Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald R. Ford, statesman?

It is a bit disorienting to read the eulogies for Gerry Ford. He is almost universally praised as a "healing" figure who preserved national unity after Watergate and the Nixon resignation. What I remember quite distinctly is that he was a figure who was consistently mocked for his bumbling. Chevy Chase became a star at least in part for his portrayals of Ford as a klutz. If Chase's depiction of Ford exagerrated Ford's ineptitude, it was nevertheless based on a common perception of the man.

Do you remember the "WIN" buttons? Ford didn't manage to Whip Inflation Now, but he provided ample material for comedians with that attempt to rally the public against inflation. As if the general public could actully do anything about inflation...

Ford was a member of the Warren Commission. He led the effort to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. He pardoned Nixon. He gave high-level jobs to Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, thus giving each of them a great career boost without which we would not have been saddled with them in the current administration. If Ford was not a scoundrel, he was certainly a fool.

I understand the admonition to not speak ill of the dead, but whitewashing history is something we must not stand for. Gerald Ford advanced the causes of the Republican Party. He was not allied with the right-wing of that party, it is true, but he still did the dirty work of the Nixons of the world. If he looks good now, that is only because by comparison with the current president even Warren Harding begins to look good.