His fingernails have never been so clean, and you know the rest of the song. (If not, check out the musical Oklahoma.) And he was universally talked about as the guy who was never elected to either the Vice President or President positions, yet held both. He was widely credited with being all about doing the right thing. And he was also universally hailed as the guy who pardoned Nixon to (and I quote) "heal America".
Well, he may well have been all about 'doing the right thing'. Intentions are difficult to discern, and when he was president I was too busy to pay attention. Full time school, full time factory job, two small kids, and a very beligerent wife. I couldn't have been less bothered with a president who wasn't being an obvious problem. So I'll buy the "Mr. Decency" label for him.
But 'healed the nation'? As you might guess, I have different opinion. Sure, maybe he thought pardoning Nixon and saving the country from dragging a president thru multiple court cases would be a healing thing. But I think it was a big, BIG mistake. And I'm going to explain why.
Thirty or so years ago we had a president who tried to take over the nation by what may well have been criminal means. But he definitely tried to take over the country, whether for political means or because he was an out of control megalomaniac, or for some other reason. (By take over, I mean tried to run the nation without any controls on his behavior, and in any way he saw fit.) Instead of letting this guy be tried and found innocent or guilty as it may have been, Mr. Ford pardoned him to save the country the pain of the trials. So in essence, President Ford took a mortal gash to the nation and stitched it shut to stop the bleeding, but he didn't clean out the wound. The result is that we had a national wound that has festered for nearly 30 years, and resulted in an abcess called the Bush Administration.
How can I make this assertion? Well we went FROM BAD (Nixon, then) TO WORSE (Bush, now). We went from a president who tried to take over the nation by throwing his weight around and using questionably and probably illegal means in his attempt, to one who now is trying to and succeeding in taking over the nation as a dictatorship by undermining the very foundations of our democracy, and doing it by the most egregious assertions of power and legal declarations of rights restrictions for citizens. What we have now is an administration toxic to the foundations of democracy, to the foundations of our nation, to the rule of law, and to any citizens' sense of freedom. This administration may very well kill the nation before we can undo the damage.
What is the connection? Well, try Cheney and Rumsfeld, both of whom Ford inherited from Nixon. And if my memory serves me still, many of the old grey haired neo-con nazi types in the Bush administration served Nixon as young men as well. These germs sat in the bottom of the wound Ford stitched shut, and bloated themselves with hatred and treasonous plans, and apparently infected a good number of other germs around them with their toxic production.
So my hypothesis is that if Ford had not pardoned Nixon, if he had let the guy be dragged through the mud and the blood, and let him be convicted, we would not be where we are today - in danger of losing all of our liberties, of losing our most basic freedoms. Perhaps had Nixon been convicted of 'high crimes and misdemeanors', even if he had been pardoned from jail after, maybe, just maybe, Cheney and Rumsfeld would have felt the consequences of attempting treason from within were too high, and might have found other careers, or at least have changed directions.
OK, open for discussion.