Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Pardon My Position; I Believe It Is Way Above Yours"

It is now perfectly common, and perfectly acceptable, to openly advocate elite immunity. And this advocacy has had its intended effect: the United States has become a nation that does not apply the rule of law to its elite class, which is another way of saying that the United States does not apply the rule of law.


Although there have been episodes of unpunished elite malfeasance throughout American history, the explicit, systematic embrace of the notion that such malfeasance should be shielded from legal consequences begins with the Watergate scandal— one of the clearest cases of widespread, deliberate criminality at the highest level of the U.S. government.

By the scandal’s conclusion, few contested that not only Nixon’s top aides but Nixon himself had committed serious felonies— either in authorizing the break-in and related illegalities, or in obstructing the ensuing investigation.


[Gerald] Ford first explained his decision to pardon Nixon in a speech to the nation on September 8, 1974. The new president began by paying lip service to the rule of law: “I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, what ever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons; but”— and here he tacked on a newly concocted amendment designed to gut that phrase’s meaning—“the law is a respecter of reality.” Ford then proceeded to recite what have by now become the standard clich├ęs our political class uses to justify immunity.


The Nixon pardon, and the way it was sold to the country, became the template for justifying elite immunity. Nowadays, with only rare exceptions, each time top members of the nation’s political class are caught committing a crime, the same reasons are hauled out to get them off the hook. Prosecuting public officials mires us in a “divisive” past when we should be looking forward. It is wrong to “criminalize policy disputes”— meaning crimes committed with the use of political power. Political elites who commit crimes in carrying out their duties are “well-intentioned” and so do not deserve to be treated as if they were common criminals; moreover, politicians who are forced out of office and have their reputations damaged already “suffer enough.” To prosecute them would only engender a cycle of retribution. Political harmony thus trumps the need to enforce the rule of law.


The actual beneficiary of the pardon, of course, was not “Americans” but Richard Nixon. Thanks to Ford’s act, Nixon himself was shielded from the kind of punishment that, as a “law-and-order” Republican, he had devoted his career to imposing on ordinary Americans when they broke the law.


It is in the interest of every member of the privileged political and financial class, regardless of role or position, to maintain the vitality of this immunity. And what we have seen over the last decade is the inevitable by-product of elite immunity: pervasive, limitless elite corruption and criminality.

  Glenn Greenwald

I’ll have to agree with Greenwald, with the caveat that it didn’t start with Nixon. There has long been something as ridiculous as “diplomatic immunity” in place, and prior to Nixon, presidents were better shielded from their crimes – perhaps Nixon was unique in that he was such a mental case that he didn’t allow himself to be better shielded. At any rate, elite immunity has also always been a part of our legal system, it just hasn’t been so well used in politics until Bush II. Other presidents could be accused and justly charged with war crimes, they just weren’t accompanied by systematic torture and they were generally more limited in geographical scope at least. Mark Twain railed about the issue quite often, and since then, the Spanish American War, both world wars and frankly, every war since has come with political aspirations and designs on Empire that included faked or manipulated acts by “the enemy.” Acts of military aggression are war crimes. When was the last time a foreign army invaded and we put our military to use to defend ourselves? Nevertheless, we have kept it busy.

At any rate, the Greenwald quote is from his new book, should you wish to investigate further: With Liberty and Justice for Some. You can just read the cited article if you’d like to have the exact - disgusting - words that Gerald Ford used to “justify” his pardon of Nixon. Words which were praised by Dick Cheney, of course, and parroted by many, including President #Compromise, since then in defense of the continued policy of “looking forward.”

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

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