Friday, December 29, 2006

As far as presidents go he was one of the best.

It is sad that former president Gerald Ford has passed away. I have written before about him and argued that he did very little as president and for that we should be thankful. The big problem with Bush is that he done too much and all of it wrong.

Ford, it appears, was also a critic of the Bush policy in Iraq. President Ford had taped statements opposing the invasion of Iraq with the instruction that they not be released until after his death. In an interview with the Washington Post, in 2004, Bush said “Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq.”

In another interview, given under the same conditions, Ford wondered “Where does (Bush) get his advice?” As for the increased surveillance of Americans by the Bush regime Ford said: “I would never do it. I was dumbfounded when I heard they were doing it.”

It was also revealed elsewhere that President Ford wrote a letter in 2003 which was very supportive of equal rights for gay people. In the letter he wrote a friend saying: “I fully concur with Al [Alan Simpson, former Senator of Wyoming] and you on ‘gay equality before the law.’ I sincerely hope that you prevail in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.” That case was the one which overturned sodomy laws.

Interestingly Left-wing journalist Alexander Cockburn “bid a sad adieu to Gerald Ford” for much the same reason we praised him when he became the oldest living president in American history six months ago. Cockburn wrote that Ford “was America’s greatest President. Transferring the Hippocratic injunction from the medical to the political realm, he did the least possible harm. Under Ford’s tranquil hand the nation relaxed after the hectic fevers of the Nixon years.”

Cockburn wrote: “Unlike George W. Bush, Ford was of humane temper and could mostly hold in check his bloodthirsty counselors.” Even Ayn Rand preferred Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan, mainly over the abortion issue. Rand had meet Ford and liked him.

It is interesting to see the widespread quiet respect for Ford that developed. He was respected because he did what a good president ought to do -- not much. We could use a man like him in the White House again -- like immediately. And what is particularly interesting is that he was the one man who held that office without ever being elected as either president or vice president.

He was appointed as vice president when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned during a scandal. Scandal then enveloped President Richard Nixon who resigned from office leaving Ford as president.

Ford did make an effort to heal the nation after Vietnam and Watergate. He withdrew the last troops from Vietnam told those that had fled America to avoid the draft to return home to an amnesty program and pardoned Nixon. While controversial the latter probably spared the country more trauma and the truth of Watergate was out already.

Ford did little to achieve greatness and that was a reason for admiration. It is the politician who sets out to leave his mark on history who usually screws things up. It is unfortunate that he was defeated in his bid for a second term by Jimmy Carter, a good man but a terrible president. Ford married his wife Betty (Elizabeth) in 1948. Betty was a dancer who studied under Martha Graham. She later founded the Betty Ford Center to help treat drug addiction and alcoholism. The Fords had three sons and a daughter.

The photo shows the Ford family during the White House years and includes daughter-in-law Gayle. Left to right: Jack, Steve, Betty, Gerald, Susan, Gayle and Mike.