A quick post before the weekend. Right now, there's a national fawning for Gerald Ford, with lots of talk about how his pardon of Nixon was the right decision to solidify the country. As one of my friends put it:
"An in depth and public investigation about all the bad things that Nixon did would have torn the political fabric of this country up to an alarming degree. Ford made the right choice."
Of course, healing the national fabric wasn't exactly why Ford made that choice. And I believe the Soviet ambassador at the time said (privately) that only the U.S. had a strong enough system to take such a hit to the government's credibility and survive.
I personally think the U.S. could have done with even more soul-searching, and it would have done much more for anti-corruption efforts and bipartisanship at this current stage. In essence, Ford was wrong. What is more damaging to the political fabric of the country is seeing a crook get away it, of having someone be above the law because their political connections.
Ford reinforced this message by signaling that, even if you commit a crime, you can still get away with it if you have the right friends. Genuine national healing would have been prosecuting Nixon. Healing would have been publicly airing grievances, and seeing punishment and just done. What Ford did is not national healing: it was a breakdown of the rule of law.
What the U.S. public needed to do, and what it still needs to do, is to take responsibility for keeping their leaders accountable. The passive "all politicians are like that" attitude is precisely what corrupt politicians rely upon to make their illicit funds or perform their unethical actions. When Nixon resigned, there was public protest and outcry over his actions. The public will was there. The will of the President was weak. This is a great contrast to the sycophancy on display now in Washington (but maybe not elsewhere).
But, I do get an extra day off because of the national day of mourning, so this isn't a complete wash.