Why pardoning Nixon was wrong.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Dec. 29 2006 6:48 PM

Why Pardoning Nixon Was Wrong

Ignore the cost-free magnanimity of Ford's rehabilitators. You had it right the first time.

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I don't mean to overstate my opposition to Nixon's pardon. I didn't think it was a world-shattering calamity then, and I don't think it was a world-shattering calamity now. But it did not serve the interests of justice, it had an unfortunate consequence in the Weinberger pardon, and it carried a mild whiff of corruption. Ford placed great stock in the fact that, according to a 1915 Supreme Court decision in Burdick v. United States, acceptance of a pardon constitutes an admission of guilt. But in May 1977, Nixon the ex-president would tell David Frost, "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Which do you remember—that quotation, or Burdick v. United States, a copy of which Ford would carry around with him for the rest of his life? Pardoning Nixon was wrong, and the death of the very nice man who did it does not change that.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.