Our nation presently, as in 1974, is badly in need of a healer who can bind up our nation’s wounds. The divisions in the Watergate downfall of Republican President Richard Nixon in 1974 were not nearly as acute as those of the present; they were strictly political, as opposed to the current interracial conflict that is renting the social fabric of our nation.It is as if we are presently experiencing four major years of national crisis simultaneously: 1918 (the year of the last global Pandemic), 1929 (year of the stock market crash, signaling the onset of the Great Depression), 1968 ( year of racial and anti-Vietnam War civil unrest), and 1974 (year of revelation of major presidential misconduct).
On both occasions, our nation has been badly in need of a healer. Most people have forgotten that at the beginning of 1973, our Vice-President was the horrifically corrupt, disgracefully antisemitic Spiro Agnew. Had he been Vice President in August, 1974 at the time of the resignation of President Nixon, the divisions would have worsened.
America was saved, however.
Agnew had taken kickbacks from contractors during his time as Baltimore County Executive and Governor of Maryland. The US Attorney for the District of Maryland was ready to indict him, but in October, 1973, Agnew resigned from the Vice-Presidency and entered a plea of nolo contendere to a felony tax evasion charge.
Nixon appointed the then House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to replace Agnew as vice president. This appointment was warmly received by the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate who, on a personal level liked Ford very much. When Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Ford became the president.
Jerry Ford’s first priority as president was to promote “a time of healing.” Part of his healing effort was his pardoning of Richard Nixon in September, 1974, an unpopular act which highly contributed to Ford’s defeat by Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential race.
There is no doubt, however that the Ford pardon of Nixon positively promoted the healing process. A criminal trial of Nixon would have inflamed partisan passions to an intolerable extent and worsened the antagonism between Democrats and Republicans both inside and outside government. In retrospect, virtually all presidential scholars approve the pardon as an act of statesmanship.
As president for a brief two-year period, Ford was successful in foreign affairs in furthering the detente agenda of Henry Kissinger. He achieved very little domestically, however, due to the significant majorities the Democrats maintained in both the House and Senate. His chief of staff, Dick Cheney had not yet emerged as the anti-environmental force whose minions I had to oppose in my efforts to implement a pro-environmental agenda as Bush 43 Region 2 EPA Administrator.
Still, Ford was successful in promoting a national agenda of healing and was personally liked by most voters, even those who disapproved of his policies. His reelection campaign of 1976 was surprisingly close. That campaign had a highly beneficial impact for New Jersey. It was most instrumental in promoting the career of the then young Assembly Republican Minority Leader, Tom Kean, who chaired the New Jersey Ford reelection campaign that actually won the state in a major upset.
I watched the funeral of George Floyd yesterday and listened intently to the remarks of former Vice President, presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, and President-in-Waiting Joe Biden. The odds are now becoming prohibitive that he will win the presidential election this November and end the parafascist racist kleptocracy regime of Donald Trump that has protected and preserved racial voter suppression and police brutality.
As I listened to Biden yesterday and his speeches of recent days, I was struck by two things.
First, his speeches are distinguished by a superb tone of healing.
Second, there now exists in America the greatest opportunity in my lifetime for a reconciliation between the races that can reduce, if not eliminate, the toxic systemic racism in the criminal justice, economic, and environmental realms.
Biden was magnificent at the George Floyd funeral. It is as if the Almighty has sent him to be the Voice and Leader of Healing for our nation.
One passage will tell you all: the words Biden spoke to Gianna Floyd, six year old daughter of George Floyd.
“Little Gianna, as I said to you when I saw you yesterday, you are so brave,” Biden said in the pre-recorded video, filmed at his home in Delaware. “Daddy is looking down at you, and he is so proud of you. I know you miss that bear hug that only he could give, the pure joy of riding on his shoulders so you could touch the sky.”
Compare that with the sick, demented, and deranged Donald Trump, who blames a 75-year-old man for injuries inflicted on him by two Buffalo white police officers.
Much to the disappointment of Trump, who thrives on urban interracial violence, far more whites than ever took part in the largely peaceful demonstrations that took place over the past two weeks since the murder of George Floyd. White America is more receptive than ever to the overwhelming evidence of racist police brutality in our nation’s cities.
At long last, as shown by ALL the polls, the American public is ready for genuine police reform and to eliminate the cancer of racist police brutality. And anybody who thinks that Trump can still win reelection has to have been hermetically sealed in a dungeon during the past two weeks.
Joe Biden may serve only one term as president. His projected inaugural date is January 20, 2021, when he will be 78 years old.
During that one term, however, Biden will be able to make history in his efforts to heal the cancer of racism that has afflicted our nation since the age of Reconstruction. More than any other white politician since Bobby Kennedy, Joe Biden is trusted by African-Americans.
America was blessed with a healer when Gerald Ford was inaugurated president in the aftermath of the Watergate nightmare in 1974. America is again blessed with a healer in Joe Biden in 2020, as the American electorate prepares to end the chaotic national nightmare brought about by Trump toxicity by removing Donald Trump from the White House this November.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.