Digby on Republican Lawlessness
Our man Digby over at Hullabaloo is always good, but this post is one of his best--a reasoned but impassioned plea for Americans to recognize the full implications of the lawlessness of the Bush administration and the long-term threat it poses to our constitution.
He finishes the post this way:
Back in 1974, I was in favor of pardoning Richard Nixon. I thought that it was wise to "bind up the country's wounds." I was wrong. The Republicans barely missed a beat and just went right on with the program. Whether George W. Bush can be charged with a crime, I don't know. But I have no doubt that it would be good for the country, not bad, if the Republicans were held to account for their undemocratic actions once and for all. They're impeaching, stealing eleactions and starting unnecessary wars now. What is it going to take before people realize that we are dealing with an outlaw political party?
How well I remember being infuriated over that pardon of Nixon. (Ford had previously promised never to do such a thing, saying, "I don't think the country would stand for it.") It wasn't important that Nixon should be personally punished. If he had been indicted for his crimes (obstruction of justice, invasion of privacy, mail fraud, breaking and entering, money laundering, and what-have-you) and convicted by a jury of his peers based on evidence entered in open court, I would not have objected if Ford had then chosen to pardon him, obviating a jail sentence.
But the process would have been healthy. It would have reaffirmed the truth that no person is above the law. It would have upheld not just the letter but the spirit of the constitution (which specifically states that an officer holder who is impeached shall not be exempt from sanctions under the criminal and civil law (Article I, Section 3):
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Most important, it would have made it much harder for the Republicans to respond as they did--by mounting a decades-long whispering campaign that claimed the Democrats and the media destroyed Nixon for purely political reasons. This campaign helped foster a generation of Republican activists bitterly convinced that power had been stolen from them by traitorous liberals and prepared to do whatever it took to return the favor--and to fix the system so that power will remain in their hands permanently. Which they're now in the process of doing.
It's impossible to know how history might have been different if Ford had never pardoned Nixon. Maybe it wouldn't have made much difference. But I think there's a real chance that politics today might be much healthier if we'd dealt with the crimes of the Nixon administration publicly and legally, demanding full and open accountability for them.
Which is why the consensus image of Gerald Ford as an amiable, decent, and ultimately insignificant figure is seriously askew. The Nixon pardon was a major blunder for which, I believe, the nation is still suffering.
Tags: Digby, Bush, Nixon, Ford, impeachment