The Corner

Nixon on the Pardon

From In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat and Renewal :

…I will never forget the moment that Jack Miller, my attorney from Washington, came into my office in San Clemente on September 4 to inform me of President Ford’s decision to stop the hemorrhaging by issuing a Presidential pardon. Now I had to decide whether or not to accept it.

We discussed it at great length. I told Miller I was worried the pardon would hurt Ford politically. He said that in the short run, it would. But he added that if the country continued to be obsessed by Watergate, President Ford and others in government would suffer even more from being unable to devote their attention to urgent problems at home and abroad.

Miller also knew my desperate financial situation. He pointed out that the attorneys’ fees and the other costs of defending actions against me would bankrupt me. In view of what happened soon thereafter, he was remarkably perceptive when he added that he thought that I had taken as much physically, mentally, and emotionally as I could and that I should accept the pardon for my own well-being and my family’s as well. His strongest argument was that because of the unprecedented publicity over the past year and a half, there was no way I could get a fair trial in Washington.

Next to the resignation, accepting the pardon was the most painful decision of my political career. The statement I issued at the time accurately describes my feelings then and now:

“I was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal to a national tragedy.

“No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and the Presidency — a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.”

The pardon was granted on September 8. The predictable occurred. Ford went down in the polls, and I was subjected to a whole new round of attacks in the media….

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