Is it time to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton broke the law and needs a pardon? Jesse Jackson doesn’t go quite that far, but told University of Michigan students that, like their illustrious alumnus Gerald Ford, Barack Obama needs to heal the nation and — stop us if you’ve heard this before — the nation needs to “move on” from Clinton scandals:
Speaking at President Gerald Ford’s alma mater, The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for President Obama to issue a blanket pardon to Hillary Clinton before he leaves office, just like Ford did for Richard Nixon.
Stopping short of saying Clinton did anything wrong, Jackson told a large crowd of University of Michigan students, faculty and administrators gathered at daylong celebration of his career that Obama should short-circuit President-elect Donald Trump’s promised attempt to prosecute Hillary Clinton for use of a private e-mail server.
“It would be a monumental moral mistake to pursue the indictment of Hillary Clinton,” Jackson said. He said issuing the pardon could help heal the nation, like Ford’s pardon of Nixon did.
“President Ford said we don’t need him for trophy. We need to move on. President Nixon wasn’t convicted of a crime. He didn’t apply for a pardon. (Ford) did it because he thought it would be best for the country.
Note well that Jackson uses the Nixon precedent to argue that Hillary doesn’t need to apply for a pardon first to receive one from the outgoing president. Applying for a pardon would be an admission of guilt, and it would start a lengthy vetting process by the Department of Justice that might cross swords with the Clinton Foundation probe reportedly still in process. Obama, with his plenary pardon power, can bypass that and let Hillary off the hook.
However, the two situations aren’t really analogous. Nixon resigned his office in disgrace, just ahead of an impeachment in which his own party refused to further support him. In fact, Nixon referred to this disappearing political base in his exit speech:
In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.
But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.
So far, Democrats have stood in lockstep with Hillary Clinton.
The Department of Justice took much more significant action in Watergate than they have thus far in Hillary’s e-mail or Clinton Foundation scandals. By the time of the resignation, prosecution was under way for Nixon’s aides; G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord had already been convicted in the break-in, and 40 government officials would eventually be indicted. Top-ranking officials such as H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichmann, Attorney General John Mitchell, Howard Hunt, and Charles Colson, all spent time in prison. There was no pretense of innocence for Nixon, especially after the White House tapes got released.
Ford’s decision defined his presidency, and it’s worth remembering that Democrats howled over it. Many accused Ford of accepting the vice-presidency in a deal contingent on a promise of a pardon, a smear with no basis in evidence but which helped Democrats win the 1976 election. Having Democrats praise it now as a precedent for Obama to follow earlier in the investigatory phase of executive-branch corruption than Nixon’s case had progressed is hypocrisy of the first order.
Still, Obama might be inclined to take that advice. After all, Hillary was his choice for Secretary of State, so her corruption taints his term in office, and it might be better for him to make sure no one realizes just how deep that taint goes. On the other hand, Obama tried to head it off with an agreement that the Clintons treated as a joke, so he might just be inclined to let them twist in the wind, and trust in Donald Trump’s mercy. In the end, perhaps Obama is as sick of hearing “move on” applied to scrutiny of Clintonian corruption as the rest of us are.