Tags: Greene | Ford | Nixon | pardon

Scholar Recalls Nixon Pardon

By    |   Friday, 26 September 2014 07:42 AM

In connection with the 40th anniversary of the pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford, John Richard Greene, history professor at Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, N.Y., and author of The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, spoke at the Kansas City Public Library (KCPL) in Missouri to talk about issues raised by the pardon, such as why Ford pardoned Nixon and whether there was a deal between Nixon and Ford as part of the terms of the resignation.

Parenthetically, one of the two notable alumni of Cazenovia College was Leland Stanford, lawyer, railroad baron and founder of Stanford University.

The event was co-sponsored by the library and the Truman Library Institute and was broadcast as part of C-SPAN's series on the Presidency on American History TV. It was followed by Ford's 10-minute explanation of the pardon in an address to the nation.

Greene was introduced by Henry Fortunato, public affairs director of the KCPL, who noted that Ford remains the only unelected president. Also, it was in Kansas City that Ford won the 1976 Republican nomination after a hard-fought primary campaign.

This writer has vivid recollections of the disenchantment with Nixon that many conservatives developed after his opening to China and imposition of wage and price controls, and an anti-Nixon speech this writer gave to Wisconsin Young America's Foundation in 1971 was in concert with the sentiment of the group. When Spiro Agnew was forced to resign as vice president in 1973 over a corruption conviction, Republicans in Congress were polled as to who they would back to succeed him, and as one they supported their minority leader, perhaps because they liked Ford, but also because his appointment enabled each of them to move up a slot on the benighted ladder.

One also recalls the silly WIN buttons (for those who didn't endure this period, they stood for "Whip Inflation Now"), and Ford's partnership with Jimmy Carter as an anti-Reagan consulting team after Ford's abortive effort to join the Reagan ticket in 1980 as "co-president," a role played instead by George H.W. Bush. For this writer, Ford represented another in a long line of ineffectual Republican leaders, and when Ford famously stated, "Our long national nightmare is over," for this writer a new chapter had begun.

Greene's lecture included an excellent brief rundown of the other events of the Ford administration, most accompanied by press ridicule — a struggling economy; telling New York to "drop dead," a sentiment this writer shared at the time given the quality of leadership then; and the lingering war in Vietnam. Surprisingly, the author made the same point as this writer as to the "long national nightmare," that it was not over.

As for whether there was a deal, Greene provided a very thorough reconstruction of the meetings that took place from the days leading up to Nixon's registration to the pardon. It appears that Nixon was about to be indicted for obstruction of justice by Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, a friend of George H.W. Bush from Houston, so Nixon was going to have to resign. Strangely, Greene did not cover the mission of several Republican senators to tell this to Nixon.

According to Greene, the idea of a pardon was introduced as an "option" by White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig. During the month after Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, Ford was subjected to pressure from holdover Nixon staff, especially Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and there were reports that Nixon's health was failing.

When Ford held a press conference at the end of August, 28 of the 32 questions were about a pardon. Thus the deal, including complex terms to induce Nixon to accept the pardon, took shape during that month.

In conclusion, Greene reported that when he asked Ford what he wanted to be remembered for, Ford replied, "Healing the nation." Evidently he didn't think of his public sniping, bordering on feuding, with President Reagan in terms of its implications for that legacy.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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In connection with the 40th anniversary of the pardon of Richard Nixon, John Richard Greene, history professor at Cazenovia College in New York, and author of The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, spoke at the Kansas City Public Library in Missouri to talk about issues raised by the pardon.
Greene, Ford, Nixon, pardon
Friday, 26 September 2014 07:42 AM
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