John McCain believes that there should be no real accountability for Bush-era lawbreakers, based on the Watergate precedent: “Most people in retrospect believe that Ford’s pardon was right, because we moved on. We have got to move on.”
I would say that adherence to this precedent still implies that Jay Bybee should be forced from office even if there’s no further punishment for him.
But a broader question here is whether it isn’t time to reconsider the idea that the “system worked” during the Watergate process. I think a good case can be made that starting with Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon, moving forward into George H.W. Bush’s use of the pardon power to kill off the Iran-Contra investigation, and now shifting toward the present day when it’s apparently become a fringe left position that the laws of the United States of America should be enforced that we’ve moved through a dangerous cycle of impunity. It seems to me that, in effect, Nixon’s dictum that “if the president does it, it’s not a crime” has been entrenched into American customary law. Officially, he was repudiated. But in reality I think you’d have to say that the Nixon Doctrine — that claims of national security allow the President to order whatever he wants, irrespective of statutes or treaties — has become the de facto law of the land.
And it was Ford who got the ball rolling.