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Unity cannot exist where justice is absent

Well…this is going to be difficult. That sold-out knucklehead refugee from a 1969 ‘Mister Clean’ TV commercial has just done what only the most cynical and paranoid kind of malcontent ever connected with national politics would have dared to predict…” – Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Limbo: The Scum Also Rises,” on U.S. President Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon U.S. President Richard Nixon

Few things live as large in journalistic lore as the Watergate scandal and the ensuing barrage of hyper-controversy that swirled around U.S. President Richard Nixon and his gang of never-do-wells – as such, I’ve been an apt pupil of the scandal, ingesting every bit of literature on the event as possible, including the piece referenced above by Hunter S. Thompson, journalism’s prodigal son and my favorite author, as well as the seminal masterpiece “All The President’s Men.”

Often overlooked, or at least mentioned last, is the fact that after his resignation, Nixon received a full presidential pardon from his successor, U.S. President Gerald Ford, and was therefore never held accountable for the myriad crimes he committed against the American people.

One would think that the American press, if no one else, would surely recognize that oversight as itself a crime against the people, but the modern purveyors of news manufacturing are lining up to advocate that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden do the exact same thing when U.S. President Donald Trump finally leaves office.

To wit, an op-ed published by NBC News entitled “Why Biden should pardon Trump – and we Democrats should want him to” stated the following: “A Biden pardon of Trump, like the pardoning of former President Richard Nixon 46 years ago, would be intended to heal the nation and foreclose the possibility of an ongoing cycle of retribution after political parties change control of the government. We’ve done this before.”

While this writer believes a presidential pardon for Trump would be a step toward unifying a deeply-divided nation, it seems that weak-kneed liberals have forgotten that unity, as well as its cousin liberty, first and foremost require justice.

Indeed, how can we hope to unify our nation if those who have apparently been harmed by Trump’s behavior over the last few years – an expansive group that includes immigrants, minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, the working class and poor and more – are forced to watch him walk away scot-free?

The answer is simple – we can’t.

In this country, we believe in the notion that those who commit crimes against society, whether that be a late night shooting in a downtown club or the misuse of public office, must pay their pittance to society and be held accountable for the harm they levy upon others.

Why should Trump or any other politician be immune? How can shrugging off justice possibly promulgate unity?

Make no mistake, I have no allegiance to either the Republican or Democratic parties – if the outgoing president were a Democrat and behaved the way Trump has during his tenure in the White House, I would absolutely advocate that the full weight of the law be used in bringing him or her to justice – but it seems an abandonment of our principals to allow politicians to live by different rules than the rest of the nation.

While I agree that there should not be a re-litigation of issues already decided on during the last four years, it seems beyond comprehension that we would even consider not holding Trump and his legion of cronies accountable for any wrongdoing for which he has not yet been held to account.

If Biden hands Trump a full presidential pardon, it will only be his first abandonment of the most basic principles of democracy, which hold that no person is above the law, and, rather than spurn unity, it will only divide us further as victims are forced to watch their abuser strut away from the crime scene, red hands and all.

If Trump is not guilty of any crime, a presidential pardon is unnecessary; if he is guilty of a crime, a presidential pardon would be a slap in the face of all law-abiding citizens in this country – either way, Biden will do a disservice to the very unity he purports to pine for if he stands in the way of the machinations of justice.