Gerald R. Ford ascended to the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974 and declared that “our long national nightmare is over.”
That was then. The Watergate scandal consumed the presidency of Richard Nixon. He was facing certain impeachment by the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate. So, he resigned.
President Ford’s declaration comes to mind now as we lapse into another nightmarish stupor. Donald Trump is facing nearly certain impeachment by the House. The acknowledged circumstance appears to make the Watergate burglary and the cover up seem tame by comparison. Trump has admitted to soliciting foreign government help in securing his re-election. Today, he astonished the world by saying China and Ukraine both should investigate business dealings done by former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential opponent of Trump in the 2020 election.
I fear the nightmare this time will not end as cleanly as it did in 1974 when President Nixon resigned.
The House has enough evidence to impeach Donald Trump. The Senate, though, isn’t showing a hint of the courage demonstrated during the Watergate matter. Republican senators are standing behind Trump, who clearly has violated his oath of office by placing his personal political interests ahead of the country’s national interest.
How this crisis ends is anyone’s guess. Trump could follow the Nixon model and resign; he won’t. The president could be impeached and then be acquitted by the Senate; then he’ll run for re-election crowing about being found not guilty of what he has acknowledged doing.
He could be impeached and then convicted; but how might he depart the White House? I have zero faith that he would leave with any sense of shame or humility.
We’re entering another long national nightmarish scenario that doesn’t appear headed toward any sort of clean ending.
It’s not all grim, however.
President Ford also reminded us that “our Constitution works.” It most certainly did in 1974. I am clinging tightly to my belief that it will work yet again this time around.