Today’s Washington Post contains a reflective article by Woodward and Bernstein on issues around the Watergate breakin. On Meet The Press this morning, discussing that story, the authors commented that President Ford‘s decision to pardon Nixon was made in the best interests of the country, so we could “move on.”
I totally disagree.
I’ve always believed that the country would have been well-served, even if it would have been somewhat disruptive, to prosecute Nixon, like the 40 others were were convicted and served time over Watergate. Why? Because if everyday American‘s views of our Presidency had been further compromised by such a trial, we might have instilled a greater sense of humility in those subsequently elected or appointed to high office, hopefully including Congress. Substituting accountability for a “too big to fail” mentality when it comes to our nation’s political leadership would have provided a good object lesson on the value of honesty and the price of deceit for all those who came after.
President Johnson made a similar error when he failed to expose Nixon and Kissinger’s cynical overtures to the Thieu regime in South Vietnam before the election of ’68. Johnson learned that Nixon’s people had encouraged Thieu to back out of the Paris peace talks, which he did, promising that his government would get a better deal under a Nixon Presidency than a Johnson one. The result was that the war in Vietnam went on for another 5 years, with 22,000 more American fatalities. Johnson’s tapes revealed that he learned of the Nixon moves, but didn’t go public with what he called “traitorous acts” because Johnson was too concerned the revelation of these political machinations would have been disruptive to the American people. It might have been, and we might have saved many of the 22,000 American deaths that occurred because of Nixon’s election maneuverings.
Look at the economic disaster that the perverted governmental “too big to fail” economic strategies regarding Wall Street have created. I believe that people can stand to benefit from more truth, transparency and accountability in government, and that the sense of humility those attributes would inculcate in our leadership is worth whatever temporary disruptions our society might incur.
It is high time to bring the era of Big Lies to an end.