Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Obama’s Jerry Ford Moment

Posted by Warren Peterson on April 25, 2009

Jerry Ford assumed the presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon from office. Ford enjoyed public good will for the class he showed in the transition. But the Nixon haters were not satisfied with the indictments and convictions of several top Nixon aides. They wanted “Tricky Dick” humiliated by a trial and a jail cell. President Ford believed it would be a long drawn out extremely divisive political saga that would paralyze his administration’s ability to deal with the post Viet Nam and economic issues facing the United States in the late 1970s. Taking his own counsel, he issued a full pardon for any illegal acts Nixon may have committed while President. It was a politically courageous call and it cost him the 1976 election.

Today it is the Bush haters, almost exclusively from the Left, who lust for blood. There are calls for indictments of the attorneys whose legal opinions justifying limited forms of coercion (torture to some) sends the ACLU and their ilk into spasms of outrage. But the real targets are Bush and Cheney.

President Obama gives a mixed message on the issue. One day he wants to move forward and not look back and the next he’s open to investigating the alleged sins of the Bush administration. Obama has a very ambitious agenda and he cannot afford major distractions on his way to the 2012 elections. He has a decision to make. If he does not control the baying from the vengeance crowd, he will face his Jerry Ford moment.

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