Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford 1913-2006

I was retiring to bed last night when I got the news that President Gerald R. Ford had died. I had mixed feelings. I didn't think Ford was a particularly good President, and we come from different wings of the Republican Party. Ford liked to keep company with the Rockefellers, while I despise the Rockefellers as an institution (though I have no personal hatred for any of them). My family (on my mother's side) and the Rockefellers have a mutual dislike for one another that goes back to Jay Rockefeller's entry into West Virginia politics. In fact, I wouldn't even say it is mutual dislike-we didn't care for the Rockefellers, I don't know if they thought anything at all about our clan.

President Ford, however, was fond enough of that gang to make one of them his Vice President. His political acumen was lacking greatly, and he wasn't ready to be President, and this was painfully apparent. But there was another side to Ford. It was the side that helped heal the nation after the Watergate Scandal tarnished the people's image of the Presidency. Ford was a clumsy fellow, but the whole country saw him as a kind of national antiseptic being poured on to an open wound, and he did a wonderful job of cleaning out the infection.

So eager was Ford to bring healing that he and his wife Betty agreed to make public her difficulty with alcoholism in order to help others in the same situation. Even Ford's most famous political "mistake" was rooted in a desire to bring healing. Ford's pardon of Nixon brought him defeat in
1976, and he knew that it likely would, but he said of the pardon:

"If I had not granted a pardon, Mr. Nixon would have been indicted and convicted and there would have been an appeal and there would have been a three- or four-year period ... that issue would be the headline.

"We had to get that off the front page. The only way to do it was to make a decisive mood, grant pardons, and get on with the business of the country. At the time, the public did not generally understand the reasons for the pardon. Time has convinced most people, well over a majority."

Ford was right, and in time even senior Democrats would see the wisdom of what he had done. For having cared more about healing our land than about his own political head, Gerald Ford deserves all of the gratitude that our nation can give him.



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