Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford (1913-2006)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As I'm sure most of you know by now, former President Gerald Ford died yesterday at the age of 93. Needless to say, there's been a lot of reaction and remembrance in the news media and the blogosphere, and you can find much of it at Memeorandum.

I don't have much to add, except this: Ford was both in the right place at the right time and the wrong place at the wrong time. He likely would never have been elected president, and so he only became president as a result of Nixon's resignation. But he had no chance to succeed once in the presidency. There was no way out of Nixon's shadow -- although the premature pardon didn't help his chances against Carter in '76 -- and he was met with a seemingly insurmountable economic crisis in the form of high inflation and recession. What was he to do? The WIN ("whip inflation now") buttons were hardly enough. And then, of course, there was Vietnam. It wasn't his war, but the evacuation of Saigon, one of the lowest points in all of American history, occurred on his watch. And in perhaps the worst move of his short presidency he approved of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, now finally independent, a truly horrible and reprehensible foreign policy decision that essentially enabled the massacre of well over 100,000 people, a third of East Timor's population. At least he appointed Stevens, a liberal stalwart, to the Supreme Court -- not that he knew of Stevens's liberal future at the time.

And so he will be remembered as the man who pardoned Nixon and as the president who was never elected but who was the target of two assassination attempts. And as the president who fell down the airplane steps. And as the president constantly and effectively ridiculed on Saturday Night Live. And as a Simpsons neighbour -- in one episode, he moves in right across the street after Bush 41 moves out.

For more, I recommend this retrospective feature on Ford at The Washington Post. There's a good collection of articles (including an obituary) a photo gallery, videos, and links to other Ford-related sites.

In addition, I recommend this excellent post by my friend Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. As usual, Joe's analysis is right on the mark, and he links to and quotes many of the best reactions from around the blogosphere.

Other good posts come from Juan Cole, Lyle Denniston, James Joyner (with a lot of links), Pam Spaulding, Digby, Ed Morrissey (and here), Taylor Marsh, and Howie Klein, among others.

In closing, here's a short campaign ad from 1976:

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