It was distressing to read in the December 1996 issue that the distinguished columnist and political writer Richard Reeves felt compelled to make a public apology to former President Gerald Ford (“I’m Sorry, Mr. President”). Mr. Reeves thinks he was “too tough” on Ford when he criticized him for pardoning Richard Nixon. He now accepts Ford’s excuse for the pardon—“that it would have been impossible to govern the country if there had been open charges against Nixon”—and somewhat shamefacedly praises Ford for having the guts “to take the hit.”
Mr. Reeves goes further to blame himself for starting the present trend in the media and among the public to be cynical about politics and to trash all politicians as bums.
No apologies are in order. This country has survived civil war, depression, and any number of wrenching protests, and it would have emerged stronger after this ordeal if the judicial process prescribed by the Constitution had been followed. Why would it have wrecked the country if President Nixon had been allowed due process under the Constitution? Instead, President Ford let the world know that there are two systems of justice in the United States: one for the powerful and another for everyone else.
Also, Mr. Reeves should not blame himself for the current cynicism about politics and politicians. Richard Nixon’s political career was founded on self-aggrandizement and a cynical disregard for our political system. His contempt for the citizenry was obvious to many at the time and is now well documented. It provoked a natural and inevitable reaction among the public. “Tricky Dick,” remember?