The liberal media hard at work

Guest blogging over at Washington Monthly, Steve Benen (regularly of my other favorite blog, the carpetbaggerrport) has a very interesting post about a Military Times poll that finds that a majority of active duty military personnel think it was wrong to go into Iraq and overwhelmingly disapprove of Bush's handling of the war.  Yet, from your “liberal media” hardly a peep.  Certainly seems plenty newsworthy to me. 

Re-writing history

Well, after a nice long blogvation I'm back and ready to start filling the cyber world with my irresistible nuggets of wisdom and commentary again.  Let's start with Gerald Ford.  It does not seem right to criticize a man on the day of his state funeral, and I'm not going to.  Rather, I'll criticize those who would re-write history to make Gerry Ford the modern day saint of bipartisanship and all that is right and good with politics.  By all accounts, Ford was a good and decent human being and did a decent enough job as president, pardon of Nixon aside.  But all these endless accounts of what a great act of statesmanship the pardon was are really too much. 

Among various comments on the matter I've read/heard in recent days, one that really struck me was the suggestion that it could have actually been worse for Ford had he not pardoned Nixon.  Ongoing hearings and possible criminal trial could have created a tremendous drag on his presidency.  The conventional wisdom (something of which one should always be suspect), says that pardoning Nixon cost Ford reelection in 1976.  But what if , the ongoing saga of an unpardoned Nixon might have likewise created political trouble for Ford.  Maybe he was damned if he did, damned if he didn't.  I also heard on the news this morning that they just released statements by Ford which basically said he pardoned Nixon because he was his personal friend. 

Slate's Tim Noah has the best critique of all this I've read.  Ford is getting all this credit for avoiding the presumed national trauma of a criminal trial for Nixon, yet evidence from that actual time period strongly suggests there was not going to be a criminal prosecution.  Noah's highlights:

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.

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. 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.”

So, give Ford credit where it is due, but do not be too easily convinced that Ford's pardon of Nixon was a great self-sacrificial act of statesmanship. 

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