News Item: “Boston, May 21, 2001 Former President Gerald R. Ford, overwhelmingly condemned in 1974 for pardoning his predecessor, Richard M. Nixon, was honored today for that act by the John F. Kennedy Library with its Profile in Courage Award.” — New York Times, May 22, 2001
Does it really take courage to pardon a former president, alleged to have committed serious crimes, who resigns under threat of impeachment? Does it really take courage to demonstrate by the use of a pardon that high officials stand above the law? Many people think that Ford’s pardon of Nixon may have been part of the negotiations leading to Ford’s appointment as Nixon’s vice president.
In the presentation of the award to former President Ford, Senator Edward Kennedy remarked about Ford, “His courage and dedication to our country made it possible for us to begin the process of healing and put the tragedy of Watergate behind us.”
If Ford deserves to be honored for his “courage” in pardoning Nixon for his cover-up of the Watergate scandal and for lying to the American people, we might consider some other awardees in future years for the Kennedy Center Profile in Courage Award.
Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, for in effect pardoning himself by arranging for his lifetime appointment to the Chilean Senate and immunity from prosecution.
Richard Nixon himself for pardoning war criminal Lt. William Calley for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
Bob Kerrey, former U.S. Senator and president of the New School, for revealing 30 years after the fact when pressed to do so by the accusations of another member of his squad that he was involved in ordering the killing of women and children in Vietnam.
Regents of the New School for their courageous “unqualified support” of Bob Kerrey and for recognizing that “War is Hell.”
Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War who devised the “Body Count” as a means of keeping score, for acknowledging years later that we did not win the war in Vietnam.
William Jefferson Clinton for pardoning fugitive financer Marc Rich and for handling his own impeachment proceedings so gracefully.
Norman Schwartzkoff for leading the Persian Gulf War in which we buried enemy soldiers while still alive with bulldozers.
George H. W. Bush for honoring rather than pardoning General Schwartzkoff.
Chief Justice Rehnquist and his Supreme Court colleagues for having the courage to override the Florida Supreme Court in order to select the current occupant of the White House, despite their often proclaimed commitment to states rights.
Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, for doing such effective self-promotion that it wasn’t necessary to pardon his many Nuremberg-like crimes.
Clearly, the Kennedy Library will not run short of potential recipients of their award — men and women who demonstrate the courage to do the wrong thing.