Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2009

THE WATERGATE COMPARISON.... There was one other thing John McCain said on "Face the Nation" yesterday that stood out for me. The Arizona Republican was explaining his belief that accountability for Bush administration officials responsible for torture policies would be a mistake. He eventually told host Bob Schieffer:

"Finally, you were around when President Ford pardoned President Nixon. There were allegations of criminal activity on the part of the president of the United States. Most people in retrospect believe that Ford's pardon was right, because we moved on. We have got to move on."

Putting aside the question of whether Ford was right to pardon Nixon, it's an interesting comparison for McCain to make. Nixon, after all, had committed a series of crimes. He was poised to be removed from office before he resigned in disgrace. There was ample of evidence to suggest Nixon was guilty of criminal wrongdoing.

McCain, by bringing up Nixon, seems to be putting Bush in a similar category. Indeed, it's almost as if McCain sees a historical parallel -- Nixon broke the law as part of the Watergate scandal, but was ultimately let off the hook. The Bush administration broke the law by utilizing torture techniques, and, the argument goes, should also be left to history's judgment.

With this in mind, I wonder what McCain and others like him will consider the next logical step. Will we start to hear conservative clamoring for President Obama to pardon Bush and his team? Who'll be the first high-profile Republican voice to say, "Obama says he wants to look forward; he can prove it by ending the controversy once and for all and pardoning Bush"?

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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April 27, 2009

Day 13 since Obama renounced his oath of office to uphold the Constitution and the laws of our country.

Ford pardoned Nixon and we got many of the criminals back in the Reagan administration.

Bush I & Clinton shutdown the Iran-Contra investigations and we got many of those criminals back in the Bush II administration.

If Obama's administration and DOJ do not investigate and prosecute the criminal acts of the Bush II administration, we can expect many of those criminals back in the next rethug administration.

The path of not investigating and prosecuting the crimes of the Bush Criminal Enterprise may be politically expedient for Obama, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Posted by: AngryOldVet on April 27, 2009 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

Accepting the Nixon analogy (absurd, but anyway), McCain wants to skip right over the bipartisan televised hearings and the convictions and sentences of many high level officials, as the entire Republican party, himself included, continue to deny that laws were broken or that anything should change other than one president's policies. He also continues to think that international perceptions are irrelevant, but then he thought living within a time zone of Russia was enough to qualify Palin for VP.

Posted by: Danp on April 27, 2009 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Nixon was a crook. Bush is a torturer and murderer. Not only did he order the torture of humans he was responsable for the deaths of hundereds of thousands of individuals. Nixon's "crimes" pale in comparison. Ford allowed "us"to move on. Nixon resigned in discrace. Bushit ended 8 years of crime moving to a cushy mansion in Texas. No one, no one I know of, felt Nixon was innocent. Bushit has legions of fellow psychopaths who think we should continue to kill and maim.

There are no paralells except perhaps both Nixon and Bushit commited crimes. Nixon was removed for a burglary. Bushit is a murderer. One was removed for crimes largly relating to politics, the other for crimes against humaniity. Plain and simple. To the hague with him! Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on April 27, 2009 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, if Obama's truly not interested in prosecuting high-level Bush officials, then pardoning them might not be a bad move. Short of prosecutions, it's probably the best way to establish them as war criminals in the historical record.

It's not an ideal solution; that involves marching them into the Hague in leg irons. It does have its upsides, though.

Posted by: EarBucket on April 27, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

As I recall, Nixon also enjoyed wiretapping Americans without a warrant or FISA review.

How nice of John McCain to join us even if he's late to the party.

Ford's pardon was a MISTAKE. I can think of little else that could strengthen a democracy more than demonstrating it's highest official is bound by the same laws as its citizens.

Do we wish to allow the lesson to be taught this time, or "move on" and as AngryOldVet said, wait for the Bush crowd to slither up from the muck years hence, just like Nixon's crew (Cheney, Kissinger) did.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 27, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

The main difference between the Watergate era and today it the total lack in integrity in Congressional Republicans. Nixon resigned because Republicans were ready to vote for impeachment.

By contrast, Dubya could have raped and strangled a five-year-old girl in the well of the Senate and at least 34 Republican senators (enough to block a conviction) would have been willing to repeat the White House supplied talking points that justified it -- "President Bush was defending our country! He had declared that the girl was a future terrorist so he was acting within the legal authority granted to him by the Iraq War Resolution!"

Posted by: SteveT on April 27, 2009 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

The war crimes involved are international in nature, and I don't think that the prez of the USA has the authority to pardon in such cases.

I could be wrong...

Posted by: Ranger Jay on April 27, 2009 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Obama issuing a blanket pardon for torture would not necessarily be the worst step he could take from the standpoint of ultimately holding the torturers accountable.

It would be a clear signal to other Convention Against Torture signatories that we are unable or unwilling to exercise our jurisdiction over the reported torture. At that point, other signatories' obligations to investigate and prosecute become a live issue.

On our current course, it's possible that Holder could refuse to prosecute, but justify the decision just credibly enough to allow other signatories to pretend that the U.S. fulfilled its obligations under the Convention.

Posted by: foxtrotsky on April 27, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

I can see where there is a danger in bringing Bush to justice, the Tea Baggers would probably start WWIV and hold the country hostage to listen to their blusterings.

As for me, it would be satisfying enough to have Bush equated as a criminal with Nixon in the public view, convicted in a court and sentenced like any criminal. If President Obama then feels a pardon would ease the situation somehow, so be it.

What is necessary is to declare once and for all that these "harsh interrogation techniques" are torture and always will be torture. Repudiate all these "debaters" of torture as the self deceiving fools they are.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on April 27, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

This is quite generous of the little hypocrate. History should judge Bush over torture not the law. And yet, he felt Clinton was guilty of an impeachable offence over a blow job. Good to see McCain has his priorites straight.

Posted by: Liam J on April 27, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, how about posthumous pardons for those men court-martialed for waterboarding during the Phillipine Insurrection/War of Independence? And there's the Nazi and Japanese interrogators tried for war crimes. Not to mention every rotten cop who went to jail or lost his job for beating a confession out of a suspect.
Let's make it a blanket, specific pardon: George W. Bush and his peers.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on April 27, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

And who we ask, will pardon McCain for his unrelenting partisan stupidity, and who will pardon those who give him air time.

Posted by: John R on April 27, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

It's also worth noting that Ford pardoned Nixon only after a long and public process of getting at what had really happened. That's the most important part: make the truth public, then decide the course forward.

Posted by: Tom on April 27, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain is yet another Republican/conservative who seems to believe in


for the Bush/Cheney administration.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline on April 27, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK


Other than that is does not work, it is illegal, and it is immoral; what is wrong with it?

It completely disgusts me that there is even a discussion of whether torture should be performed in the name of the amerikan publik.

That polling shows the amerikan publik having a large percentage convinced of Jack Bauer torture fantasies is disgusting evidence of the effectiveness of the rethug talking points amplified by their corporately owned echo chamber media.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on April 27, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, 'most people' were so pleased with Ford's decision, he was re-elected to two full terms as President of the United States. And McCain's political career has been a model of exemplary ethics, without scandal.

If a Republican says it, it must be true.

Posted by: bcinaz on April 27, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

I forgot to add: And if a Republican does it, it's not a crime.

Posted by: bcinaz on April 27, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Did I miss the news that Bush was charged with a crime and convicted in a court?

Seems to be the case of preemptive pardoning.

Posted by: ET on April 27, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Nixon was a crook. Bush is a torturer and murderer. Not only did he order the torture of humans he was responsable for the deaths of hundereds of thousands of individuals. Nixon's "crimes" pale in comparison."

Er... bombing of Cambodia? No, I know it's not what he was investigated for, but...

Posted by: ajay on April 27, 2009 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Most people in retrospect believe that Ford's pardon was right"

Now, I don't know whether that's currently the case. I doubt it. But decades of constant repetition by elites that it was for the best may have rendered it so.

What I do know for sure is that there was an almost universal, bipartisan denouncement of Ford's pardon at the time and it remained extremely unpopular for a very long time. The pardon majorly figured in Ford failing to be re-elected.

And (as others note) it effectively set the table for Iran-contra, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the current horrors. If these criminals aren't dealt with, we will see them in power again, in our lifetime, tanned, rested, more effective and more dangerous than ever.

Posted by: Winston on April 27, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

McCain February 12, 1999:
"All of my life, I have been instructed never to swear an oath to my country in vain. In my former profession, those who violated their sworn oath were punished severely and considered outcasts from our society. I do not hold the President to the same standard that I hold military officers to. I hold him to a higher standard. Although I may admit to failures in my private life, I have at all times, and to the best of my ability, kept faith with every oath I have ever sworn to this country. I have known some men who kept that faith at the cost of their lives."

He forgot to add this is only the case if the president is a democrat.

Posted by: msw on April 27, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Most people in retrospect believe that Ford's pardon was right"

BS. Perhaps this is the view of the political class. However, it is not the way the country felt then or indeed now. Of course, this is why the pols gave Reagan a pass on Iran Contra and Bush 1 was able to pardon his buddies. Membership benefits clearly include a get out of jail free card.

Posted by: steve on April 27, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Talk of pardoning Bush might or might not be appropriate at some point, but surely it would be less inappropriate after an investigation. If Obama wishes to pardon Bush -- it might be beneficial for the country to know just what Bush would be being pardoned for.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Scientific Wild Ass Guess on April 27, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Though not entirely satisfying; perhaps we can extend an offer of conditional pardon to all who are willing to sign a complete confession of their crimes against humanity. Anything they admit to on their confession, gets a pardon. Anything left out, they can and will be prosecuted for. Publish the confessions.

Posted by: charlie on April 27, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

And (as others note) it effectively set the table for Iran-contra, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the current horrors. If these criminals aren't dealt with, we will see them in power again, in our lifetime, tanned, rested, more effective and more dangerous than ever.

Yes, exactly. While I'd prefer seeing these people at the Hague, what I want more than anything, more than convictions or confessions or whatever kind of drama can be drummed up for the cameras, is an absolutely decisive way of barring them from public service (for them, add scare quotes to the term) permanently, with enough information revealed publicly to make it clear why. I do. not. want. to. ever. see. them. in. government. again. Or their proteges, for that matter, although that may be more difficult..

Posted by: latts on April 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Arguably, Ford's pardon of Nixon was the worst domestic descision made by a president in our lifetimes. It unleashed the criminal element in our politics and gave them leave to corrupt the system wherever they could find a weakness.

People at the time were worried that Ford's decision would damage the Republican party, thinking ahead only to the 1976 elections. Looking at what has been going on since January, Ford's good intentions may have destroyed his party.

Posted by: Midland on April 27, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

So, this marks - what? - the hundredth time Wet-Start Johnny has been on Face the Nation since he LOST??????

Posted by: TCinLA on April 27, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Winston (April 27, 2009 at 9:18 AM) and Midland (April 27, 2009 at 10:30 AM) are correct: Prosecute the crooks you know all and every time or expect their sons to abuse us.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on April 27, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yep.....they like McCain for some reason but you'd think after he embarassed himself while running for President, networks would book someone else

Posted by: Burghman on April 27, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure G Gordon Liddy would have happily waterboarded any Dems.

Posted by: johnnymags on April 27, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

People forget our original Democracy was forged on the field of battle in retaliation against a criminal King.

What if the colonists "pardoned" George III?

Posted by: johnnymags on April 27, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK
The war crimes involved are international in nature, and I don't think that the prez of the USA has the authority to pardon in such cases.

Insofar as they are criminal violations of US law implementing the international agreements (which is the only way they are prosecutable in the US; treaties or customary international law alone does not create a basis for criminal prosecution in US courts), the President can pardon them. That, of course, does not create a bar to their prosecution by foreign and international tribunals (indeed, it may encourage them, since the US courts would generally be a preferred venue for any such prosecution, but a firm bar to process in the US would render such a preference irrelevant.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

How about this for a blockbuster MSM interview:
John McCain vs. Meghan McCain (anyone notice how the name, Meghan, sounds very much like McCain? Just wondering if there is any freudian significance to this).
How would this be handled? Anyone with the balls, or the female equivalent(what is the female equivalent to balls/cojones?)? How about Rolling Stone taking it on?

Just wondering!

st john

Posted by: st john on April 27, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

The right considers McCain to be Rhino. I'm sure they don't agree with his sentiments expressed here for exactly the reasons you describe.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on April 27, 2009 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

I was an adult when Ford pardoned Nixon, and it was a wretched time. I would and do argue that we are in this mess today because Nixon wasn't tried and the full scope and breadth of Republican criminality failed to come to light at the time. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush1, and others, all came out of that administration and that time in the Republican party.

We on the left went back to our lives after the war in Vietnam ended and Nixon was pardoned, and conservatives went on to form the Federalist Society and organize evangelical Christians into Republican voting blocs, and build universities in the evangelical movement to churn out lawyers, teachers and doctors to go into government and spread the conservative ideology.

Let's not make that mistake again?

Posted by: Margerie on April 28, 2009 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

If it's going to be lookin' forward and pardons all around, we might start with Charles Graner and Lynndie England, people who have already served time for actions set in motion by the White House, the Pentagon, and the Department of Justice. Or are they too lowly to be included in this great outpouring of magnanimity?

Posted by: tamiasmin on April 28, 2009 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Today is the 5th anniversary of the release of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs. Lynndie England, and the rest of the Reservists have spent 5 years trying to get the world to realize that what was going on at AG was due to the policies of the Bush administration. When will folks DEMAND that these soldiers receive pardons and all their rights as soldiers fully restored (including Janis Karpinski)? Even more so if there are no prosecutions of those that gave the orders.
Does the rule of law only apply to grunts, and men in expensive suits can live outside the law?

Posted by: Katrina on April 28, 2009 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK



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