Nixon quit, saved the country

Why not put a positive spin on what at the time seemed to many Americans like a dark moment in U.S. history?

Forty years today, President Richard Nixon announced his resignation from office.

How is that a positive development? He saved the country from certain impeachment.

Still, I saw a poll the other day that suggests that more than half of Americans today see the Watergate scandal as just an example of politics as usual.

Those of us who remember that time recall something quite different. President Nixon committed egregious crimes against the Constitution, such as when he ordered federal spooks to cease and desist in their probe of that June 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate building.

He lied to the country. He sought to cover up an event described early on as a “third-rate burglary.” Nixon sought to bring the power of his office to bear while hiding what happened.

If that isn’t abuse of power, then the term has no meaning at all.

I was a newly married college student when the crap hit the fan in 1973-74. I didn’t want the country to go forward with impeachment. Americans knew the stakes. But when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment, it became clear to the president he was toast.

He quit his office. In the process the 37th president well might have helped rescue the nation from untold grief.

Time passes. Attitudes have changed, I suppose. The poll I saw, however, must not mean Americans have relegated a serious constitutional crisis to what they now see as just another game of political hardball.

It was a whole lot worse than that.

2 thoughts on “Nixon quit, saved the country”

  1. I watched a PBS program last night. Gerald Ford, in the segment that I caught, was explaining to Dick Cavett his reasons for the pardon. I’ll have to admit that, during this time forty years ago, I was disconnected from the fray. I was stationed in the Navy on Adak in the Aleutian Islands. We had one and only one media outlet and that was the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. So, you can imagine, I was not exposed to Watergate and the impeachment proceedings at the level that rest of the country was. It was a great distraction for our nation. Gerald Ford just wanted to put this behind us and get down to the business at hand. I feel that, in retrospect, his decision was brave and honorable. He spared the country years more of this during a time in history that more pressing problems faced us. I no longer can condemn his pardon of Nixon and, to be honest, I vociferously did in 1974. Ford did the right thing.

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