Sunday, December 31, 2006

Gerald Ford

Well, President Ford was a moderate, all right. And he pardoned Tricky Dick.

But does that really make Ford eligible for sainthood? And, by the way, what's all this kvetching he did for posthumous publication?

In hindsight, what stands out most from our talk was Ford's frustration that the Republican Party had lurched so far to the right. "If I'd been elected in '76," he told me flatly, "the party wouldn't be as far right as it is at the present time … I sure hope it comes back to the center."

Ford went on to complain about the 1992 GOP convention in Houston, where Pat Buchanan—who had challenged President George H.W. Bush for that year's party nomination—demanded that conservatives "take back our culture."

"Right," Jerry? Compared to Ike, yes. Compared to Lincoln? Nope.

Ford lamented that George H.W. Bush had not reversed their party's rightward movement: "I was disappointed that George didn't fight a little harder against the hard right."

GHWBush lost an election because he 'fought ....against the right.' Maybe President Ford forgot that little fact.

Ford reminded me that he and Betty were "pro-choice." He criticized Bush Senior's public avowal that he had come to oppose abortion rights. "I know damn well that he and Barbara are pro-choice," Ford told me. "Why didn't they get up and say it? That really disappointed me more than anything." Ford's comment, Bush says, was off the mark. "That's wrong," he says of Ford's suggestion that Bush was secretly pro-choice.

A very interesting graf. Beschloss, the author, signals to us that Ford was thumping his chest about his "pro-choice-ness" in the opening three words of this graf. Ford seems to want company in that situation, so he claims Bush 41 is part of the group--which X41 denies.

He complained that Ronald Reagan had cost him the 1976 election by challenging his nomination. Ford told me that in the spring of 1976, "we thought we would have a tough time [winning] anyhow, and then to get diverted for six months or more in a very rigorous [primary] campaign—it made it difficult to be president and campaign simultaneously."

Did Jerry Ford think that he had a Divine Right to the office of President? Look--his most celebrated act was pardoning a crook. After that, it pretty much went downhill; Kissinger was another Metternich, Ford caved in on social spending (see NYC), and he was a Proud Moderate--not to mention his utterly disgraceful treatment of Solzhenitsyn. It's clear that Reagan offered a much better alternative (see the results of 1980 and 1984, e.g.)

Ford knew the best-known act of his own presidency would be Nixon's pardon. He insisted to me he had no second thoughts: "I felt so strongly that I had to get this damn thing off my desk." He admitted that "sure, I would have appreciated it" if, in return, Nixon had made a stronger statement confessing guilt for Watergate offenses, which would have helped shield Ford from the firestorm the pardon created.


Ford set a precedent with the pardon of Nixon, and the message is this: 'one can be a crook in office, and if the office is high enough, one will not be prosecuted.'

This 'comity' seems to be playing a role even today (think StuffedPantsBerger.) Are we really better off by ignoring these things?


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