For Ford, Pardon Decision Was Always Clear-Cut





President Gerald R. Ford was never one for second-guessing, but for many years after leaving office in 1977, he carried in his wallet a scrap of a 1915 Supreme Court ruling. A pardon, the excerpt said, “carries an imputation of guilt,” and acceptance of a pardon is “a confession of it.”

Mr. Ford’s decision to pardon Richard M. Nixon for any crimes he might have been charged with because of Watergate is seen by many historians as the central event of his 896-day presidency. It also appears to have left him with an uncharacteristic need for self-justification, though friends say he never wavered in his insistence that the pardon was a wise and necessary act and that it had not resulted from any secret deal with his disgraced predecessor.

“I must have talked to him 20 times about the pardon, and there was never a shred of doubt that he’d done the right thing,” said James Cannon, a Ford domestic policy adviser and author of a 1994 book about his presidency. During one of their discussions, Mr. Ford pulled out the 1915 clipping, from Burdick v. United States. “It was a comfort to him,” Mr. Cannon said. “It was legal justification that he was right.”...




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