The telecast was supposed to begin promptly at 11:00 a.m. that Sunday, but the hourly tolling of church bells around Washington made it necessary for the president to wait a few extra moments before proceeding. He started reading the announcement to Americans after the red light flashed on the television camera situated in the Oval Office, and on Sunday, September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned his immediate predecessor for “all offenses” committed in the Watergate political scandal.1
“It was not a big deal,” Ford later said in an interview about the Watergate Building break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters, “spying on political opponents or political parties – that was kind of the atmosphere in those days.” 2
Ford justified his decision by citing Federalist No. 74, “when a well timed offer of pardon to the insurgents or rebels may restore tranquility to the commonwealth,” in addition to stating a need to focus on the economy, as opposed to a former president fighting an indictment. “The entire process would no doubt require years: a minimum two, a maximum six,” Ford said. “It would be virtually impossible for me to direct public attention to anything else.” 3
Americans are now worried most about corruption along with economic concerns. But reflecting on Ford’s thoughts and actions from thirty six years ago, they can progress with the confidence of knowing what might ensue if indictments are made relating to recent accusations that Barack Obama organized criminal activity.4
1. Gerald R. Ford, A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 176-178. Barry Werth, 31 Days (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 320.
2. Thomas M. DeFrank, Write It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford (New York: Penguin Group, 2007), 96.
3. Ford, A Time to Heal, 161-163. Alexander Hamilton, “Federalist No. 74,” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, ed. Garry Wills (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), 378.
4. Jeffrey M. Jones, “Americans Give GOP Edge on Most Election Issues,” Gallup, September 1, 2010, http://www.gallup.com/poll/142730/Americans-Give-GOP-Edge-Election-Issues.aspx.