There has been much discussion over the past several days about the many contributions former President Gerald Ford made to the American political experiment.
Surely, his was a steady hand at the helm of a ship of state that Richard Nixon had steered into turbulent waters. And, surely, the grand old Republican’s moderation was a necessary corrective against the sort of ideological abuses committed by too many of his fellow partisans.
But Ford’s greatest contribution involved the respect he showed for the system of checks and balances that the founders established in order to protect and maintain the Republic. A man of Congress who came to the Oval Office by the accident of appointment rather than the design of candidacy, Ford moved in the first months of his presidency to renew proper relations between the executive and legislative branches.
Critics may suggest that Ford exceeded his powers as president with his decision to pardon his scandal-plagued predecessor.
While presidents are afforded the authority to grant pardons, it is certainly reasonable to disagree with the decision to clear Richard Nixon before Congress and the courts were done with him.
It is impossible, however, for anyone who cares about the right working of the federal government to disagree with what Ford did next.
After he pardoned Nixon “for all offenses against the United States which he… has committed or may have committed or taken part in” while his disgraced predecessor occupied the Oval Office, the 38th president voluntarily appeared before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee to testify under oath regarding his decision.
Contrast Ford’s respect for Congress with the belligerent disregard for the institution shown by members of the current administration. Vice President Cheney, Ford’s former White House chief of staff, has been particularly foul – not to mention foul-mouthed – in his rejection of congressional oversight.
In mourning Ford’s passing, Cheney referred to the former president as his “mentor.” Fair enough. If the current vice president has honest regard for the model established by his former boss, Cheney should honor Ford’s legacy by accepting the invitation of incoming House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, D-Michigan, and several of his colleagues to testify before Congress regarding the role played by the Office of the Vice President in 2003 moves to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson.