I Felt Like This Once Before

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

It was a Friday in August 1974. Richard Nixon had boarded a helicopter on the White House lawn, flashed a “victory” sign and fled to avoid conviction on impeachment charges in the Senate.

At the local Liquor Mart, a warehouse-sized booze outlet, the aisles became so crowded by 9:30 a.m. that city police had to be called to monitor the line, which snaked out the door, around the building and down the block. They allowed more people into the store only as equal numbers came out, their arms or carts loaded with cases or kegs of beer and all other manner of alcohol. The aroma of cannabis wafted about here and there but did not spur the cops to arrest anyone as joints were passed along the line.

By 10:30 a.m., the shelves were going bare, and only the more expensive stuff was left, which seemed not to deter anyone.

After that, it was an all-weekend party. “Wasted” scarcely describes our drunkenness. Our partying was replicated around the country. In a way, that weekend marked the end of the ’60s, the era, not the decade.

Afterward came the letdown. Gerald Ford assumed the Presidency, and within a month, he had pardoned Nixon.    

The key sentences in the speech Ford gave:

After years of bitter controversy and divisive national debate, I have been advised, and I am compelled to conclude that many months and perhaps more years will have to pass before Richard Nixon could obtain a fair trial by jury in any jurisdiction of the United States under governing decisions of the Supreme Court.

I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.

The facts, as I see them, are that a former President of the United States, instead of enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen accused of violating the law, would be cruelly and excessively penalized either in preserving the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining a speedy determination of his guilt in order to repay a legal debt to society.

That speech was meant to heal, to let the nation forgive and forget, but it did nothing of the sort because no strong mechanisms were put into place to ensure that domestic and international crimes would never again issue from the Oval Office and its delegates. In a few years, another administration came to power, new crimes were committed and exposed. No machinery was remade to curb future crimes. Eight years ago, yet another administration arrived, and soon, assisted by the most terrible assault on American soil in 60 years, in the name of patriotism and security, it  empowered the executive branch in exactly the ways the Founders 200 years before had tried to obstruct.

These leaders have tortured the spirit and letter of the law to justify  their torture of people, spread their bloody war doctrine in the name of vengeance, trashing the economy and generating fear and hatred more effectively than al Qaeda could ever dream of. They rode roughshod over the Constitution, concocted lies to underpin invasion, filled the federal justice system with partisan cronies and transformed the military-industrial-congressional complex into a more corrupt private-public partnership than ever before.

This morning, November 5, 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama marked the stunning victory of a seemingly impossible campaign with a short but characteristically inspiring speech. A pep rally for a nation in sore need of one. A nation, as he said, facing multiple perils. Unlike 34 years ago when Nixon left town, the joy of the crowds – who gathered to hear Obama in Grant Park in Chicago, in Times Square, at the White House, and in other public places and private homes – comes both because we can see the end of a reign of terrible leadership and because we will soon have a leader who has vowed, with our help, to lay the groundwork for a new day in America. We were happy with Nixon gone. But our happiness was momentary because we had nobody encouraging us to press forward with a “bottom-up politics” to transform our communities, our nation and our nation’s relationship with other nations.

Now we do. As he said this morning, and has said before, there will be setbacks, false starts, and disagreements. But, if we pull together, as one people, “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled,” we can do what America has always done when it’s at its very best, live up to its ideals.

Barack Obama’s promises of a broad bipartisan focus on solving our country’s problems may prove as wise as the similar message of the Civil War president whose words echoed in the Grant Park speech. But that healing cannot occur, not wholly, unless the crimes that have brought our nation to such a ruinous condition – morally, economically and politically – are investigated thoroughly and a proper penalty imposed. Most importantly, the bent machinery that allowed, nay encouraged, those crimes must be rebuilt with safeguards so that they never occur again. That’s not vengeance. It’s justice. And true healing and progress cannot come about without it.

21 comments

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    • Edger on November 5, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Right on the mark. Nobody could say it better.

  1. And I’d add that with the passing of so many horrible anti-civil rights propositions (California’s only the most spoken of; and too little, too late), we must also fight to separate church and state once again.

    Justice.  Gonna be a hard battle.

  2. and their stupid proposition preventing unmarried couple who are living together from adopting last night at work. Obviously aimed at  millions teh gays over running Arkansas trying to steal everybody’s babies.

    The frickin’ south still barked loyally when the race baiting, culture war fronting of the wheezing Republicans was offered up. When I am low or angry I think that is all my fellow southerners have left to identify themselves with. I know it isn’t true, I know plenty of white folks who did vote for Obama but I also got told a few times by people i thought were alright that they just “couldn’t bring themselves to….” Mother fucking goat, they just irk me at times.

  3. This morning on cable TV, the pundits are exploring the meaning of the election of Obama, and they’re all giving their two-cents worth about “what he’s got to do”.  IMHO, Christiane Amanpour put it best when she said:

    “He’s inherited the “Inbox from Hell”.

    Indeed she’s spot on with that assessment.  As for me, I’m keeping my personal expectations low, and anything that exceeds that will be cause for joy.  OTOH, I promised myself that I will remember the nightmare of the past 8 years whenever I get frustrated with my personal agenda not being met by President Obama–and I’ll try to do my best to remind myself that no matter what happens, McPalin would be doing far, far worse things.  

    I guess that having lived through America going through Civil Rights battles; the wars and needless deaths in Vietnam & the current wars; the national turbulence and multiple riots of the 60’s/70’s–including the soul-draining assassinations of JFK, MLK & RFK; and the reversals of many of the gains made for Americans–gains made: By the civil rights movement, the gains unions fought for; the New Deal & Great Society–I’m now grateful for even small steps forward at this point.  Our country has been greatly diminished by divisiveness and by governance by selfish, greedy, self-righteous, incompetent people for far, far too long.  For me at this point, just knowing that the reigns of power will be removed from some of the worst human beings on the planet is an enormous relief.  

  4. That’s the ticket, the restoration of justice, the prevention of future ugliness and accountability for what has occurred.

    PS- I’ll think of you MB as I drive past Liquor Mart today.  😉

  5. Beautifully put!

    In particular, I could not agree more about the need to bring criminals to justice.  That, to me, would be the first step toward return to the rule of law.

  6. What I mean by that is that for the past 14 years America’s political life has been largely dominated by, well, monsters. Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.

    And in our national discourse, we pretended that these monsters were reasonable, respectable people. To point out that the monsters were, in fact, monsters, was “shrill.

    Time to get to work. And it is looking like we will have two fronts. First getting the pundits to ADMIT the victory and the mandate for change. Then in the new atmosphere, healing through justice.

  7. this latest round of monsters sprang from it is from Nixon in many cases. Cheney and Rumsey both were the culmination of the warped and twisted Nixon years. When you look at where bith Nixon and Ragaun started it’s disgusting that these commie hunters have prevailed with their insanity this long. Will they be prosecuted or even denounced, nope. The TV today tells me that they are still the Real Americans and were ‘center right’ whatever they decide is center being the problem.The ideology has nothing to do with this, lol. McCain lost because Obama was an African American, had a lot o money and that pesky economy blew up for no good reason. No talk of repudiation for these creeps let alone blame or justice.    

    • banger on November 7, 2008 at 12:44 am

    I think we should provide blanket immunity to all the criminals in the oligarchy in exchange for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I don’t care whether Cheney goes to prison–what I do care I do care about, as others, have commented is that collectively we state what really happens or those “monsters” as Krugman noted will be back.

    The alternative is to have the narrative seized by the right and the majority of the public in the United States of Amnesia will “forget” everything that happened. The term “reconciliation” is meant in the sense that we can all agree on basic truths and agree to disagree on the rest. We should have had it after Vietnam, instead everyone shoved in under the bed until it festered and blew up in our faces.

    The narrative, btw, is the single most important political institution–the fact that people on cable news seem to be creating that narrative is very depressing–they are the people we have to stop–forget the pols, they don’t matter that much.

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