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Friday, Dec 29, 2006, 12:34 am

Woodward: Ford Pardoned Nixon as Favor to a Friend, Not for Good of the Nation

By Brian Zick
Bob Woodward in WaPo reports more from his interviews with the deceased former President Ford:
During one of the darkest days of the Watergate scandal, Nixon secretly confided in Ford, at the time the House minority leader. He begged for help. He complained about fair-weather friends and swore at perceived rivals in his own party. "Tell the guys, goddamn it, to get off their ass and start fighting back," Nixon pleaded with Ford in one call recorded by the president's secret taping system.
(...)
But the tapes, documents and two lengthy recent interviews with Ford before his death this week, conducted for a future book and embargoed until after his death, show that the close political alliance between the two men seriously influenced Ford's eventual decision to pardon Nixon, the most momentous decision of his short presidency and almost certainly the one that cost him any chance of winning the White House in his own right two years later. Ford became president on Aug. 9, 1974; he pardoned Nixon just a month later. "I think that Nixon felt I was about the only person he could really trust on the Hill," Ford said during the 2005 interview.

Ford returned the feeling.

"I looked upon him as my personal friend. And I always treasured our relationship. And I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon, because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn't want to see my real friend have the stigma," Ford said in the interview.

That acknowledgment represents a significant shift from Ford's previous portrayals of the pardon that absolved Nixon of any Watergate-related crimes. In earlier statements, Ford had emphasized the decision as an effort to move the country beyond the partisan divisions of the Watergate era, playing down the personal dimension.
Via Josh Marshall
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