The Nixon Pardon

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.

Sincerely,

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?

8 thoughts on “The Nixon Pardon

  1. I was thinking the same thing this morning: that the disease that has been eating away at the Constitution and the American character came to its first fruition with Nixon and his criminals, and almost all the criminals who have come after him were trained by/associated with him and his administration, and we made a serious mistake in not punishing Nixon for his crimes, for not taking the line then and there that even Presidents are not above the law.
    Nora

  2. Scout, I didn’t much like the pardon either, but the country was exhausted, and I don’t know that a Nixon trial would have been a good thing. What’s not good is that Nixon, to a large extent, was able to rehabilitate himself into an elder statesman.

  3. I too was outraged when Ford pardoned Nixon and it took many, many years for me to come to a rationalized conclusion that a pardon for domestic burglary could be accepted but if anyone ever came after Nixon for war crimes or domestic espionage, I would be the first to hand the SOB over.
    The saddest part about the former presidents passing is that it really sets off how the current occupant of the White House has succeeded in making us forget what an awful person Nixon was. And that is sad on orders of magnitude beyond my ability to describe.

  4. Scout, perhaps the sentiment of the little note which I had on my PC for years will help you in these trying times:
    “Every time a bell rings, Richard Nixon gets stuck in the ass with a pitchfork”

  5. Scout and Nora are right. Without a Nixon pardon, we would not now have VP Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their henchmen, for whom the Nixon administration was a dress rehearsal for the “unitary presidency”–a theory of unlimited executive power that Nixon believed, tried to practice, and got caught at. Because Nixon was neither impeached (the articles were drawn up) nor tried, these constitutional usurpers lived to try again another day. In the feckless Bush, and excuses for war, they found the perfect set of circumstances that we are all experiencing. We will be years, if not generations, rooting out the nefarious consequences of this constitutional subversion–all because Ford pardoned Nixon, and Nixon’s men got away with their dress rehearsal consequence-free. In direct line, Ford through Nixon gave us Bush. It doesn’t matter that Gerry was a nice guy, and civil. How well did that serve us?
    Charles

  6. if the pardon in hindsight is looked on as a GOOD THING, HOW CAN THE YEAR AFTER YEAR HOUNDING AND IMPEACHMENT OF CLINTON NOT BE LOOKED UPON AS THE WORST?
    fuck IOKIYAR.

  7. A bizarre detail about the pardon emerged this a.m. when NPR rebroadcast Ford announcing it: he clearly said the pardon was to cover stuff Nixon did or may have done from “July 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974.” From the Moon Landing on to Nixon’s last day as president. WTF?
    It took awhile to sink in that it was probably ol’ Jer havin’ a senior moment — the first of many during his hour in the spotlight. (He must’ve meant to say January 20 … I vaguely remember a friend who worked in the W.H. confirming that the pardon fully covered Nixon’s entire presidency.)
    –mark1147

Comments are closed.