What to say about the late Gerald Ford? His defeat by Jimmy Carter was the first presidential election I was old enough to remember, so I wasn’t terribly “politically aware” during his administration. I do remember the Chevy Chase pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, but didn’t realize who he was spoofing; I just thought Chase being such a klutz was its own joke.
My limited opinions about Ford are tempered by his connection to Richard "Dick" Nixon, and his pardon of his former boss a month after his resignation. Ahh, the perks of having friends in high places!
Some have said Nixon and Ford arranged the pardon before Nixon resigned, giving Ford the presidency and Nixon nothing to worry about, from a legal standpoint. It wouldn’t save Nixon’s reputation, but it would save his ass from being thrown in the slammer.
Ford himself said he was trying to save the country from having to go through a painful trial. Painful for whom, exactly? The decision caused a lot more strife in the country, and probably cost Ford the presidency in 1976.
I don’t think it matters whether or not Nixon and Ford made a deal. I don’t think it matters if a Nixon trial would have been difficult for the country. All I see is yet another wealthy and powerful person who was able to avoid a penalty any average American would have been given for an equivalent transgression. You can’t tell me there aren’t dollar signs on the inside of that blindfold Justice is wearing.
As an alternative to trial, Ford could have used his imagination and given Nixon some suitable and satisfactory punishment, rather than just a clean slate. Exile comes to mind. Get out, and take that damned nose with you. Yeah, force him to live on a garbage scow anchored in the middle of the Potomac, with only whatever food, clothes and shelter he could find aboard.
Perhaps Ford was trying to spare the country further difficulties. In addition to Watergate, the Vietnam War was still raging at the time, and our participation in it came to an end during Ford’s administration. That could not have been easy to deal with. To live in a time of divisive, costly war and corruption at the very top of our government – it’s so hard to imagine.
On a related note, Ford did pardon Vietnam draft dodgers, and from a moral standpoint, he made the right decision. He also appointed John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. Maybe these balance the Nixon thing out. I don’t know. I don’t have any particular ill will toward Ford, whatever the case. It’d be pointless now anyway.
I certainly would never have played golf with the man. No one in his general proximity was safe when he was wielding a golf club.
Meanwhile, over in Iraq, another former leader of a nation is about to die under very different circumstances. But who knows, Saddam Hussein's successor could always pardon him. That’d be cool, right?