The Watergate comparison

THE WATERGATE COMPARISON…. There was one other thing John McCain said on “Face the Nation” yesterday that stood out for me. The Arizona Republican was explaining his belief that accountability for Bush administration officials responsible for torture policies would be a mistake. He eventually told host Bob Schieffer:

“Finally, you were around when President Ford pardoned President Nixon. There were allegations of criminal activity on the part of the president of the United States. Most people in retrospect believe that Ford’s pardon was right, because we moved on. We have got to move on.”

Putting aside the question of whether Ford was right to pardon Nixon, it’s an interesting comparison for McCain to make. Nixon, after all, had committed a series of crimes. He was poised to be removed from office before he resigned in disgrace. There was ample of evidence to suggest Nixon was guilty of criminal wrongdoing.

McCain, by bringing up Nixon, seems to be putting Bush in a similar category. Indeed, it’s almost as if McCain sees a historical parallel — Nixon broke the law as part of the Watergate scandal, but was ultimately let off the hook. The Bush administration broke the law by utilizing torture techniques, and, the argument goes, should also be left to history’s judgment.

With this in mind, I wonder what McCain and others like him will consider the next logical step. Will we start to hear conservative clamoring for President Obama to pardon Bush and his team? Who’ll be the first high-profile Republican voice to say, “Obama says he wants to look forward; he can prove it by ending the controversy once and for all and pardoning Bush”?

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.