Thursday, December 28, 2006
I had my problems with Ford as President and still do.
Nixon appointed him because he was non-controversial and had many friends in the House and Senate. He was also dull and not very smart, our only football scholarship President. Democrats joked that Nixon appointed him to help safeguard his job as no one could imagine him as being smart enough to be President. He is not remembered in Congress for any legislation or in the Presidency. He was most known for being loyal to the Republican Party.
I can never forgive him for pardoning Nixon. Nixon got into trouble for believing the President was above all laws and Ford showed that he agreed. There should be a law that elected officials can never be pardoned. Pardoning Nixon did not help the nation heal, it let the Republicans and Nixon off the hook. We have a President today doing things worse than Nixon because the lesson did not sink in that the President is the servant of the people, not the people's master.
That said, he had no real scandals associated with his life. He may have been wrong and thick-headed and slow, but he was not a crook. He did what he thought was right.
One legacy of Ford is his work on the Warren Commission, where he was dishonest in the write-up in the political Kabuki of the commission to assure the country that Oswald was a lone crazed gunman. The initial draft of the report stated: "A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder to the right of the spine." Ford wanted it to read: "A bullet had entered the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine." The final draft is closer to his and misleading. Dismissing and covering up evidence for the good of the nation, pardoning a crooked tyrant for the good of the nation... Contrary to what the elites at the top would want, loyalty is not the highest virtue but it was Ford's.
Even this late in life he could see that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld were wrong on Iraq. Unfortunately, he also still believed in loyalty - both to the GOP and to the office of the President. He would not publicly say that but gave an interview to be published only after his death. This was Fords greatest flaw, loyalty over doing what was right. He was not a well liked or even seen as a competent President at the time and had disputes with the more liberal Congress, 36 vetoes in his short time in office, but his reputation has slowly improved at least partially due to the establishment media.
While I can't get excited about Ford or join in the accolades it is nice that the old conservative manages to bite Bush and Cheney from beyond the grave.
UPDATED - The Mayaguez Incident is considered his biggest victory. All the details weren't released until 20 years later. Wonder why? He sent the US military in to rescue men captured off a US transport ship by Cambodia. We lost 41 men attacking wrong targets after the crew had already been released. This was all sadly typical.
Duncan caught the reaction to Ford's pardons at the time in Time magazine. Ford had said he would not pardon Nixon because the country wouldn't stand for it during his confirmation hearings.