By Richard Ben-Veniste (commissioner on the 9/11 Commission)
Friday, December 29, 2006; A27
Gerald R. Ford was a decent and honorable man. Under his steady hand, the nation began the process of recovering from the terrible trauma of Watergate — the lies, distortions, coverups, misuses of federal agencies to exact political revenge, illegal wiretapping, burglaries. . . . The list went on and on — all in the midst of the deeply divisive Vietnam War. Did Ford make the right decision in pardoning his predecessor? The answer to that question is more nuanced than either the howls of outrage that greeted the pardon three decades ago or the general acceptance with which it is viewed now.
When Richard M. Nixon resigned and Ford became the 38th president of the United States, the Watergate Special Prosecutor’s Office, of which I was a member, was preparing for the criminal trials of Nixon’s top aides — H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and John Mitchell. We had accumulated significant evidence showing Nixon’s active participation in a conspiracy to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigation of the Watergate break-in and the related “White House horrors,” to use Mitchell’s famous description. Nixon himself had been named an “unindicted co-conspirator” by the grand jury — even before the Supreme Court compelled disclosure of the “smoking gun” tape.
It was our collective view that so long as Nixon held the office of president, the constitutionally sanctioned process of impeachment should trump any suggestion that a sitting president be indicted. But there was considerable disagreement within the special prosecutor’s office on the proper way to discharge our responsibilities vis-a-vis private citizen Nixon. Continue reading
Preparations for the execution of Saddam Hussein began taking on a sense of urgency late Thursday as American and Iraqi officials suggested that he could be hanged within a span of days rather than weeks.
After upholding the death sentence against Mr. Hussein on Tuesday for the execution of 148 Shiite men and boys in 1982, an Iraqi appeals court ruled that he must be sent to the gallows within 30 days. But Mr. Hussein may not have even that long to live, officials said.
A senior administration official said that the execution would probably not take place in the next 24 hours, but that the timing would be swift. “It may be another day or so,” the official said.
Another senior administration official said later Thursday night that Iraqi officials had told the White House to expect the execution on Saturday, Baghdad time. more …
Don’t misunderstand me, I know Saddam Hussein is a “bad” guy but how can you have a fair trial if your lawyers keep turning up dead. It was seem to me that it is in the interest of the United States for the trial to be as fair as possible.
President Ford was from a different time. A time of modesty. He would never stand up and denounce a sitting president. It didn’t matter if the President was Republican or Democrat. He understand the niceties of politics from an era before Tom “the Hammer” Delay and Newt Gingrich. So, I find it interesting that he did an interview with Bob Woodward and asked for it to be published after his death. President Ford was a practical man in my opinion. He believed in negotiation something the neo-cons don’t believe is necessary. Therefore, it is no surprise that he didn’t support the invasion.
“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”
In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.