Should Nixon have resigned from office and should Ford have pardoned him? What did Watergate do to American’s faith in government?
This is, of course, a matter of opinion. My own view is that President Nixon absolutely needed to resign. I also think that it was best for the country that President Ford pardoned him. I think that this minimized the damage to the country from the Watergate scandal.
It was necessary for Nixon to resign from office. If he had not resigned, he surely would have been impeached and convicted. This would have meant that he would have been removed from office. In other words, the end result would have been the same for Nixon; he would no longer have been president. By resigning, Nixon made things easier and better for the country. He spared us months of partisan fighting over his impeachment. He also allowed us to get a new start with a different president rather than saddling us with a president who was completely hamstrung by the impeachment proceedings. Thus, his resignation was the best thing for everyone.
I feel the same about Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Watergate was already going to hurt us by reducing our faith in government. That was inevitable. However, if we had had to go through a trial of Nixon, it would have made things worse. The trial would likely have turned into a partisan conflict in which Republicans and Democrats could not agree on what result would serve justice best. This would have hurt our country even more. Therefore, I do not think that there would have been much benefit to having a trial that would have turned into a partisan circus.
In my opinion, President Nixon was right to resign from the Presidency. The Watergate break-in and Nixon's participation in covering it up was a criminal activity and a downright dishonor to the office. As President, he has an unofficial duty to serve as a moral authority and leader to the country, and his actions were a betrayal to America. Anyways, voluntarily leaving office was just speeding up the inevitable. If Nixon hadn't resigned, he would have been impeached and in all likelihood, be kicked out of office. By leaving office on his own power, he helped move the country move forward from the distraction that was the scandal.
As for whether Ford should have pardoned him, that is a highly debated issue. He pardoned Nixon so that the whole affair would not be a distraction and so that the country could move past it. It makes sense, but I personally don't agree with. What Nixon did was a crime, and Ford should have let it play out and see what happened. I feel like by pardoning Nixon, Ford was basically giving him special treatment just because he was President. Since he resigned, he should have been treated like any ordinary citizen, and have had to face the consequences of his actions.
The Watergate undoubtedly hurt America's faith in government. In the 1960s, especially with coverage of the Vietnam War, people's trust in government was already in decline. Therefore, with a scandal within the government, especially at such a high level, citizens kind of had to ask themselves who could they trust in leadership.