Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Gerald Ford Dilemma

Gerard N. Magliocca

In a way, what we will see unfold in the coming months is comparable to the considerations that led President Ford to pardon Richard Nixon. Whatever you think of that decision, Ford's rationale was, in part, that putting an ex-President in the dock would be a huge distraction and would only deepen divisions in the country. Of course, Ford was talking about a criminal trial and not an impeachment trial. Nobody in 1974 thought that Nixon was still a viable candidate for office, hence there was no serious discussion of impeaching him after he resigned. Still, an impeachment trial raises similar concerns about with respect to creating a distraction or exacerbating national divisions.

People who think Ford made a mistake often say that vindicating the rule of law outweighed any costs of a  trial for an ex-President. Or that a trial of Nixon would not have split the country in the way that Ford said. We're going to learn a lot about these arguments in 2021. 

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