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Fear And Loathing In Limbo

The Scum Also Rises

October 10, 1974 12:00 PM ET

Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 171 from October 17, 1974. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone’s premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.

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. ...

If I followed my better instincts right now, I would put this typewriter in the Volvo and drive to the home of the nearest politician--any politician--and hurl the goddamn machine through his front window ... flush the bugger out with an act of lunatic violence then soak him down with mace and run him naked down Main Street in Aspen with a bell around his neck and black lumps all over his body from the jolts of a high-powered "Bull Buster" cattle prod.

But old age has either mellowed me or broken my spirit to the point where I will probably not do that--at least not today, because that blundering dupe in the White House has just plunged me into a deep and vicious hole.

About five hours after I'd sent the final draft of a massive article on The Demise of Richard Nixon off on the mojo wire and into the cold maw of the typesetter in San Francisco, Gerald Ford called a press conference in Washington to announce that he had just granted a "full, free and absolute" presidential pardon, covering any and all crimes Richard Nixon may or may not have committed during the entire five and a half years of his presidency.

Ford sprung his decision with no advance warning at 10:40 on a peaceful Sunday morning in Washington, after emerging from a church service with such a powerful desire to dispense mercy that he rushed back to the White House--a short hump across Lafayette Park--and summoned a weary Sunday-morning skeleton crew of correspondents and cameramen to inform them, speaking in curiously zombielike tones, that he could no longer tolerate the idea of ex-President Nixon suffering in grief-crazed solitude out there on the beach in San Clemente, and that his conscience now compelled him to end both the suffering of Nixon and the national angst it was causing by means of a presidential edict of such king-sized breadth and scope as to scourge the poison of "Watergate" from our national consciousness forever.

Or at least that's how it sounded to me, when I was jolted out of a sweat-soaked coma on Sunday morning by a frantic telephone call from Dick Tuck. "Ford pardoned the bastard!" he screamed. "I warned you, didn't I? I buried him twice, and he came back from the dead both times. ... Now he's done it again; he's running around loose on some private golf course in Palm Desert."

I fell back on the bed, moaning heavily. No, I thought. I didn't hear that. Ford had gone out of his way, during his first White House press conference, to impress both the Washington press corps and the national TV audience with his carefully considered refusal to interfere in any way with Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski's legal duty to proceed on the basis of evidence and "prosecute any and all individuals." Given the context of the question, Ford's reply was widely interpreted as a signal to Jaworski that the former president should not be given any special treatment.... And it also meshed with Ford's answer to a question in the course of his confirmation hearings in the Senate a few months earlier, when he'd said, "I don't think the public would stand for it," when asked if an appointed vice-president would have the power to pardon the president who'd appointed him, if the president were removed from office under criminal circumstances.

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