Bob Woodward has, evidently, decided to keep them coming… yesterday of course, we learned that Ford didn’t like the Iraq war thing so much… today Woodward tells us of Ford’s lengthy and secret friendship with Nixon. Not that this is a surprise; the two were moderate Republicans, Ford in a leadership position in the House. Nixon a House and Senate member and later Vice-President and President… they certainly knew each other, and could certainly have been friends. Ford struck everyone as a most affable fellow…
But, of course, beyond affable, Ford struck everyone (me included) as a decent fellow, who tried, even if by no means perfectly, to “do the right thing”. Hence,
this sort of thing is… a tad disconcerting:
“I looked upon him as my personal friend. And I always treasured our relationship. And I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon, because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn’t want to see my real friend have the stigma,” Ford said in the interview.
That acknowledgment represents a significant shift from Ford’s previous portrayals of the pardon that absolved Nixon of any Watergate-related crimes. In earlier statements, Ford had emphasized the decision as an effort to move the country beyond the partisan divisions of the Watergate era, playing down the personal dimension.
This certainly doesn’t rise to the sinister level of “a deal”, i.e. Nixon selected Ford as vice-president in exchange for a later pardon. It doesn’t even mean that Ford didn’t believe that it would be a “healing” gesture for the nation. But then, it’s arguably just as bad as the most cynical “deal” scenario: Nixon picked the one guy who he knew would value their personal friendship above respect for the rule of law.
To be sure, for what Ford did as President, i.e., a caretaker function, he handled the task adequately, if not admirably. And it’s not to say, btw, that from a realpolitik standpoint (Ford, apparently, had to perennially stroke Kissinger to keep him around– it was still the Cold War, and it was believed Henry the K. was necessary…), getting Nixon out of the way as a day to day distraction had value, even if it would cost Ford possible election to a full term in 1976. This nonetheless speaks volumes.
It also makes us have to seriously wonder what the hell was up with his selection of his two White House chiefs of staff, with whom he is pictured below (the one on the left, of course, is Rumsfeld; the one on the right is now our Vice-President, btw…) Perhaps next week Woodward will tell us about how the three of them used to… oh never mind.