How can President Gerald R. Ford's actions in pardoning Richard Nixon be described as a courageous act?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many Americans who will always believe that Gerald Ford had a tacit understanding with President Nixon that if Nixon had to resign Ford would give him a blanket pardon for any crimes he had committed in office, or might have committed, or could be suspected of having committed. Ford may have shown some courage in issuing that pardon (and explaining it away as best he could), because it would cost him votes when he ran for election; but many Americans believed that there was a secret deal which Ford had to honor. The fact that he lost the presidential election suggests that he lost enough votes by pardoning the man who was most guilty in the Watergate affair to tip the election. There was also the fact that he came into the White House by the back door. He was appointed vice president to fill the vacancy left by a man who had had to resign in disgrace, and then he became president because of the resignation of another man who had had to resign "for the good of the country" in order to avoid impeachment and possible criminal proceedings.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to make this case, you would have to argue that Ford was putting something important at risk when he made the decision to pardon Nixon.  You can argue this in two ways.  First, you can say that he was putting his career on the line.  You can say that Nixon was very unpopular and that pardoning him was likely to harm that career because it would cause people to be unlikely to vote for him.  Alternatively, you can argue that Ford’s legacy was on the line.  You can say that his place in history was in danger if he pardoned Nixon.

You will also need to argue that what Ford did was in pursuit of some greater good.  You will need to argue that pardoning Nixon was important to avoid pulling the country apart politically.  You have to argue that a Nixon trial would be bad for the country.

In order to claim that Ford’s act was courageous, you must make these two arguments.