In 1974, White House Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig (pictured) took the fortieth Vice President, Gerry Ford for a walk in the rose garden on this day. Nixon was going bonkers, said Haig, and we have got to get him out of here, and there are four possible ways to do that. The first three are unrealistic. But the fourth, he said, was if Ford would promise to pardon Nixon after he [Ford] became President, which in his [Haig's] view would gain Nixon's agreement to resign.
High Stakes Poker in the White House Rose GardenFord dismissed the suggestion out of hand. But the discussion was far from over, it was in fact just getting started. Because Nixon had an "ace in the hole". Previously, 82nd Airborne had been brought in to protect the Presidency against anti-war demonstrations. The division was commanded by General Cushman, unusually a political appointee who had served Nixon as National Security Advisor during his Vice Presidency, and later Deputy CIA Director. Cushman understood that those same protestors were now calling for "Jail to the Chief". And so from his inside pocket, Haig produced a top secret, "eyes only", limited distribution order to move the the 82nd Airborne Division from its base at Fort Bragg, North Caroline to surround the White House. Signed by General Robert Cushman, commandant of the US Marine Corps the order was marked topmost priority, Flash Override.
"All men are created equal and that includes presidents and plumbers" ~ Mike Mansfield, Democratic Majority LeaderOf course the provisions of the National Security Act required that the President transmit all military orders through the defense secretary, James Schlesinger. In fact the Secretary was deeply concerned about the President's mental condition - during the last six months alone Schlesinger had been forced to countermand orders to bomb Damascus and Jordan and nuke Vietnam and Korea (orders that were ignored until Nixon sobered up in the morning). Secretary of the Treasury George Schultz also believed that Nixon was stoned out of his mind on Seconal, single-malt Scotch, Dilantin, speed, and clinical paranoia, beating his wife, Pat on a regular basis. By this time the pressure to resign was incredible, and Nixon was clearly losing his mind. Both Schlesinger and Schultz feared a military coup, having agreed with the Joint Chiefs of Staff that all military orders must be signed by two Senior Cabinet Officers (them).
Ford bought the deal, he had not choice. Forced to accept the fourth option, he was not forced to honour the bargain. Because Ford's integrity was built open loyalty to the Constitution and the American people. And so less than four weeks in office, on September 8th now President Gerry Ford anounced that his predecessor would be subject to the full force of criminal law, whether he was insane or not. And shortly afterwards, Haig was replaced in his post by Donald Rumsfeld.