Historian: Americans Still Paying for Gerald Ford’s Pardon of Nixon

Michael Beschloss, a historian who has written 10 books on American history, recently tweeted recently that President Gerald Ford’s pardon of disgraced former President Richard Nixon still has negative implications for our society today.

Beschloss began his thread, posted on September 8, with, “Today in 1974, Gerald Ford unconditionally pardoned ex-President Nixon before Nixon was even indicted. Although well-intentioned, this encouraged later Presidents (one in particular) to believe they are above the law.”

The mention of “(one in particular)” led many commenters to assume Beschloss meant Trump. Greg Wilson tweeting under the handle @joke2power replied, “Ford pardoning Nixon gave conservative Republicans a sense of immunity to any POTUS doing wrong. Nixon should’ve served time. [Democrats] took impeachment off the table in IranContra, then Cheney/Addington created Unitary Exec[utive] theory in Minority Report. [George] W [Bush] goes to war in Iraq applying Unitary Exec.”

Someone with the handle @SuzaHierl tweeted, “Yes! Presidents need to be held accountable exactly the same as anyone else! Any elected officials need to be held at least the same level if not higher!”

Beschloss ended his thread with, “Thus with historical hindsight, Ford made a bad decision. Because Ford pardoned Nixon, we saw the disgusting spectacle of an ex-President gloating to David Frost (falsely) in 1977, ‘When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.’ Americans have been paying for Ford’s act ever since — especially now.”

Gerald Ford, the only President from Michigan, clearly made a decision in the moment and didn’t care to foresee a future President like Donald Trump who would use the precedent set to attack American democracy and the peaceful transfer of power that has been the hallmark of American life for over two centuries.

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