Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ted Kennedy Looks Back

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, better known as "Teddy", near the end of his life, was able to see the historic moments in his life from the vantage point of many years later. It is a good thing, to be given a life long enough to allow one to look back and have the luxury of revising one's views or statements. Senator Kennedy did exactly that, following a long line of both politicians and historians who revised their estimates of President Gerald R. Ford, and specifically of his controversial decision to pardon former President Richard M. Nixon.

Although Ford's 1974 decision to pardon Nixon was criticized at the time, and its unpopularity cost both Ford and his political party dearly, it has since been seen as an act which strengthened the government and the public's view of it. Had Ford not pardoned Nixon, the nation would have been dragged through a painful impeachment process, which could have only resulted in less confidence in our Constitution. At the time, some saw potential impropriety in the pardon, but in hindsight, it was very appropriate. Kennedy commented:

At a time of national turmoil, America was fortunate that it was Gerald Ford who took the helm of the storm-tossed ship of state. Unlike many of us at the time, President Ford recognized that the nation had to move forward, and could not do so if there was a continuing effort to prosecute former President Nixon. So President Ford made a courageous decision, one that historians now say cost him his office, and he pardoned Richard Nixon.

I was one of those who spoke out against his action then. But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right. 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. He eminently deserves this award, and we are proud of his achievement.

Both Ford and Kennedy are now dead, but Kennedy earned respect by finally acknowledging the greatness of Ford's action.