Free Press editorial off 11 Sep 74
Is IFe See It Blanket Pardon for Nixon Raises Problem o f Equity A GREAT difficulty with President Ford's pardon of former President Nixon is that the country runs some risk, in trying trying to restore equity, of trying to undo one wrong with another. With the granting of amnesty in one such case, can the prosecution of other, lesser officials go forward? Having granted unconditional amnesty to Mr. Nixon, can Mr. Ford hold to his position that Vietnam draft dodgers and deserters must earn their way back into society? Does Congress Congress grant former President Nixon all the emoluments he requested? Is there some way to complete the record on Mr. Nixon despite the pardon, so that at least there can be no weaseling on why he left office? President Ford's grant of pardon is a fact, it is final and, so far as federal crimes are concerned, it is complete. There may be loopholes for state prosecution, but the possible state issues are mostly peripheral. Besides, state prosecution would have the appearance of harassment tactics. We certainly certainly are not interested in that, and we doubt that many people are. So it remains for the country to try to bring an end to this affair, a9 best it can, without compounding the prematura pardon pardon with bad tactics or unseemly gestures. In such context, a number of issues need to be weighed. Prosecution of others. The idea that the lesser men should not be prosecuted now is not necessarily valid. Mr. Nixon's aides were adult citizens, and they were responsible responsible for their acts. Indeed, the best evidence evidence is that they set in motion the events that eventually pulled Mr. Nixon down and, while he became directly involved in the cover-up, cover-up, cover-up, his aide3 often acted on their own. We do not see how they can be let off the hook completely. At some point it may become reasonable or even desirable to commute some sentences. sentences. It is particularly galling to see John Dean, the president's former counsel, in jail for telling the truth while the ex-president, ex-president, ex-president, who admitted lying, goes free. The courts andor Mr. Ford will have to exercise some discretion in restoring some semblance of equity. Making the record. In every instance where the question of Mr. Nixon's guilt or innocence might have been established, he has opted not to confront the issue: on impeachment, on the pardon question and now on the question of disbarment. Even more important to us than the question of punishment is the need for a clear declaration. declaration. Even an Agnew-type Agnew-type Agnew-type solution, where the charges are somehow put into the record, record, would be better than the present ambiguity. ambiguity. Perhaps Congress, perhaps the special prosecutor, perhaps President Ford might help by providing for some such masing of the record. The money requested by Nixon. We believe believe Mr. Ford erred in asking Congress to approve $850,000 more than the minimum minimum required by existing law for Mr. Nixon in his retirement. The nation has no obligation to rescue Mr. Nixon from his financial plight, which results from his having overextended himself and from his having underpaid his taxes. Congress ought to scrutinize closely the princeiy amounts-requested amounts-requested amounts-requested for transition expenses and such items as travel. It ought to say no to at least some of them. Vietnam amnesty. Inevitably a comparison comparison arises between the unconditional amnesty amnesty for Mr. Nixon and the leniency President Ford had proposed for dealing with Vietnam evaders and draft-dodgers. draft-dodgers. draft-dodgers. We have problems with simply ignoring violations of the law. Now, however, with mercy outweighing justice in Mr. Nixon's case, we are inclined to believe the same principle should be applied to the Vietnam draft-evaders; draft-evaders; draft-evaders; that is, jn the interest of wiping the, slate clean, the president should grant them a complete amnesty. There are some problems with that, a3 veterans and parents of veterans will remind remind us, but it may be the only way to help soften the inequities already created. Decisions in areas such as these will not be simple, but they offer US the best chance to bring the whole mess to a conclusion. The country has no interest in prolonging the controversy any more than is absolutely absolutely necessary, even, though President Ford's decision was troublesome. So let us do what we can, and try, as President Ford said he intended to do, to brihg reconciliation reconciliation to the nation.