While the nation’s mainstream media is busy publishing gushing tributes to recently deceased former President Gerald Ford, it’s important to point out that his legacy leaves nothing to be proud of. He pardoned of one of the nation’s worst criminals, his predecessor and former boss Richard Nixon.
Nixon is of course best known for his coverup of the 1972 Republican break-in of Democratic National headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. But his criminal career included much worse deeds, such as the bombing of Cambodia, which led to the ascent of the Khmer Rouge regime that slaughtered millions. Nixon also authorized the CIA to remove democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, whose Socialist administration was nationalizing the country’s resources, such as copper mines owned by U.S. companies. Allende’s assassination in 1973 led to the deaths of millions of Chileans under the regime of his right-wing military successor Augusto Pinochet.
It wasn’t his responsibility for millions of deaths throughout the world that led to Nixon’s demise. It was his involvement with Watergate. Faced with a vote of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee, Nixon had no choice but to resign in early August, 1974. His Vice President, Gerald Ford, then assumed office. Ford gained distinction immediately as an unelected president and vice-president. A year earlier, Ford had been appointed by Nixon to replace the resigning Spiro Agnew after Agnew was brought down by corruption charges.
A month after assuming office, Gerald Ford gave Nixon a full presidential pardon. Nixon was cleared of any wrongdoing while in office.
Though initially criticized for that action, Ford was later praised for supposedly bringing the country together and healing old wounds. He may have lost his presidential bid in 1975 to Democrat Jimmy Carter, in part because he forgave Nixon his sins, but that act is now considered part of his proud presidential legacy. In 2001, Ford was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award for his pardon of Nixon.
Gerald Ford deserves no praise. Pardoning Nixon was not a noble deed. It was politically motivated. It was no doubt a favor to an old friend, not to mention a gesture of loyalty to his party. It didn’t unify or heal the country, it further alienated a generation, my generation, that saw through the hypocrisy of a nation that said it stood for peace yet slaughtered millions in Vietnam. A nation that claimed equality and justice for all even as segregation reigned in the south and blacks, women, queers and others faced daily discrimination and inequality.
Ford’s pardon sent a message to the nation and the world that in America presidents are above the law. Unfortunately, it’s a legacy we’re still living with.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, working-class, queer performer, writer and activist whose work can be seen at www.avicollimecca.com and myspace.com/peacenikssf.Filed under: Archive