Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Gerald Ford...He's Making Us Proud Again"

Gerald Ford passed away last night. I was genuinely sad. Gerald Ford is one of the most interesting presidents we've had, and (with the probable exception of George W. Bush) he is the only one who was never elected to the office of President or even Vice President. He was appointed by Nixon to take the place of Spiro Agnew who resigned in disgrace, and then took Nixon's place when he resigned in disgrace a short time later.

He was the longest living president, and the last member of the Warren Commission to die. He, as I recall, is one of two presidents who have filed a UFO sighting report.

He was a genuine, unassuming man who I did respect and admire as a human being.

You might not know this, but yours truly grew up in a Republican household. My father was a poor Republican to the day he died, His father hated the Kennedys and told me over and over again that a vote for a Democrat was a vote for a War.

My mother was from a family of wealthy Republicans, who'd gotten that way honestly through hard work and rising above their Dust Bowl poverty. My maternal grandmother was a major player in local Republican party politics.

I remember as a kid having a "Nixon, Now More Than Ever" bumper sticker pinned to the back of my coat and I stayed up all night watching the election returns that brought Nixon his re-election landslide with Grandpa drinking his scotch amd Grandma smoking her Kent 100's, also drinking a scotch. I was elated over Nixon's win, because I knew elation won approval from my grandparents. I remember watching the Watergate hearings with less elation, but a growing sense that something really important was happening. That something was really wrong. If John Lennnon thought it was important enough to go and watch the hearings, then something was really going on, I thought.

I remember Nixon's resignation. I remember Chevy Chase's hilarious Gerald Ford impersonations on Saturday Night Live. I remember Ford getting the Republican nomination. I remember making fun of Jimmy Carter right along with the rest of my family.

And here is how we get to the picture.

That, believe it or not, is a picture of my bedroom in Junior High. My grandmother had given me this gigantic Ford poster and you can see the Ford bumper sticker on my headboard. Honest to God, the campaign slogan on the poster was "Ford, He's Making Us Proud Again." His bumper sticker was a simple red with the words "President Ford" on it--as though we needed to be reminded he was the President.

I never joined the Teen-age Republicans, but I remember walking in the rain, at my Grandmother's request, carrying Ford posters like a sandwich board and handing out leaflets trying to get him elected.

But, most of all, I remember Gerald Ford giving Richard Nixon a full Presidential Pardon. Nixon, who didn't feel he needed pardoning because, as he famously declared, "When the President does it, it isn't illegal." I remember trying to convince my friend Joe to run as vice-president on my ticket for the leadership of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I remember joking that if I did anything wrong he could pardon me. That was the first time I remember making a joke about Republicans instead of Democrats.

For me, that the pardoning of Nixon was the moment when I began to stop being a Republican just because I was born into a Republican family. When I began to question what I believed and what I was told. And when I began to realize that there was something terribly wrong with my country if it could produce the Watergate Era and have it wiped away by a man who'd never been elected to office simply with the stroke of a pen and saying "Our long national nightmare is over."

I've been hearing all day today pundits saying that Ford was proven right in his decision to promote national healing rather than continuing to investigate and prosecute Nixon. That he really had, in fact, made us proud again.

I'm of a different opinion. Perhaps if he had not pardoned Nixon we might have actually had the era of accountability we've been promised by every Presidential candidate since. Perhaps we wouldn't have had the Iran Contra fiasco. Perhaps we wouldn't have propped up dictators in our national interest, like Saddam Hussein. Perhaps we wouldn't have traded arms for hostages. Perhaps we would now have a culture that understands that wrongful acts bring certain consequences. Perhaps we would have people who do not abuse power because they know with certainty that to abuse power is to lose power.

Instead, we have what we have. A nation with the most corrupt and incompetent administration in American history. An administration made up of many members of the Nixon and Ford administrations. A celebration of the lack of responsibility and the erosion of our most basic freedoms and rights. Mired in an illegal and never ending war. The most sweeping expansion of presidential powers in history.

No matter how good a man I think Gerald Ford was, I blame him personally for the events which led us to George W. Bush and the current Republican Party. Nixon's get out of jail free card cost us plenty as a nation, to our shame.

3 Comments:

Blogger Archie Levine said...

Well, that State Funeral is going to be a little uncomfortable given that it now appears there is a four hour interview that Ford did with Bob Woodward that was embargoed until after his death in which he says the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake.

How very Republican to know this and refuse to say it in public until after you are dead and free from any earthly consequences for telling the truth.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Luzaire said...

Is that you in the picture?

1:34 PM  
Blogger Archie Levine said...

Oh, no, that isn't me. That's the little sister of Susie Lofgren, the high school girl down the street that I was totally in love with. Unfortunately, her little sister enjoyed hanging around a lot more than Susie did.

Nothing weird about photographing a little girl on my bed with a bunch of Republican iconography in the background.

Nothing at all.

Fer crying out loud, Luzaire, if you think that is what I looked like when I was marching around trying to get Gerald Ford re-elected...you're more screwed up than I am!

7:07 PM  

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