Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Javert, Maybe

I'm a little wary of being on the same page as Christopher Hitchens, but he, too, seems sick of all Ford-related "healing" blather:
You may choose, if you wish, to parrot the line that Watergate was a "long national nightmare," but some of us found it rather exhilarating to see a criminal president successfully investigated and exposed and discredited. And we do not think it in the least bit nightmarish that the Constitution says that such a man is not above the law. Ford's ignominious pardon of this felonious thug meant, first, that only the lesser fry had to go to jail. It meant, second, that we still do not even know why the burglars were originally sent into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In this respect, the famous pardon is not unlike the Warren Commission: another establishment exercise in damage control and pseudo-reassurance (of which Ford was also a member) that actually raised more questions than it answered. The fact is that serious trials and fearless investigations often are the cause of great division, and rightly so. But by the standards of "healing" celebrated this week, one could argue that O.J. Simpson should have been spared indictment lest the vexing questions of race be unleashed to trouble us again, or that the Tower Commission did us all a favor by trying to bury the implications of the Iran-Contra scandal. Fine, if you don't mind living in a banana republic.
Ouch! Hitchens also excoriates the Ford hagiography for downplaying some other inconvenient facts, not least being his support of Indonesia's genocidal 1975 invasion of East Timor. Alas that Hitchens is not as clear-headed when it comes to the Iraq war, but what the hell. Timothy Noah also has some spot-on reflections on the pardon, and I must say that his opening sentence is a humdinger:
In the days since Gerald Ford's death, so much praise has been heaped on the late president's blanket pardon to his predecessor, Richard Nixon, that you'd think Tricky Dick was Jean Valjean. These magnanimous pronouncements are a preening exercise in cost-free generosity three decades after the fact. They reflect little or no consideration of the merits of the pardon itself.

No new information has emerged during the past 32 years that makes Ford's pardon to Nixon look any more justifiable; indeed, what facts have dribbled forth make it seem less so...Nor can the pardon plausibly be considered an example of the bipartisan spirit for which Ford is justly, if too extravagantly, praised by Washington insiders. The pardon may have had the long-term effect of tamping down partisan warfare between Democrats and Republicans over a possible criminal trial (obstruction of justice would have been the likeliest charge), but when a Republican short-circuits prosecution of a fellow Republican, you can't call that bipartisanship. These logical obstacles help explain why people who defend the pardon today do so with vague language about how, in retrospect, it was better for the country to set rancor aside and move on.

Go ahead: just try to imagine a version of Les Miserables starring Richard Nixon as Jean Valjean. I dare you.

I was no fan of Bill Clinton, but goddamn where were all the healing cheerleaders when this country when through pure bloody hell for a blow job and Whitewater, one being entirely a personal matter, and the other having been found without merit as a prosecution (millions of dollars later)? Where were these motherfuckers? Piling on, if I recall correctly. Quite indecently, I might add.
1. I think "healing" (as slippery a concept when applied to an entire nation as "unity") could just as easily have come from a thorough investigation and a fair trial for all (preferably followed by tar and feathers, burning splints under the fingernails, and a jail sentence).

2. As Jules points out, the one time we could have moved on without sacrificing justice, the whole business of the country ground to a halt while we picked over the details of cigars, cigar-shaped body parts, and spots on blue dresses.

3. Ford has now more or less confessed to Bob Woodward that he pardoned Nixon primarily because they were friends and he wanted to spare his buddy, not because he gave a rat's ass about justice, or "healing", or anything else having to do with the common good.

All of which only serves to really make the blatherers look ridiculous.
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