In a Previously Unpublished Piece, the Late Harry Kalven Jr. Considers the Implications of Prosecuting an Ex-President

To Try a President

The surfacing now of the 1974 article, published for the first time below exactly as my father wrote it, is akin to opening a time capsule. As the country considers the legal fate of Donald Trump, the immediacy of my father’s voice—“speaking to us, out of the past, in the present tense,” as I put it in the introduction to his book—is bracing. And his words give rise to a question about the state of our polarized, reflexive political culture: Could an analysis of comparable rigor and generosity, sustained by comparable confidence in the capacity of the legal system to navigate a labyrinth of competing values to a tolerably just result, be written today?

— Jamie Kalven

Strains on the Quality of Mercy:
Should Mr. Nixon Stand Trial?

The question of whether Richard Nixon should stand trial for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up is complicated, unfortunately for him, by its intimate involvement in the continuing desire and need of the American people for an accounting and judgment on the case. For the past two years, our society and its institutions had been grinding slowly but inexorably toward a final determination, and though Mr. Nixon’s forced resignation amounted to a practical solution, it left open the legal and moral questions about his role. They sound an unresolved chord in American life.

To ask whether Mr. Nixon should stand trial stirs familiar perplexities about punishment and vengeance, about the rule of law, about tempering justice with mercy, and also a fresh perplexity about the relationship of politics to justice. But basically, a trial would afford the last chance, through the institutions of the society, to resolve the chord.

Read more at The Atlantic

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