Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford

Former President Gerald Ford is dead at 93. Ford had the unenviable task of being chosen by Richard Nixon to be Vice President after Spiro Agnew was forced to resign in disgrace. Then, when it was Nixon's turn to resign in disgrace, Ford stepped in as President. "Our long national nightmare is over," he said. But then a month later he pardoned Nixon and probably sealed his fate as a two-year President. At the time it was highly controversial; now it is generally agreed that it was the right thing to do so the country could move on.

I was just becoming politically aware and active during these years. I had an aunt who worked in the White House for Nixon and Ford and who fed me lots of Republican memorabilia and propaganda. But I was already "lost" to the other side and did my first political campaigning on behalf of Jimmy Carter.

Ford, like Nixon, was considered a right-wing conservative in his day. But in today's Republican party they would be seen as left-leaning moderates. Ford and his wife Betty were vocal supporters of a pro-choice stance for women and of gay marriage.

Let us offer prayers of thanks for his service to our country and prayers of support for his family as they grieve his death.


ProgressiveChurchlady said...

As the nation greives the loss of President Gerald R. Ford there are hopefully more than a few Republicans who are praying that the review of Ford's legacy--brief in tenure as it was--as President of the United States will inspire current party leaders to change the direction of the Republican Party.

Ford was the last U.S. President from the Republican party to represent something akin to my notion of "Gospel Christian" moral values. He prayed regularly and earnestly with legislators on both sides of the aisle in Congress; he forgave (pardoned) Nixon after a horrific breach of national trust; he made peace on our planet. I understand that this recitation is terribly oversimplified, but it states the bottom line of Ford's legacy as President.

My father and I watched with interest as Ford fought off a challenge from Ronald Regan during the 1976 presidential campaign. Regan was the darling of the campus Young Republicans at a time when the Christian Right was just beginning to amass its base and launch its election strategies that would serve the party well for decades to come and ultimately elect Regan four years later.

As an 18 year old watching the 1976 primary election season, I didn't know what to make of Jimmy Carter. By nominating Carter, I thought that the Democrats were trying to front someone who was going "outmoral" President Ford; who could pick up the Southern vote; and who would capture voters who were disolutioned with Washington politicos. (History is repeating itself again--think Barak Obama.)

Progressive Churchlady was too young at 18 to appreciate any possible interpretation of being a "Born Again" Christian--particularly coming from the Southern Baptist faith. To me, the term "Born Again" was an exclusionary tenant of Christian faith and I did not identify with it in the least. (Since that time, I feel it is possible to be Born Again--in fact I think this can potentially happen every day. But I think this is something that perhaps can only come with age in many cases). So from an 18 yr-old Progressive Christian standpoint Ford was "the Christian of choice"--but he came from the wrong political party.

From the vantage point of 18 year olds, Chevy Chase's depiction of a bumbling President Ford on the wildly popular new show Saturday Night Live was memorable to many. (And I often felt a bit sorry for Ford as this was the first time a comedian had used slapstick humor to parody a U.S. President that I knew of.) But it was a rather large gaff during a televised presidential debate by Ford that was a fatal blow to his candidacy.

I have visited Ford's presidential library in Ann Arbor and I respect the legacy of President and Betty Ford and think fondly of them as individuals for who they were. As a "liberal's liberal" I am thankful for the legacy of President Ford and hope that his family is comforted with many fond memories and the kind bi-partisan tributes he is receiving from so many people.

ProgressiveChurchlady said...

I wanted to correct myself, but you can't edit a comment so I'll do it by adding another. Ford's Presidential Library and Museum is of course in Grand Rapids, Michigan and not Ann Arbor.

Also I will add that it irks me that people are suddenly reviewing the Nixon tapes to try to find some "secret friendship" between Ford and Nixon to denigrate Ford's memory at this particular moment in time. It made all the television news channels this morning.