Bicycle Diaries: Gerald Ford

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28.12.06

Gerald Ford


Back in 1974, my father moved the family from one dying mill town in CT, Willimantic, to another, Hudson Falls, in upstate New York. Although we would make two more moves after that, I've always considered Hudson Falls my hometown. It's where I spent my painful teenage years. It's also where I first became aware of politics when Gerald Ford, that's him to the left, replaced Richard Nixon as our 38th president.

The country was literally in shambles. The economy sucked. Cars waiting for gas formed lines 2 or 3 miles long. Many cities, especially in The Rust Belt, were still smoldering from the race riots of '67 and '68. The press and Congress had revealed the tragedy of Watergate. And we had our first unelected president after Nixon became our first president to resign.

Ford, never seeking the honor, literally stumbled into the Oval Office. He did much to move the country forward. Nevertheless, Ford's legacy probably won't ever match those of Reagan or Clinton. His actions, however, have reached well beyond his presidency, including our current adventure in Iraq.

Ford is remembered most for pardoning Nixon. That decision, controversial to say the least, put him at odds with both the people and Congress. A moderate Republican, Ford responded by seeking allies farther to the right. Donald Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense. Dick Cheney, a Rumsfeld protégé, became Ford's Chief of Staff. George H. W. Bush was appointed Director of Central Intelligence.

As my father would say, 'nuff said.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

I can't say I disagree too much regarding the staffing of his administration.

Still, I was rather taken by Alexander Cockburn's take on Ford over at Counterpunch, as someone who represents the left in the US he takes quite a benign view of Ford and I must say that on balance I quite agree with him.

My political awakenings occurred at around the same time as yours, around '72 in Toronto, so in a way we've shared many of the same touchstones on Fords legacy and those of the men we now see in action.

By contrast in Canada we had Trudeau during that period, as exciting a leader as there ever was, our Clinton, foibles and all, a truly great PM by any measure.

Still sometimes boredom works in a troubled political time, Ford was the right man for the times.

28/12/06 19:39  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

Thanks for the comments Phil.

I should have mentioned my political awakening at the time also included mounting global crisis such as the Lebanese civil war...

So I agree that Ford's sense of duty, rather than presidential ambition, coupled with his quiet dignity was what we needed at the time. Too bad his appointees haven't chosen to follow his example.

29/12/06 08:01  

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