Our slippery slope
Putting the past behind us, moving forward. That has always been the way, ever since that Sunday morning in 1974 when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, an act that most of the punditocracy has since hailed as one that healed the nation (although, frankly, during the malaise of the Ford and Carter years it was hard to tell). But did letting Richard Nixon remain a free man truly save the republic, or did the pardon embolden the Reagan administration to defy Congress and carry out the Iran-Contra scheme, knowing that America didn’t want a rehash of Watergate. And did the lack of impeachment and the subsequent pardon of key Iran-Contra figures like Casper Weinberger and Elliot Abrams (recycled in the Bush administration!) encouraging bolder moves, including fishy pardons by Bill Clinton that weren’t investigated by the Bush Justice Department, with the ensuing lack of outcry convincing the president there was zero downside to commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby, and now today we have President-elect Obama determined to pull a Gerald Ford, even when the alleged crime is as abhorrent as torture.
So where does it all stop? The slippery slope that Ford started 34 years ago didn’t so much heal the nation as start a long chain of escalating presidential power, misconduct, and in some cases lawbreaking. The main reason that a Mark Cuban faces civil penalties for his alleged unlawful act to deter others from doing the same thing. But can deter a future president – whether it is President Obama or the leaders who come after him – from breaking the law?