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Tags: Donald Trump | Presidential History | garfield | ford | nixon | presidential

Let Pence Be To Trump As Ford Was To Nixon

us vice president mike pence speaking in scottsdale arizona

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a Southwest Hispanic Leaders roundtable in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Thurs. Oct. 3, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)

By Tuesday, 08 October 2019 04:12 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Recent impeachment talk has returned attention to Watergate and Richard M. Nixon's resignation. This history suggests how we could escape the present mess.

When Nixon resigned, Vice President Gerald R. Ford became president.

Before Nixon could be tried for alleged illegal actions, Ford pardoned him.

Ford explained, plausibly, that prosecuting Nixon would distract national attention and that pardoning him allowed everyone to get back to business. Critics claimed Ford carried out a corrupt deal he had made in order to become president, and the pardon may have cost Ford the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

The same scenario might be a great idea today.

But this time the deal should be explicit. Donald Trump would resign, and Mike Pence would become president, after Pence publicly promised to pardon Trump for crimes he might have committed. We could once again get back to dealing with problems and opportunities without distraction by the spectacle of Mr. Trump in court.

This might not be just, but we cannot always afford justice.

A promised pardon could make resigning attractive, especially given the danger that Trump might be tried for treason. As Trump himself recently indicated, accusing the whistle blower of treason, the death penalty can be the punishment.

Concluding his life in prosperous comfort, freed from legal harassment, could look much better than risking a life sentence.

Unlike Mr. Trump, who wanted to imprison Hillary Clinton, most Americans don't like the idea of jailing former leaders anyway.

Many might object to Pence because of his association with Mr. Trump.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who lie down with dogs get up with fleas."

But Pence should enter the presidency with a clean bill of political health. As columnist Michelle Goldberg noted recently "Joe Biden wasn't free-lancing in Ukraine, he was carrying out White House policy."

The same presumption should be extended to Mike Pence.

Pence has played the normal vice presidential role.

He has advised the president and the president has not always followed that advice, but Pence has not complained and always supported the president's decision.

He's also tried to broker deals in Congress, showing a willingness to work with Democrats, but often undermined by a fickle president.

Hopefully, Pence would continue Mr. Trump's better policies, like trying to patch things up with North Korea, minimizing military interventions, and reducing unnecessary regulatory red tape.

He could further the latter goal by supporting a carbon tax with dividend, allowing repeal of arbitrary attempts to dictate future energy sources and letting innovation and the market sort things out.

Congress would see to it that Pence's stranger policy ideas go nowhere.

As president, Pence's legitimacy would be clear.

He and Trump were duly elected. Even if Russian disinformation determined the election, this would not render the outcome illegitimate. If an election's results could be reversed because of the reasons people voted a certain way, it would be impossible for elections to pick national leaders.

Racism is bad, but the fact that some people voted for Barack Obama because he was black and other voted against him for the same reason did not undermine the outcome of the voting. The same logic applies to the election of Trump and Pence.

With Pence in the White House, the Republican party should re-open presidential primaries where they have canceled them and let Mr. Pence and others contend.

I would hope that John Kasich, a thoughtful, intelligent, and experienced conservative, would enter the race  — and win it.

Pence critics might continue to harp on the fact that he agreed to run with Mr. Trump, but we don't know his motivations for doing this.

Perhaps he hoped to help restrain Mr. Trump from pushing some of his crazier ideas.

Perhaps he saw it as his best chance to move towards being president himself.

As a student at Hanover College, he may already have had presidential ambitions.

He allegedly told friends that God told him he would become president some day.

(Some enthusiasts believe that God put Trump in the White House, and I cannot disprove this. One Internet meme, however, suggests it was because there was a shortage of locusts.)

But let's not get into political theology, always a dangerous practice.

There would be practical benefits all around, for Donald Trump, for the Republican party, and for the country. Democrats, too, would benefit. They could choose their presidential nominee without having to make the ability to beat Trump outweigh all other considerations.

When James A. Garfield was assassinated, his vice president, Chester A. Arthur, succeeded him. Arthur had a dubious past, but turned out to be a decent president and presided over badly needed civil service reform. He wildly exceeded expectations.

Mike Pence could well be another pleasant surprise.

He might turn out to be a good president.

He would certainly be better.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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When James A. Garfield was assassinated, his vice president, Chester A. Arthur, succeeded him. Arthur had a dubious past, but turned out to be a decent president and presided over badly needed civil service reform. He wildly exceeded expectations.
garfield, ford, nixon, presidential
Tuesday, 08 October 2019 04:12 PM
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