Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford

Gerald Rudolph Ford
July 14, 1913 - December 26, 2006

I was six when Ford pardoned Nixon, so my awareness of Ford's presidency was nil. However, that act seen by modern historicans as one of healing national divides cost Ford the election in 1976. Interestingly enough, New Jersey went to Ford, the only Mid-Atlantic state to do so.
From reading up on him, Ford seemed like a nice guy. Sure, he was well-connected, and these connections served him. He was not vindictive or spiteful and wanted Democrats and Republicans to work together, a spirit of bipartisanship you just don't see anymore.
He was the first unelected president, appointed by Nixon to replace Agnew as vice president and assumed the presidency when Nixon resigned. Ford spent only two and a half years in office.
I'm kind of ambivalent over Ford. My knowledge of him comes from what I read. When Nixon died in 1994, I watched the funeral on CNN and saw Bob Dole lose it and leave crying. But it was Nixon, a political titan whose infamous deeds shook American's faith and trust in their government. His death provoked strong emotions. What about Ford? Here was a guy who was lampooned by Saturday Night Live, who survived two assassination attempts and who pardoned a corrupt president and saw the withdrawl of troops from Vietnam.
What if Ford hadn't pardoned Nixon? What if he turned on his old boss? Would he have handled inflation or recession differently than Carter? Who knows. Someone write the alternate history story for this and let me know if we'd be better or worse.
Like Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt, Ford was thrust into office unwillingly. he did what he thought was right and never waivered, never relied on any stupid public opinion polls and had an earthy humanity about him. In many ways, Ford was better than the robots we have running the show these days.
He had two really good quotes that struck me:

"The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election."

"I guess it just proves that in America anyone can be President."

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