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The 38th President: More Than Met the Eye
|Last Edited||ArmyDem Jan 06, 2007 01:26pm|
|News Date||Monday, January 8, 2007 07:25:00 PM UTC0:0|
|Description||By Evan Thomas |
Jan. 8, 2007 issue - On the morning of Sunday, Sept. 8, 1974, after he had been president for about a month, Gerald Ford took communion at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. He prayed alone in the presidential pew. On the way out the church door, he sloughed off reporters who were badgering him about his plans for the day—"You'll find out soon enough," he said. Back in the Oval Office, he telephoned Sen. Barry Goldwater, the fabled conservative, to tell him he was pardoning Richard Nixon for whatever crimes the disgraced president might have committed in office. Goldwater, whose voice had been critical in forcing Nixon's resignation, was dumbfounded. "It doesn't make any sense," he protested. Ford answered, "The public has the right to know that, in the eyes of the president, Nixon is clear." Goldwater responded: "He may be clear in your eyes, but he's not clear in mine."
Next, Ford called his old congressional adversary, the then House Majority Leader Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill, and told him that he intended to pardon Nixon. "I'm telling you right now," O'Neill said, "this will cost you the election. I hope it's not part of any deal."
"No," Ford replied calmly, "there's no deal."
"Then why the hell are you doing it?" O'Neill asked.
Yet, more than three decades later, Ford's decision has been largely vindicated. The conventional wisdom has shifted: pardoning Nixon was the farsighted thing to do. It spared the nation an ordeal of recrimination and allowed the healing to begin.
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