Thursday, December 28, 2006

Republicans: The anti-pizza

(Cross-posted at Ezra's.)

I have no idea who first joked about sex being like pizza, but the passing of Gerald Ford shows us that Republican Presidents, even when they're not insanely awful, are still pretty horrible. Let me echo Greg Saunders' sentiments wholeheartedly:

Ford's presidency began by pardoning a criminal scumbag. It wasn't "closure", it was driving the getaway car.

When he took office, Ford famously said that America was "a government of laws, not of men." Less than a full month later he used the executive privilege of pardon to prevent America's justice system from investigating and prosecuting a criminal. Ford always maintained he wanted to help heal America, but it makes a mockery of the concept of the rule of law if our governments are so fragile that a leader cannot be held accountable for his crimes. It's similarly laughable to claim that impeachment alone - without any further penalty - is enough to punish rogue leaders.

Nixon's "punishment" for his abuse of power was about as severe as Augusto Pinochet's - he was allowed to leave office and live out a long life in affluence and influence, and died peacefully of old age. Surely America should have a higher standard than that.

I think Ford was sincere in his belief that such a trial would be traumatic for America - I just think he was wrong. Even if the trial was traumatic, it would also have been cathartic for America, and would have been a shining example for the rest of the world - a brilliant demonstration that in America, no man is above the law.

Instead, Nixon never paid for his crimes, and refused to even admit their extent.

I'm open to arguments that Ford's 800-odd days in the White House are underrated. Certainly, the worst parts of his Presidency were not really matters of his own making - from Watergate to Vietnam to the economic quagmire of the mid-70s, Ford faced serious problems beyond his control. And he does genuinely seem to have been an honest caretaker. But Nixon's pardon was a huge mistake, and a blot on Ford's record.

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