About that National Nightmare...
At Daily Gotham
, Dan points out the problem with all the fluffy rhetoric about how Gerald Ford "united America" in the aftermath of the Nixon fiasco:
The pardon, however, was a case of the cure being worse than the disease. The feeling that grew out of the pardon was that people in power can get away with anything. Certainly Ronald Reagan got away with trading arms for hostages and illegally financing the contra war in Nicaragua. He broke the law and lied to Congress and America about it, and got away with it.
Would Reagan have gotten away with his crimes if Richard Nixon had paid for his crimes? Almost certainly not.
Dan goes on to argue that, with Reagan escaping punishment, the GOP made the judgment that Americans still had energy for one more impeachment - and thus went after Clinton as revenge for Iran-Contra. In turn, the Lewinsky farce ruined the public's (or, more to the point, the media's) appetite for yet another impeachment, even now, when it might be a very good idea.
I'm not sure whether I entirely agree with the chain of causality here: I suspect that one result of the post-Watergate "exhaustion" was that the American media were perversely reluctant to support impeachment in situations attached to great historical gravity (Iran/the Cold War, or Iraq/9/11) but willing enough to go along when the context was completely frivolous. Being as modern Republicans are more likely to commit grave crimes while focusing attention on trivial political discourse - the inverse of the Democratic pattern - this tends to benefit the GOP.
Still, Dan's entirely right about how Ford's pardon set a precedent whereby the forces of the conservative movement - already contemptuous of the theoretical limits set on their power by the Constitution - would feel much freer to act with impunity. We're still suffering the consequences of Ford's failure to uphold accountability in the American system.(Paul)
Labels: Daily Gotham, Gerald Ford, impeachment, Watergate