’s press secretary Jerald F. terHorst had resigned in protest of Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon.Here are the last paragraphs of his resignation letter which laid out his reasons…
So it is with great regret, after long soul-searching, that I must inform you that I cannot in good conscience support your decision to pardon former President Nixon even before he has been charged with the commission of any crime. As your spokesman, I do not know how I could credibly defend that action in the absence of a like decision to grant absolute pardon to the young men who evaded Vietnam military service as a matter of conscience and the absence of pardons for former aides and associates of Mr. Nixon who have been charged with crimes – and imprisoned – stemming from the same Watergate situation. These are also men whose reputations and families have been grievously injured. Try as I can, it is impossible to conclude that the former President is more deserving of mercy than persons of lesser station in life whose offenses have had far less effect on our national wellbeing.
Thus it is with a heavy heart that I hereby tender my resignation as Press Secretary to the President, effective today. My prayers nonetheless remain with you, sir.
Jerald F. terHorst
I remember being mystified in the post Vietnam-Watergate times that we as a nation did not examine how we ended up in that long painful war or how Nixon was able to do what he did. (hey I was young). In recent years I’ve often thought had we gone through that painful examination we most likely would never have gone into Iraq. But the Nixon pardon sent a signal and set the tone of how we were going to deal with past mistakes. And no matter what we hear in the coming days of the rightness of Ford’s pardoning Nixon, remember that at the time it really pissed people off and was seen as a put up job…Tricky Dick’s last trick.
Lacking courage and foresight, Washington shrugged its responsibility of allowing our long national nightmare to play out to its end…that end being to have made clear the mistakes that were made in order to learn from them and never to make them again. The lessons learned should have been seared into our collective conscious. Instead the people followed suit and caught disco fever and danced and coked our recent troublesome past away. It was a terrible mistake and we still pay for it, as once this awful war in Iraq is over, I suspect we’ll follow the precedent set then…move on, nothing to examine here. I can only hope a disco revival isn’t to be part of the bargain. Can we spare ourselves that at least? Or have we learned absolutely nothing?