Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald R. Ford 1913-2006

When I turned eighteen in August of 1976, I had every intention of voting against Jerry Ford in the November presidential election; Ford was the hand-picked successor of the totally disgraced Richard Milhaus Nixon and I wanted Nixon (and everything and everyone connected with Nixon) out of my life - forever. I procrastinated, however, and didn't register in time to vote on Election Day; the novelty of being able to drink legally having temporarily overtaken my life, rendering all other civic obligations to the back burner - Hey! I had priorities, dammit! Although I was pleased with Jimmy Carter's victory that year, I also felt bad for the outgoing President Ford - the man's essential goodwill and decency were obvious to me even at so young an age. I liked Jerry Ford! I still do.

Earlier this year, on 14 July, I wrote a piece on this blog called "A Message To My Republican Friends" where I argued that, with two or three exceptions, most of the Republicans who followed Abraham Lincoln into the White House were second-rate mediocrities - Ford was listed as one of those exceptions:

"Gerald R. Ford...has, sadly, been under-rated by historians. It should be remembered that, while he accomplished little in the two and a half years allotted to him, he was a good and decent man who did much to heal the nation after the twin traumas of Vietnam and Watergate. He should have been elected in his own right in 1976".

Had he been elected in '76, we might all have been spared the economic hangover of the so-called "Reagan Revolution" all these decades later, not to mention the nightmare administration of Reagan's political heir, George W. Bush. The greatest irony of all is the undeniable fact that he would have won that election had he not been challenged from the right during the primary season by none other than Ronald Reagan, himself. The pounding that Ford took from the Gipper so damaged him in the general election, he would be defeated by an obscure former governor from Georgia. In hindsight, the implications of Ford's loss thirty years ago are deep and disturbing. Four years later, in 1980, the so-called "Grand Old Party" turned its back forever on the moderation and vision that was personified in the form of Gerald Rudolph Ford.

That is not to say that his record is without blemishes. In all of the discussion pertaining to the man's legacy that have been going on in the media since the announcement of his death late Tuesday evening, I've yet to hear mention the deplorable one-man crusade he waged in the sixties as a member of the House to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, an FDR appointee and one of the greatest jurists of the twentieth century. His sins of omission during the Boston school desegregation riots of September 1975 can only be described as shameful. He had a chance to show some real moral leadership and might have used the bully pulpit of his office to inspire people to do the right thing. To his ever-lasting disgrace, he didn't.

And let's not forget the fact that no one is more responsible for the careers of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld than Gerald R. Ford.

But his all-too-human shortcomings aside, the passing of President Ford this week at the age of ninety-three is a bittersweet reminder of what used to be as far as the American political landscape is concerned. Let's face it, we slept a little sounder at night knowing that Jerry Ford was in the White House. For the first time in a long, long while, there was a bona fide good guy in charge of our government. Many of us couldn't even remember the last time that had been the case. You always knew that, even if you didn't agree with his decisions, he came to them with the best of intentions. Many people (myself, included) hit the roof when he pardoned Dick Nixon a month after taking office in September of 1974. Thirty-two years of historical hindsight has shown us that it was probably the right thing to do.

Yes, folks, there used to be such a thing as a moderate Republican politician; they could be found everywhere and, although kinda goofy in one or two aspects, they were essentially good - if at times misguided people. It can not be denied that President Ford, as essentially conservative as he was, would not even be able get the GOP nomination today. He would be dismissed as a "maverick liberal" - things have changed that much. Three decades later, the corruption and ideological extremism that has overtaken the GOP has damaged that organization for all time and eternity. For over a quarter of a century, they have waged an unrelenting war on the poor and the middle class that has all but decimated the potential of working people in this country to earn a decent living. Gerald Ford's political fate was sealed in the spring and summer of 1976 when the radical right forced him to come face to face with the future of the Republican Party. Well, the future has come and gone. From the vantage point of late December 2006, it is obvious to every thinking person that the so-called "Party of Lincoln" is beyond saving.

Sure, Jerry Ford wasn't perfect but he was a good man and you always knew, deep in your heart, that he was trying to do the right thing - that's what you want from your leaders - you want them to have a finely tuned moral compass. In the final analysis, that's all that really matters. God rest his soul.

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Photograph of George Harrison and Gerry Ford
taken in December 1974

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At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Wilma Lamb said...

I agreed with Ford's pardon of Nixon. We had gone thru so much national trauma with the 2 Kennedy assinations, Kent State and the protests, the debacle of the Viet Nam war and Nixon's presidency itself, which to me was a trauma.I had contempt for him as far back as I knew of him, his playing the Communist card against any challenger, in particular Helen Gahagan Douglas, a California Democrat who was known as an honest person, was contemptible.
After all of the frenzy leading up to his leaving I was glad to see him go and hoped the country could get on with it.
He and Mrs Ford did a much better job of raising their family in the boiler room of DC than most do.
No matter how we feel, another piece of history gone

At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Dr. Rick Lippin said...

Yea- Nice thoughts Tom and wilma lamb. I think I have a quote that says "in the end all that really matters is a courageous spirit and a kind heart" :)

(I admit that I get sentimental this time of year)

Dr. Rick Lippin

At 5:10 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...

OH NO!!!! I wanted Nixon HUNG!!!!! I STILL want him hung!! Let's dig him up and hang him now!!

While we're at it! I want the first two fingers of both hands CUT THE FUCK OFF!!!!! Oh the pompous FUCK!! Standing there with his fat face on his neck, after he had to give up the White House or be impeached!! Flashing peace signs over his head!!! It was like watching Satan say "The Rosary"! I still want his entrails presented on a STICK, which will later be employed to BEAT HIM!!!!

(I need to go smoke a joint!)

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Now, now, Stoney!
Don't beat around the bush (no pun intended), tell us how you REALLY feel...Great one, my friend! Please keep 'em coming!
All the best,
Tom Degan
PS - Thanks for the card, pal! Looking forward to the photos of you and your family.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerald Ford spent 15 (?) years in the House, never had a bill authored (I've heard), was known as th "CIA man in the House", was given a position on the Warren (JFK murder cover up) Commission where he was the FBI snitch and with Arlen Specter created the infamous "Magic Bullet" theory to provide a false cover for their obvious lies. He later authored a book on Oswald (more lies) where he revealed classified information. His pardon of Nixon, against the better recommendations, avoided any trial where Nixon's "Bay of Pigs Thing" CIA blackmail implicating the CIA in the JFK assassination could have come to light. If this is your idea of a political hero you need "help", or better information sources.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Catharine said...

If it's any consolation, Stoney, I don't think he has entrails anymore. Or fingers. Or a fat face.

So, yeah... all the offending body parts have returned to dust.


At 5:43 PM, Blogger Catharine said...

P.S. I turned 18 on election day in 1976, and the first candidate I ever voted for was (shocker!) A REPUBLICAN -- Gerald R. Ford. (I warned them not to vote for Jimmy Carter. Even at that tender age, I saw disaster on the horizon. But would they listen? Do they ever?)



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