Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the U.S., has passed away. Mainly, he's remembered as the guy who pardoned Richard Nixon after Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. Those of us who were teens or in their early 20's at the time will also remember him from Saturday Night Live skits in which Chevy Chase imitated Ford's well publicized stumbles out of airplanes and other locations. I think Ford even had a bandage on his head a time or two.
However, in reading articles of Ford's career, I found out other things that I didn't know. For instance, "Gerald R. Ford" isn't his birth name. Instead, it's Leslie Lynch King, Jr. Imagine that. We could have had a President King, which sounds kinda funny, because one of the reasons that the U.S. separated from England was so that it could change its form of leadership from a monarchy to a presidency.
The other thing that I didn't know was that Ford was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy. What a difficult task that must have been. Ford's efforts in that commission, however, got him noticed enough so that when Nixon needed a replacement for Spiro Agnew, he chose Ford.
However, what Ford will be remembered for the most is the pardon of Richard Nixon. At the time, the pardon was greatly resented (to say the least!) . In fact, it was the main reason that Ford lost the election of 1976. But in retrospect, it was probably the right thing to do at the time. A long, drawn out court process of a former president probably would have done more harm than good for the country, and for Ford to consider the good of the country over the cost that the pardon would have on his political aspirations shows what kind of man he was. Certainly, Nixon deserved the grief and punishment that would have otherwise come his way, but Ford was right about the damage that would have been caused to the office of the presidency. The humiliation to Nixon's enormous ego was probably enough punishment anyway.
Another prominent news event that happened during Ford's watch was the fall of Saigon and with it, the end of the costly Vietnam war. Thus, this makes Ford's presidency a transitional one. His presidency ended two painful chapters in American history and allowed the country to move on. Leaders in such transitional times can do little more than make sure that things don't fall apart, because any other more assertive actions would likely be taken the wrong way. At the time, the country needed a "bus driver". Unfortunately for Ford, "bus drivers" don't generally win elections, and the country was primed to try someone new and untested such as Jimmy Carter .
Ford's death and the recollections of his presidency makes me realize how much the country and the world has changed since Ford's time in office. At that time, things such as cellphones, home computers, and the Internet were still in the distant horizon. People such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were virtual unknowns to those outside their home states. And "blogging" sounded like some sort of plumbing problem. My, how the times have changed. In some ways, it is for the better, and in other ways, it is for the worse. But they have changed, and we have, for the most part, moved on since those hectic days.
May Gerald R. Ford rest in peace, and may he find his way into paradise. Even if he takes a little tumble on the way there. ;-)
(By the way, I betcha that many editorial cartoonists are going to make edtoons on that very idea of Ford stumbling into paradise. Keep an eye on Cagle Cartoons to see if I'm proven right.)
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