A Jeffersonian president

Ford This a statue of Gerald Ford, 38th president of the United States as an Eagle Scout.  It stands at the Boy Scouts’ Headquarters.

In many ways this statue typifies the man.  The Boy Scouts of America are a treasured national institution, an institution which teaches the kind of sturdy character, and forthright life grounded firmly in the soil and history of the United States that most Americans think of as typical of our people.  He was the kind of president for whom Jefferson hoped, a man who knew better than to imagine himself a kind of king, if only for a few years.

Jefferson, himself could never quite "pull it off."  He believed all the right things, but he could not escape his own time, circumstances or upbringing.  He was an upper class gentleman through and through. He tried.  He tried.  After his first inaugural, he deliberately walked in the dirt of Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, surrounded by children and tradesmen.  He struck down the abomination of the "Alien and Sedition Act," and freed the newspapermen who had been imprisoned by the previous administration.  He wrote the "Kentucky Resolutions," a perpetual manifesto against aristocratic, centralizing government.  Personally, I think he was the greatest of all Americans.  Yes, I know all about Sally Hemings.  I hope they were happy together.

B5574408f29148299a2932b3be4b8304 Gerald Ford was in many ways the fulfillment of Jefferson’s belief of what the president should be.  He was dutiful, honest, modest, humble, courageous, decent and a true citizen/magistrate.  He and his family lived for many, many years in Alexandria, Virginia in a unpretentious brick house set in the "Clover" neighborhood of the town.  He and his wife were noted in the town for their participation in the civic life of the city, their devotion to Alexandria’s public schools (which their children all attended) and their constant involvement in charitable works.  They were well loved in the neighborhood where they lived throughout the years in which he served in the House of Representatives, as Vice President of the United States and for ten days as President of the United States.

Alexandria was the home of George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Werner von Braun and many other people of note.

We Alexandrians are proud to call Gerald Ford our neighbor.  pl


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44 Responses to A Jeffersonian president

  1. arbogast says:

    At the time, I despised Richard Nixon. He had the blood of thousands on his hands.
    Ford pardoned him. It was the right thing to do.
    The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown;
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
    It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
    When mercy seasons justice.

  2. taters says:

    Eloquently done sir, and worthy of the man. We’re pretty fond of him here in Michigan, too. And of course, Betty.

  3. Mark Gaughan says:

    Pat, This has nothing to do with President Ford. I read sic semper tyrannis every day and I’ve come to value your opinion. I was wondering if you have seen loosechange911 and what you think about it if you have. I think it should be seen. It’s at http://www.loosechange911.com.

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Inept, self focused bureaucrats and politicians are enough to explain what happened.
    Not enough NTs.

  5. Frank Durkee says:

    Perhaps the simplest explanation for the difference between Ford’s time and bush’s is the simple fact of the absence of the soviet Union. They had the capacity to destroy us as we them, and between us almost everybody else. As the saying goes ” the threas of hanging doth wonderfuly focus the mind”. the absence of that threat alters both conciousoly and unconciously the mindset of those seeking to exercise power. There is no one to hold us up to account when we fail to live up to our best, that we ‘have’ to pay attentiion to. This last perhaps includes US voters also. In the very first days of this administration there was a lot of talk of this type from neocons and more centerist types. It was “in the air”. A reminder perhaps “that those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad”.

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Was Ford so sterling or did he look good in comparison to the men who preceeded and proceeded him in the Office of the President of the United States?

  7. Will says:

    Betty Ford is a genuine American heroine in her own right. Haven’t heard much about her lately. She made treatment for addiction respectable and mainstream. A very fine lady.
    Well that makes two presidents that attended my alma mater at UNC-Chapel Hill. James Knox Polk- the last President with enough political capital to have headed off the civil war and who had self inflicted himself with a one term limit. And Gerald Rudolph Ford, who attended preflight school there.
    And the Nixon pardon, really had little to do with Nixon per se. It was for the good of the Res Publica which was mired in the mess. It was a clean break so we could move on. Of course, it would have been better if the proud Californian had shown some remorse and contrition to make it all easier to swallow. Another “Checkers” speech was not in him.

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think he was exceptional in the simplicity of his character. pl

  9. Cloned Poster says:

    My very limited knowledge of US politics in the early 70’s makes me make the following comment.
    Nixon was elected as were Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. Of those four I admire Bush I the most for his pragmatism, I despise Bush II for gross incompetence, Nixon was corrupt and should never have been pardoned and as for RR, well a failed actor but a good PR puppet.
    Ford was probably all you say he was, as I value your opinion PL, but he was never elected, he was selected by Nixon (see above).
    Would he have made President by right rather than accident?

  10. semper fubar says:

    Well, there’s the little matter of the Nixon pardon. Ford took from the public our right to uncover the wrongdoings and ultimately pass sentence upon someone who worked very hard to subvert our laws and undermine the principles of our government. He did it for partisan reasons (“the nation could not withstand a trial”?? Poppycock!) so the Republicans and Powers That Be could sweep everything under the rug and continue on their merry way.
    And now look where that’s gotten us.
    You can draw a straight line from Watergate-IranContra-Iraq, and the pardon goes through the heart of it.
    I will never forgive Ford for that. And it far outweighs what a nice neighbor he may have been.
    I liked Betty, though. Class act.

  11. chicago dyke says:

    betty gets mad props from me, no doubt. and as one born in MI, it’s nice to say we’ve had one president from that state. i went to michigan, and i’m proud of his work on the gridiron there. that’s about all i can say that’s nice.
    sure, he was a normal, nice, humble man. and some may believe that the nation needed the ‘healing’ pardoning nixon brought. i don’t. ford’s administration is one key link in the chain of anticonstitutionalists that has brought us to the point where we are now, with a reinvigorated imperial presidency, records levels of corruption and cronyism, and open lawlessness among elected officials.
    two words for those lauding ford: rummy and cheney. they were elevated, and got a much needed boost in the project of making them legitimate leaders in DC, during their time in ford’s administration. i’m sure i don’t have to remind anyone of the damage they’ve done since holding their posts there.
    america would’ve been bettered served by taking the hard road, as is true in almost all things worth having. opening up the nixon/republican cesspool of the time to public scrutiny, investigation, and prosecution would’ve sent a strong and lasting message, after almost a decade of highly damaging governance which set the stage for a weaker america of today. because we are weaker, in almost every respect, thanks to so much antidemocratic “leadership” in the last several republican administrations (and one can almost include clinton in that, for all his ‘centrism”).
    it’s worth noting that Ford would be a pariah in today’s republican party. and that they more or less forgot him until he died. i found it cowardly for him to instruct woodward not to publish his thoughts on the iraq war until after his passing. and have we really come so far as to think that a simple man like Ford was as valuable to the project of freedom and liberty as Jefferson? Jefferson was a true intellectual, he wouldn’t been horrified at the marriage of today’s republican party with the religious right, and its lack of regulation and supervision over multinational corporations.
    Ford was no great man. he did the best a simple man can do in troubled times: move along, sweep problems under the rug, make no waves or go for a deeper understanding of complex problems. you may say the cost of a full investigation into all of nixon’s crimes would’ve brought unrest, but i believe that this would’ve been a far smaller price to pay, than the one we and our children will pay as a result of the republicans who came after him. with Ford, the Rule of Law took a heavy blow from which it’s never recovered. no democracy thrives or lasts long without it.

  12. John says:

    Let me throw a thought out there. If we start having a track record of pardoning those at the highest level when they commit a crime does that not just encourage the next group who enters the office to go “No worries, there is precedent for a pardon.”
    Isn’t a big part of the reason for punishment is to act as a deterrent to future actions. Maybe if RMN spent some time in the big house then all of his old stooges like Dumbsfeld and Cheney as well as the boy prince would have been far less likely to have twisted the truth and taken us into an unnecessary and costly (both in lives and treasury) war.
    Sometime the pain is worth it!

  13. Grimgrin says:

    “Gerald Ford was in many ways the fulfillment of Jefferson’s belief of what the president should be. He was dutiful, honest, modest, humble, courageous, decent and a true citizen/magistrate.”
    And he was the only unelected president.
    Speaks volumes doesn’t it?

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Ford would never have been president except for the Agnew-Nixon debacles.
    A message there? pl

  15. David E. Solomon says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I am afraid that I agree totally with John’s comment:
    “Sometimes the pain is worth it!”.
    I am of the opinion that whatever else Gerald Ford did or did not do is overshadowed by his pardon of Richard Nixon.

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Those of you who still want blood over Nixon should consider how much your attitude about judicial vengeance is like that of Babak. pl

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Judicial retribution is for capital crimes and only applies to the relations of the victims and the victims – in Islamic Law.
    The crimes of Richard Nixon (if any) – in the context of US Law – did not qualify as capital crimes.
    Additionally, the posters here cannot claim being victims in a captial case.
    I maintain that there is a vast difference between teh principle of “Qisas” and what you are referring to here.

  18. Grimgrin says:

    I don’t mind that Nixon escaped punishment, I mind that he escaped having to confess what he had done.
    Some of Nixon’s defenders like to point out abuses of executive power before and since as a way of minimizing the man’s crimes. That suggests to me that that because there was never a full accounting of Nixon’s abuses of power, whether in a trial or a hearing or in a confession in exchange for pardon, the U.S. missed it’s best chance to arrest the march of the Imperial Presidency.
    I just want to know where the bodies were buried. I feel the same way about George Bush’s father and the Iran Contra scandal, and I have no doubt that when Bush finally slinks out of the white house, probably after pardoning everyone who ever worked in his administration I’ll feel the same way about him.
    Maybe part of that attitude comes out of a desire for vengeance, or at least iconoclasm of the saints of the conservative movement. I’m not going to pretend all my motives have Cartesian purity to them.
    As for Ford? He made a mistake, a huge mistake but given what else we know about him, one that probably had the best of motives. He gets to wear that albatross the way Lee gets to wear slavery and Von Braun gets to wear the Mittelwerk and “the widows and cripples in old London town”.
    “Ne dim ne red, like God’s own head,
    The glorious Sun uprist:
    Then all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird
    That brought the fog and mist.
    T’was right, said they, such birds to slay
    That bring the fog and mist.”

  19. pbrownlee says:

    Pardons should be specific and only come after verdicts.
    Anything else is gross subversion of the rule of law and an incitement to further criminality.

  20. semper fubar says:

    Those of you who still want blood over Nixon should consider how much your attitude about judicial vengeance is like that of Babak. pl
    Oh please. That is insulting. Insulting to all Americans. What – are you going to tell us next “You can’t HANDLE the truth”? I find it hard to believe you really believe this, Pat.
    Ford stopped the investigation in its tracks. A Truth and Reconcilation period would have been healing. ChiDyke and John are exactly right — we should have taken the medicine then – brought it all to light, exposed the criminals instead of setting the precedent that our highest officials will get away with whatever crimes they can think up to maintain power and make money.
    Look at where we’ve ended up. Like I said, you can draw a straight line from the Pardon to Iraq.
    I think much more of the American people than to believe that we have to be shielded from the truth, that our government works better when it works in secret and operates outside the laws the rest of us live by.
    Ford might have been a personable, gentle man, but that doesn’t change the fact that he helped subvert our government.

  21. anon says:

    I read in a history book that Jefferson also mingled with the common folk at public, open, receptions at the White House several times -one with a ‘great cheese’ and anonther with a great common man’s bread, with cool eats to spread on the slices. And Jefferson was sighted to be gleefully diggin in. So, the first ‘great cheese’ with public mob party was during Jefferson’s rein. Jefferson really did try hard, and tried harder than any of the recent quasi-royal occupants of the WH.
    Ford may have had good intentions, or felt he was showing some common decency in his pardon of Nixon. But apparently he asked and thus, received nothing for in return. A mistake, and perhaps this decent President lied to himself that the pardon did not result in a de facto facilitation of cover-up, and also helped enable the current crop in the WH.

  22. lina says:

    “Ford would never have been president except for the Agnew-Nixon debacles.
    A message there?” pl
    Low key, modest, congenial types don’t run for president in the first place. Ford was not without ambition, but by today’s standards it seems quaint. Today’s presidential candidates are all about money and packaging. As a marketable product, Ford gets left on the shelf. Honesty and decency don’t count much as “features and benefits.”

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Please don’t put words in my mouth.
    Am I more forgiving than you? pl

  24. chicago dyke says:

    gak, forgive all the spelling & grammar errors. i think people got my point. “straight line from pardon to iraq” pretty much sums it up. thanks, semper.

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Semper and Chicago Dyke
    You seem to share the belief that the Nixon pardon “led in a straight line” to the present war in Iraq.
    That is quite an assertion. How about explaining that to us in some terms other than animosity for the republicans. pl

  26. ked says:

    “Those of you who still want blood over Nixon should consider how much your attitude about judicial vengeance is like that of Babak.”
    Hear Hear! As for me, I only wanted his blood at the time. Now, it’s kinda like fighting the last war (& just as constructive), isn’t it?
    Col Lang, thanks for reminding us of that quaint form of democracy – the Jeffersonian – so like him, full of contradictions, but w/ heart, soul & spirit in the right place, guided by faith in reason. Now we yearn for leadership on par with Gerald Ford, that most average of presidents. Would that we were blessed by such dedication to good sense today.

  27. anon says:

    W. Patrick Lang said:
    “You seem to share the belief that the Nixon pardon ‘led in a straight line’ to the present war in Iraq.”
    I also agree that ‘straight line’ is far to strong a term. I would like to see their argument as well. Me, I don’t hate no Republicans, and have even voted for a few in my time.
    However, I do think the blanket pardon, with no admission or apology by Nixon, and little subsequent official investigation or assessment, was a big mistake. I felt uncomfortable listening to some of the media commentary, and eulogies, on the late Pres Ford, that bemoan the the “division” and “hatred” and “paranoia” in the country at the time. I am too young to remember it clearly, however, it does seem to me that the meaning of these comments is ambiguous. Are they referring to the attitude and actions Nixon and his circle, or to the strong reaction (apprpriate and correct in my view) of most of the ordinary people in the US to lawless behavior at the highest levels of government? It is not clear to me what disturbs them most. And I do think Ford’s overly generous approach to the pardon and Watergate is to no small extent responsible for that kind of ambiguous comment. I am not sure, like some of the lefty bloggers, that this kind of language has become a code language in elite political and media circles to tacitly take the side of Nixon’s party, but I don’t rule it out, either.
    I think we are living in a political environment where every disagreement with the US executive is “political” as far as the pundit class and media are concerned. But it is partly tacit -any voicing of serious dissent or disagreement is “uncivil” and therefore suspect of being extreme or ‘political’. I think Ford’s pardon is partly to blame for this dangerous and un-American atmosphere.
    Other than the pardon, though, I think President Ford did a good job. I certainly agreed with his policies more than any high ranking Republican since.
    PS: I don’t remember ever commenting here before today, but I like this blog, find it very informative and useful. Thanks, to Patrick Lang for putting it on.

  28. lina says:

    I’m split 50/50 on the Nixon pardon. I see the point of not treating the president like a king who answers only to God. OTOH, I believe Ford wanted the country to “move on” from what had been an extremely difficult decade.
    Did crazy Dick Cheney get the idea he could get away with anything because Nixon got pardoned? Because Reagan got away with Iran-Contra?
    The Iraq War came about due to the confluence of
    — an inexperienced, intellectually vacant president;
    — an unprecedented shocking event like 9/11;
    — an all-volunteer war machine (with Vietnam amnesia at the top tier);
    — a lazy, poorly educated electorate;
    — a spineless Congress; and
    — a compliant media.
    If there had been no Nixon pardon, Iraq would have happened anyway.

  29. Frank Durkee says:

    There is a tendency to forget the rest of the turmoil in the country just befor, during and toa nextent after Nixon left office. I’m a long standing Democrat and had very little use for Nixon. I worked in a group that acted as a “think tank”- counter whitehouse during that period. I also remember riots, assinations, massive duplicity, ‘The saturday night massacre’ in the Justice department, the whole ‘Vietnam’ thing and with it all, trveling the country a sense that we might be unraveling. the Constitution worked. Ford did some good things and a sense that we could domehow return to a coherent path began to emerge. the Pardon was part of that. I didn’t like it but we were a pretty traumitized nation at that time. If nothing else, it gave Republicans and some Conservatives a sense of being able to stay in the room and not to be overly burded with defending Nixon. Politics like war is a very messy business and ambigious decisions have to be made. Purity is for monastics and Monday Morning analysis. Ford helped us turn a very serious corner and part of that was simply who he was. Remember that Jeffeerson wanted everyone to have 40 acres and mule at atime when that would allow you to survive agians the economic power of bothe the private sector and the state. He valued deeply freedom and the instruments needed to sustain that for every individual. As Nixon had perverted the power of the state so Ford’s act gave him protection from that same power, and the power of the mob. The direct line is from the reaction to the limitations placed on the Whitehouse based on Nixon’s excesses and crimes and the the reemergence in power of two of his assitants with much greater power to rescue the present Whitehouse from those limitations. That was Cheney and Rumy not Ford.
    To retain a Republic requires some sense of general comity, a sense of the general good ir relation to the general will and prudence. At heart it is not about winning as much as it is about survival of insitution and safeguarding liberty.

  30. Different Clue says:

    I remember the feeling at the time being one of relief that a warmly human non-monster would be and was
    President. I agree with a comment above that Betty Ford was heroic in her own right, and elevated both addiction and breast cancer to the level of subjects fit
    for serious open discussion on serious media platforms, with a view toward pursuit of solutions. She lastingly
    improved our culture.
    As did Lady Bird Johnson.
    Keep America Beautiful evolved into a broader pursuit of the botanical and floristic sciences, and must be in some measure responsible, along with Roger Tory Peterson’s landmark series of Bird Guides, for the spreading of
    a conservation, wildlife, and natural-beauty interest
    among millions of ordinary
    citizens. Many of those who
    moved on to environmental and ecological awareness and
    knowledge may have been started down that road by an
    initial exposure to Lady Bird’s work and its lasting consequences. There is still an institute dedicated to research and information-spreading about the use of wildplants in gardening and landscaping, and to wildplant habitat preservation, called the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower
    Center (http://www.wildflower.org/?nd=home ).
    Betty Ford and Lady Bird were the two most lastingly important First Ladies I have seen in my short
    lifetime so far. First among Ladies.
    The one big letdown I remember from President Ford
    was the manner and the timing of the pardon. Several times in response to
    questions he said that he would not think about pardoning until the “system had done its work”, phrased in different ways. I understood this to mean that he would not interfere with the orderly progression
    of the courts and the law, if they indicted Nixon or not; and if, upon indictment; they convicted Nixon or not. I disliked Nixon intensely, but I was resigned to the inevitability of a Post-Conviction Pardon, if Nixon was convicted. His pardon seemed premature and contrary to all that President Ford had said on the subject up to that time.
    It seemed like The Last Coverup. It left forever unproved or undisproved the full extent of the Architecture of Criminality which Nixon-opposers suspect
    Nixon of having erected within and around the Federal Government, and it left the Nixon-supporters forever suspecting that Nixon was merely framed and defeated by his partisan enemies. The lack of a trial meant the lack of a Courtroom Quality Dead-Certain Mountain of Fact which nobody could ignore.
    It also established the functional precedent (furthest from President Ford’s mind I know) of using
    the Pardon Power to cover up
    Crime in High Office, and immunise the perpetrators of
    such crime. The fact that Nixon was never even tried allowed his partisans and his party to say that the outrage felt about his possible subversion of our governmental system was not genuine but was feigned for
    Democratic party advantage.
    And they exploited this feeling to frustrate any real effort to get to the bottom and the top of the Iran/Contra affair. And some of the very highest keymost figures under indictment had their indictments vaporised by pardons. This failure to prosecute every responsible
    person to the fullest extent
    of the law is what allowed a
    lot of neocons to survive their first brush with opposition, go into seclusion, and re-emerge to
    fight again another day.
    It also allowed the Republican Party leaders and
    strategists to feel they could game and muscle the political, media, cultural,and legal systems to the advantage of their power-pursuit goals. This is what Cheney and Rumsfeld,
    who got their first taste of
    Executive Branch power during the Ford Administration, have devoted
    themselves to doing in this
    So I think there is a long and winding trail from
    Ford’s premature pardon of Nixon, to the possibly criminal Administration we labor under today. Colonel
    Lang has said we need a serious accounting with the
    neocons, so that at the very
    least they don’t get still another chance to do it all
    over again. But any accounting which doesn’t involve trials with the possibility of hard time in
    hard prisons isn’t the sort
    of accounting which would really scrape the perpetrators out of the system, or discourage future
    perpetrator-wannabes. If the plausibly-indictable once again get off scott-free; either by taking refuge behind a force-field
    of self-serving accusations of partisanship or by the bestowal of immunity and impunity through cover-up pardons; then what future
    political crime-syndicates
    will feel emboldened to go off on yet another governmental crime-wave even
    bigger and better than the
    last ones?
    That we should even have to worry about that is a lasting part of Ford’s premature-pardon legacy, motivated though he was by thoughts of mercy and concern for the country.

  31. wisedup says:

    Frank, Frank, are you really a Democrat? “general comity” sounds to be blank check. If the Republicans were damn uncomfortable defending Nixon then maybe they would have been more careful in selecting their candidates. Ford’s pardon of Nixon opened the flood gates because we gave Ford a pass. We rolled over and went back to sleep. Cheney and Rumsfeld could see that the public could be cowed by a few well placed media heads talking about ‘getting over it’. Not so many years ago we got over a really messy situation (WW2) by running a whole of trials and a whole lot of hanging. The intention was what? — never again. Ford’s pardon should have been repudiated — it is that simple.

  32. Larry Mitchell says:

    I have a lot of respect for President Ford. He had a difficult job to do, and I think he did it pretty well. I am convinced that he pardoned Nixon believing that is was the best thing for the country at the time. My problem with the pardont is whether it produced the perception that the president is above the law. President Bush seems to believe that to be the case. We need administrators who understand that they are simply working for us and really are not royalty.
    I was also disappointed to hear that he would not publicly disclose his doubts about the Iraq plan. I am all for protocol when we can afford it, but when there are thousands of soldier’s lives at stake and trillions of dollars, we can’t afford it.
    Who would be a more credible policy critic than and ex-president from the same party? Why isn’t speaking out seen as a duty to public officials? It’s always left to a few Jimmy Carters whom the opposition is able to write off as a pain in the ass. I guess they don’t call them politicians for nothing.

  33. Sylvia says:

    I remember that time very well and was glued to the television tbat brought the Nixon administration down. His resignation was an anti-climax and was expected. It was the only course of action left to him–he resigned in disgrace.
    Ford pardoned him, because to do otherwise would have left his administration mired in legalaties and impeachment hearings that would have weakened the office of the President. It could not have been predicted at that time there would be a president such as Bush II that has abused his powers.
    Gerald Ford was an honourable man. May he rest in peace.
    The electorate did not see the goodness in Jimmy Carter and elected the more populous Reagan. Attila the Hun can be made ‘look’ good with skilful handling by marketers and slogans. Bush II has been voted twice into office. Bush I had character defects that were also overlooked.
    Take money out of American politics and the United States just ‘may’ get a pincipalled person to run for office. Until then, it is doomed to be run by lobbyists and corporate interests.

  34. taters says:

    I was pretty upset at the time of the pardon but even then, as a youth, I thought this may be the right decision. It didn’t take me long to realize that there was nothing for Mr Ford to gain by this politically. I’m assuming some of my fellow liberals here are aware of the work Pres. Ford has done for Affirmative Action. Here is an Op/Ed on the subject and his beloved University of Michigan.
    Inclusive America, Under Attack
    By Gerald R. Ford
    The New York Times Op-Ed, Sunday, August 8, 1999
    Of all the triumphs that have marked this as America’s century — breathtaking advances in science and technology, the democratization of wealth and dispersal of political power in ways hardly imaginable in 1899 — none is more inspiring, if incomplete, than our pursuit of racial justice. The milestones include Theodore Roosevelt’s inviting Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House, Harry Truman’s desegregating the armed forces, Dwight Eisenhower’s using Federal troops to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School and Lyndon Johnson’s electrifying the nation by standing before Congress in 1965 and declaring, “We shall overcome.”
    I came by my support of that year’s Voting Rights Act naturally. Thirty years before Selma, I was a University of Michigan senior, preparing with my Wolverine teammates for a football game against visiting Georgia Tech. Among the best players on that year’s Michigan squad was Willis Ward, a close friend of mine whom the Southern school reputedly wanted dropped from our roster because he was black. My classmates were just as adamant that he should take the field. In the end, Willis decided on his own not to play.
    His sacrifice led me to question how educational administrators could capitulate to raw prejudice. A university, after all, is both a preserver of tradition and a hotbed of innovation. So long as books are kept open we tell ourselves, minds can never be closed.
    “We now recognize that Ford was there when the country needed him,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat and brother of the late President John F. Kennedy. “He was calm and steady at a time of emotional upheaval and disillusionment. When he said our long national nightmare was over, the country breathed a sigh of relief. He was an uncommonly good and decent man.”
    Ford never – not for a moment, those close to him say – changed his mind about the pardon. Many of those who criticized him have changed their minds.
    One of them is Senator Kennedy himself, who supported giving the award to Ford. Campaigning for Democratic candidates in California shortly after the pardon, Kennedy called the action “the culmination to the Watergate cover up” and, at a painters’ union convention, said: “Instead of turning away from Watergate and instead of building on the early record of [his] first weeks in office, instead of setting new standards of respect for the presidency, the premature pardon of the former president has sown new doubts.”
    He no longer feels that way. “Now we clearly recognize Ford put the needs of the country ahead of his own,” Kennedy said last week. “We now know it took great courage to make that pardon. President Ford recognized we had to return to the nation’s business, and pursuing Nixon through the courts would have diverted the country’s interest.”

  35. John says:

    I have a lot of respect for you, but I have to somewhat disagree here. First I was a Republican before the boy prince and voted for Ford.
    I could write a long rebuttal but instead I will keep it simple. If you first let the camel get its head into the tent then pretty soon you have the whole camel in there with you.
    I consider Cheney, Dumbsfeld the boy prince to be the whole camel.

  36. Mo says:

    “I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
    Gerald R. Ford

  37. John Howley says:

    *But It’s Thomas Jefferson’s Koran!*
    By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
    Wednesday, January 3, 2007; C03
    Rep.-elect *Keith Ellison*, the first Muslim elected to Congress, found himself under attack last month when he announced he’d take his oath of office on the Koran — especially from Virginia Rep. *Virgil Goode*, who called it a threat to American values.
    Yet the holy book at tomorrow’s ceremony has an unassailably all-American provenance. We’ve learned that the new congressman — in a savvy bit of political symbolism — will hold the personal copy once owned by *Thomas Jefferson*.
    Jefferson’s copy is an English translation by *George Sale* published in the 1750s; it survived the 1851 fire that destroyed most of Jefferson’s collection and has his customary initialing on the pages.
    [I hope this item is broadcast widely in the Muslim world…would be great if it stimulated interest in T. Jefferson.]

  38. Got A Watch says:

    Listeneing to portions of GWB’s vacous eulogy, I was struck by how he should have added the words “Unlike myself,” before every line where he went on to describe a virtue of Ford.
    Then it would have been accurate.

  39. rebecca says:

    I’m responding to your comment: “It could not have been predicted at that time there would be a president such as Bush II that has abused his powers.” as someone perhaps of an age with you.
    I was in my early 20’s during the Watergate period, living in a counter-cultural urban community (the West Bank of Minneapolis). The Watergate Hearings were a great social highlight at that time. A big group of us would meet up at the local 3.2 beer joint to watch the hearings every day (most of us didn’t own television sets back then).
    I remember well my and my friends’ absolute disgust — if not outright enragement — at Ford’s pardoning of Nixon.
    So, “It could not have been predicted…”? Not so, not so at all. For as long as there have been wise observers of human behavior, it has been universally known that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Any examination of human history — and the history of nation-state governments in particular — makes this obvious.
    What greater power is there than to be able to commit crimes and never be called to account?
    By allowing the executive branch to escape accountability for its breaches of the Constitution, the cultural, social and political binding force of our Constitution was broken.
    With the binding force of our Constitution broken, it was only a matter of time until the most extremist and power-hungry elements among us would take the reins and see how far they could go.
    It is only because we are all so steeped in that most insidious and destructive illusion: “American Exceptionalism” — that any of us could claim that it was impossible to have “predicted” that if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile.

  40. Paul Lyon says:

    It’s interesting that we have gotten this far with no mention of East Timor. But it was Ford, presumably with Henry the K’s advice, who told Suharto that the US would not oppose the invasion that the Indonesian Junta was planning. Since that invasion led to the deaths of 200,000 of East Timor’s 700,000 people, amonst other things, it may be said, I think that this was one of the most serious crimes against humanity of the post-WW II era.

  41. mike says:

    Acceptance of a pardon is acceptance of guilt.

  42. Sylvia says:

    My respect for former President Ford is undiminished by your comments.
    What you propose was major surgery. Perhaps as someone who has had a major disease and been treated if for it, you may not appreciate how invasive, the treatments can be? Every time a surgeon cures one thing, something else in one’s system is buggered up. The surgeon’s knife is not as clean as you believe it is. There are after effects following surgery.
    Ford took the route of the least invasive effect on America and for that I applaud him. No, he did not cure America of its ills—that was beyond the scope of his appointment as the doctor in charge of the case.
    The scar that may have formed has been exposed and constantly picked at ’til the wound was not allowed to heal. I give credit to Ford for trying to seal the wound—you do not, but prefer to think of it as band aide fix. So be it. I suppose unless you’ve the subject of someone the knife, that you would not understand. Who gives a crap unless you’ve been there; the pain ceases and your life is extended by decades. America survived this very painful period of its history, but the electorate did not chose a path that stopped the disease. They chose instead to elect administrations that opened the wound, made it fester and introduced new pathogens that were resistant to the cure the previous doctor (Ford) had been knowledgeable about. Believe it or not, but there are times when the cure is more painful than the disease.

  43. fahrender says:

    i won’t try to second guess ford’s reasons for pardoning nixon. i think he was wrong for having done it: rumsfield and cheney are my reasons. that said, my strongest memory about ford is what LBJ said: “he played football too long without a helmet.”
    colonel, i enjoy what you have to say. there is one mistake in your post however: you wrote that ford was president for ten

  44. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Ford’s move to the WH was unexpected and so he lived in his old house in Alexandria for 10 days as president pl

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