What if Nixon had been Hanged?

Seeing the rave reviews on how Iraqis will benefit from the hanging of Saddam Hussein, and hearing the late Gerald Ford lauded today to the heavens, I can’t help wondering how American history might have changed if Richard Nixon had been hanged.

Of course, I’m not suggesting  Nixon should have been hanged by a lynch mob.  And it is possible that Nixon could have been given a Saddam-like trial (judged fair enough by the Washington Post and most of the American establishment) and somehow avoided stretching before a crowd.

Nixon was guilty of illegally invading a foreign country (Cambodia), of perpetuating the war in Vietnam for political purposes and his 1972 reelection campaign, of violating the rights of tens of thousands of Americans with the illegal FBI COINTELPRO program, of sanctioning CIA violence and subversion around the globe, as well as Watergate and many other offenses.

Nixon also created Amtrak.

Many people assume that President Ford pardoned Nixon only for Watergate.  Instead, Ford pardoned Nixon for any and every crime Nixon committed from January 20, 1969 (the date he was sworn in) until the day he resigned in August 1974.    Ford’s pardon effectively closed the book on holding Nixon culpable for his crimes against the Constitution, Americans, and millions of other people around the world.

If Nixon had been publicly tried and a full accounting of his abuses made to the American public, it may have been far more difficult for subsequent presidents to cover up their crimes.  If politicians had vivid memories of Nixon swinging on a rope, they might have been slower to lie the nation into unnecessary foreign wars.    If Ford was hellbent on pardoning his friend, he should have had the decency to wait until the evidence was on the table.  

Some people would say that it would have been unfair to make Nixon pay the price for his lies and crimes when other presidents (such as Lyndon Johnson) got away with similar abuses and mass killings.

True enough, but it is necessary to start somewhere.

And those who are concerned about how Nixon would have personally suffered from being hanged are cold-hearted towards the tens of thousands of Americans who have been killed and maimed in subsequent unnecessary wars.  Making one politician pay the price of his conduct could have saved Americans and the world vast suffering.


38 Responses to What if Nixon had been Hanged?

  1. Ryan Murphy January 2, 2007 at 4:20 pm #

    “Nixon also created Amtrak.”


    That’s definitely a hanging offense in my book. 😀

    Seriously, I agree with this column. I’m getting damn sick of these lunatics and criminals desire to repeat the 20th century. Bush would be a good place to start and I hope I see him tried one day for all the crimes he has committed against the Constitution and the nation.

  2. theDdoubleSstandard January 2, 2007 at 4:27 pm #

    your above comment is so very appropriate and also applicable to Henry Kissinger

    i heard part of “Super K’s” lies at Pres. Ford’s funeral

    i said to myelf “here is America’s Saddam”

  3. Vic Anderson January 2, 2007 at 4:48 pm #

    Thanks for the memory (and its conscientious clarity).

  4. Tede-Z January 2, 2007 at 4:50 pm #

    I, myself, was thinking just that when I heard of how Pres. Ford was a visionary for “healing the country” when he pardoned Nixon. The hanging should have started long before Nixon, in my opinion. There were plenty of “official” government scofflaws at all levels throughout our history whose behavior merited such an action. One need only look at the painful interpretations of our plain-English Constitution to identify those many, needy, individuals who escaped justice. I firmly believe this world would not be the chaos it is had this retribution been extracted at the very first instance.

  5. Annie January 2, 2007 at 5:14 pm #

    “Making one politician pay the price of his conduct could have saved Americans and the world vast suffering. ”

    I just finished reading Elizabeth de la Vega’s book, US Vs BUSH et al. She lays out the actual legal case against Bush et al (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell) for the crime of conspiracy to defraud the congress and the American people. It should be a must read for the new congress. It’s a hopeful and even humorous book.
    Do visit this web address if you haven’t already:

  6. Sol January 2, 2007 at 6:09 pm #

    You’re right on, Jim although today I imagine most will miss your comment because they are too busy worshipping at the alter of Gerald Ford.

    It’s amazing that these politicians steal damn near half of everything a working person makes through taxes and inflation and on top of that they run up ruinious debt and continuously attack the Bill of Rights yet we are supposed to worship these bastards when they die! Why?

  7. Jim January 2, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    Because the media tells us so.

  8. Sol January 2, 2007 at 7:30 pm #

    How much did week plus long Ford worship cost the taxpayer? I heard the government even brought in a marching band for one of the many “services” they put on.

  9. Lois January 2, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    Hi Jim,
    I had a diary at dailykos along these lines the other day:


    Ford makes the case that image is everything. He should be a very controversial public figure, covering up both the Kennedy assassination and Nixon’s crimes. But his image makes him just one heckuva great guy.

    “Newly released documents show, however, that Warren Commission member Congressman Gerald Ford pressed the panel to change its description of the wound and place it higher in Kennedy’s body. Ford wanted the wording changed to: “A bullet had entered the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.” The panel’s final version was: “A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.” This crucial change only came to light in 1997.


    I haven’t heard that in any of the Ford death coverage on TV. They’re doing such a disservice going on and on about Ford at a time when they will only invite people who will praise the dead president. Typical, I guess. Very dishonest and trying to manipulate the public.

  10. Tom Blanton January 2, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    President Ford’s greatness may inspire Bush to heal the nation by pardoning himself. Of course, this would be a great sacrifice for Bush as it would ruin his chances for a third term. However, it would free him up to redact his presidential papers and to plan his own gala funeral.

  11. Jim January 2, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    As long as Bush is handing out pardons, maybe I should apply for a pardon for defaming Amtrak.

    Clinton got away with horrendous abuse of the pardon power. I expect Bush to vastly up the ante, as he has done with so many other Clinton abuses.

  12. Jim January 2, 2007 at 8:53 pm #

    Lois – thanks for the comment and the link to your excellent riff. People should check it out to see the full wording of the Ford pardon of Nixon.

    The blogs are batting far more honestly today than are the television networks or the major papers.

    Unfortunately, most people ingest their information from tools that choose to flatter the State.

  13. Scott January 2, 2007 at 8:55 pm #

    But how would we know it’s the real Nixon?!

  14. Jim January 2, 2007 at 9:05 pm #

    We would know for sure if the grand finale was canceled at the last moment after Nixon announced a ‘secret plan to end the hanging.’

  15. W. Kiernan January 2, 2007 at 9:25 pm #

    It’s not too late, you know. I’ve got a shovel.

  16. Scott January 2, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    I was just thinking the same thing earlier today………….glad to know that some of us still have a brain in our skulls!

  17. Jim January 2, 2007 at 11:40 pm #

    W. Kiernan – this is the kind of comment that could spur the Homeland Security Department to issue emergency regulations requiring a federal license and a three day waiting period before people can buy a shovel.

  18. Hal O;Leary January 2, 2007 at 11:57 pm #

    Not to mention Ford’s unpardonable behavior on the Warren Commission in persuading the members to lie about where the “magic” bullet entered President Kennedy. His pardon and the subsequent adoration by the public and
    politicos makes him and the hypocritical public complicit in his crimes. Democracy cannot survive if anyone is above the law.

  19. JoJo January 3, 2007 at 6:42 am #

    Wondering why the Saddam Hanging was==so soon and the media made it non-stop praising Ford’s death ? . Very simple—Washedupington waited until something could be made into a big thing and USA public would stay stupid.
    READ THE COMMENTARY BY A VERY KNOWLEDGABLE “PLUNGER BLOGGER”,it is lenghty and many parts. This guy really knows his stuff on what really happened 911 and the false war on terror.
    I was shocked to read,in little that I knew about our monster government. Please print it and pass it on–The anthrax killing of a reporter will schock you.

  20. Jim January 3, 2007 at 8:46 am #

    Hal – the American public is more negligent than complicit on this score.

    The media, on the other hand, has no excuse not to know better.

    One wire story headline stressed that Ford was praised for his sincerity and integrity – and then mentioned that chief mourners included Kissinger, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

    And almost no one in the mainstream media points out this absurdity…

  21. Henry Pelifian January 3, 2007 at 9:14 am #

    Dear Mr. Bovard,
    You got to the heart of the matter here:

    “If Nixon had been publicly tried and a full accounting of his abuses made to the American public, it may have been far more difficult for subsequent presidents to cover up their crimes.”

    What is so astounding is that the mainstream media fails to provide a prospective that is equally as valid and probably more valid than the immense praise for a member of presidential class who could not criticize publicly during his lifetime the crime of a pre-emptive attack on a foreign country with fabricated evidence of WMDs.

    When will the American political class demonstrate its ability distinguish wrongdoing and punish those who deliberately lie to foster war and abuse their power by building the foundation of a police state.

  22. JSB January 3, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    If Nixon would have been impeached and sentenced to the hangman’s custody, many of the Reagan and Bush administration stooges(Nixon accomplices)would have been alongside him or serving long prison terms today.

    It is interesting how these same criminals show up again and again, one administration after another with the evidence of past crimes expunged from the official record. That also holds true for the Congressional leadership from both parties.

    These guys make racketeering and organized crime look like childsplay.


  23. Jim January 3, 2007 at 11:28 am #

    Mr. Pelifian – the American political class wants to preserve its prerogatives. And starting bogus wars and telling Texas-sized lies is part of those prerogatives.

    Ford is a hero to the Washington establishment becuase he helped make government respectable.

    Unfortunately, that has meant a death sentence for many young American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

  24. Jim January 3, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    JSB – yes, Ford helped advance the careers of some of the biggest scofflaws in recent American history.

    The expunging of official crimes is far more expensive than Americans realize…

  25. klyde January 3, 2007 at 9:38 pm #

    Hey I like AMTRAK! But seriously has any US member of an administration ever been held accountable for the crimes they have committed in office? It’s all part of the great American myth that our politicians are different/better than others.

  26. Jim January 3, 2007 at 11:45 pm #

    I will concede, at least hypothetically, that there may be places in the US where Amtrak is more reliable or convenient than hitch-hiking.

    As for whether officials have been held accountable – I think some of the crooks in Grant’s presidency got sent to the slammer.

    There have been others periodically nailed over the years.

    But the higher the official, the less likely the prosecution….

  27. Carter January 4, 2007 at 7:48 am #

    Obviously, the beginning of a noble tradition (hanging presidents) should have begun with Washington, right after the Whiskey Rebellion fiasco. For an interesting and entertaining look at that alternate history, dig up a copy of L. Neil Smith’s book, “The Probability Broach”.

  28. Jim January 4, 2007 at 10:02 am #

    I vigorously disagree on George Washington. He was a great president who made some major errors (such as not having Alexander Hamilton sent back to Bermuda or wherever that rascal came from). Washington had the courage to keep the nation out of war when a time when much of the public was hollering for blood.

    Washington showed none of the systemic lust for and abuse of power shown by Nixon, or by LBJ, or by George W. Bush.

  29. dunlap January 4, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    I think you and I were on the same wavelength yesterday. Please see my article on the subject at http://masterpeace.wordpress.com/2007/01/03/a-teachable-moment-parallels-between-gerald-ford-and-george-w-bush/

  30. Lois January 4, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    Nice to see the thread keep going, Jim.

    I want to point out something else about the Nixon pardon: It didn’t just stop investigation of Nixon for crimes. There were undoubtedly others who would have faced prosecution, for instance, conspirators in the collecting of hush money.


    Carlos Marcello is a figure in the Kennedy assassination investigations, too. Googling off a post on Will Bunch’s Attytood, I found the 3 part Playboy interview of Jim Garrison.
    Well worth taking an hour to read:

  31. Saturdaynightspecial January 4, 2007 at 4:33 pm #

    Oswald was a below average person.

    Tricky Dick probably had friends in the CIA – that’s where to look, and may have used the mob to coverup the CIA’s involvement. But it only needed right wingers in the CIA to do it without tricky dick.

    Ain’t that wild – Nixon and his mob friends?

    Crystal Ball

  32. Jim January 4, 2007 at 8:52 pm #

    Lois – good point. A presidential pardon is the ultimate trickle down benefit for lesser crooks and henchmen.

  33. mark January 5, 2007 at 1:55 am #

    Every president is a puppet. Shouldn’t we hang the puppetmasters?

  34. Jim January 5, 2007 at 10:01 am #

    Taking such an expansive approach might require an Economic Impactment statement, since it might cause a shortage of both timber & rope.

  35. Original Steve January 6, 2007 at 9:12 am #

    but, but, but….if Nixon weren’t pardoned, how would we have “healed?”

  36. Jim January 6, 2007 at 3:13 pm #

    The “healing” consisted largely of conning Americans into continuing to put presidents on a pedestal.

    This un-republican attitude towards government – this notion that our rulers are by nature superior – has cost untold numbers of lives here and abroad since 1974…

  37. Orville H. Larson January 10, 2007 at 5:19 am #

    I’ve always regarded Gerald Ford as the archetypal hack politician. He hung in Congress for 25 years, living comfortably on the taxpayers’ dime. It’s possible he agreed to pardon Nixon in return for the latter’s resignation.

    In sum, Ford was just another member of the bunch that Mark Twain called America’s native criminal class.


  1. North Buffalo Journal and Review » Blog Archive » Food for Thought - January 7, 2007

    […] James Bovard speculates on how things might be different if Richard Nixon suffered the same fate as Saddam Hussein, hanging. Many people assume that President Ford pardoned Nixon only for Watergate.  Instead, Ford pardoned Nixon for any and every crime Nixon committed from January 20, 1969 (the date he was sworn in) until the day he resigned in August 1974.    Ford’s pardon effectively closed the book on holding Nixon culpable for his crimes against the Constitution, Americans, and millions of other people around the world. […]