Nixon Was the One Who Got Away

Perhaps it is because I am 63 years old that I feel as I do, but certainly I am not alone. I think that my faith in my government was first shattered not on Friday November 22, 1963 when JFK was assassinated, but two days later when Oswald was gunned down in plain sight of the nation.

The litany of reactions to that event, particularly the assertions of the Warren Commission Report, never sat well with me and, if polls are to be believed, with the majority of American citizens.

Had things stopped there, I would not be writing this, but they did not stop there.  What followed was the discredited Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the horrible, divisive war in Vietnam.  And then Watergate.  And then the pardoning of President Nixon.  And then Iran-Contra and the pardoning of Oliver North.  And then the election of 2000.  And then the invasion of Iraq and the lies about weapons of mass destruction and all of the lost oversight of Congress.

What has accumulated from this history - the majority of my lifetime - has been a devastating loss of faith in the American government by its people.  It is not just that many citizens do not believe what the government says; it is that those who have lied to us and/or broken the law or thrown the law in our face have never been held accountable.

In the recent funeral of former President Ford, it was asserted that pardoning Richard Nixon for the crimes of Watergate was done "to heal the nation."  Perhaps I am on the wrong planet, but I simply do not see how letting a President get away with crimes heals anything.  What it does is demonstrate that the powerful can operate by rules different from those applied to the powerless. One might well ask why it would not "heal" those wronged  by any other crime to pardon the perpetrator.  By what convoluted logic did Nixon's pardon or the accumulated crimes and lies mentioned above "heal" America?

And why is it that in the coverage of events such as Ford's funeral, I saw in the media not one single commentator who felt wronged by an obfuscation of this point of view? Was it because no such commentator exists or because none was given air time?

Nor I am judging Mr. Ford's life simply by his pardoning of Nixon or his role on the Warren Commission.  Like Satre, I believe that a person can be judged only by the sum of his actions.  Mr. Ford probably did wonderful things in the House.  I am sure that he was a fine person in private life.  Taken as a whole, he was probably a good man.  But to avoid the impact of his decisions in both the Kennedy assassination investigation and Watergate is to do a monumental injustice to this democracy.

Similarly, we have not held the present administration or many of the present members of Congress accountable for their behavior.  Instead, we simply let their actions and rhetoric slide by with nary a comment or thought.  For example, when President Bush said that in the book of history the war in Iraq would mean little more than a comma, I heard no outcry at all.  I thought as I heard his remarks how horrible they must sound to a parent whose child has died or become blind or lost limbs in the service of that "comma."

How all of the crimes and cover-ups, the public apathy, the media acquiescence I have seen in my lifetime could not even be seriously discussed is beyond me.  It will not be until these things are discussed that America will gain its moral and governmental footing.  It will not be until these things are discussed that the people of America will believe in their government again.

Steven Porter was the Democrats' candidate in Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District and will seek his party's nomination again in 2008.