26 December 2006

If Ford Received This Sort of Press While President, There Never Would Have Been a Carter Administration

Gerald Ford died.

I'm amazed how glowing the NYT and AP obits were, and a little suspicious. I bet if I delved into the contemporary accounts of events and actions that they now describe as laudable, back then, not so much.

An interesting 'coincidence' in both the NYTimes and AP articles are the use of the word "imperial" with reference to President Ford (and how he was definitely not that).

The NYT (the NYT piece is nearly as long as the Ford Presidency)

As president, he was quick to assert to Congress, in a play on words that nobody misunderstood, “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.” If it was true, as was often said, that the Oval Office shaped the occupant, Mr. Ford resisted the temptation of the imperial.

The AP

Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the presidency of Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for Richard Nixon, the transition to Ford's leadership was one of the most welcomed in the history of the democratic process _ despite the fact that it occurred without an election.

This is total revisionist crap. I may have barely entered grade school during Ford's administration, but I know enough of that time to know that this is an absurd remaking of the facts of those times.

President Ford was a good man, a decent administrator, but lousy at being 'presidential'. The figurehead aspect of the position is not to be discounted or ignored. When done right, the President helps shape the national mood and self-perception in a positive way, when done wrong the President can undermine confidence domestically and lessen prestige internationally.

The question is why?

Three letters are my answer, B. D. S.

All occasions are now reasons to create some sort of negative comparison between someone or some event of yesteryear to the Bush Administration and current events, no matter how absurd and tenuous the connection may be.

So instead of Ford being the bumbling, stumbling and unpresidential failure he was depicted as (clearly unfairly) by contemporary accounts, he is now a plain-spoken, simple, and dignified man who brought that midwestern ethic to the White House.

The Reagan remembrances were equally ridiculous in the press' willingness to whitewash the vicious attacks they leveled against him during his administration.

But this time it's a little different, this time there seems to be pointed references to the current administration, and that's really out of bounds, uncalled for, and disgusting.

I doubt the word "imperial" would have showed up in any accounts of his life had he passed six years ago. But now, the dangers of the 'increasingly imperial presidency' are one of those things that 'everybody knows' (at least everybody who has a byline in the NYT or AP and the folks they meet at parties), like the endless 'quagmire' in Iraq, the 'new' wave of anti-americanism 'caused' by President Bush, and the certainty that nothing the current administration has done helped keep the homeland free from a spectacular attack these past five years.

Also why am I not surprised that one of the authors of the NYT piece is Adam Clymer?


Most of the news articles I've read (more examples, LAT and WaPo) felt compelled to reference the "imperial presidency" in part because of Arthur Schlesinger's account of the Nixon Administration titled "Imperial Presidency" (republished in 1998 with additional material attacking the Reagan and Bush 41 Administrations) and Gerald Ford's stated claim during his first days in office to bring more openness. But I think there's still an undercurrent of reproach for the current administration. And just to show that the fear of an "imperial presidency" isn't just a concern of the left towards right of center presidents, here's a blast from the past from the Cato institute written at the end of the Clinton Administration.

The WaPo memorial/retrospective/obit is the best written. Lou Cannon probably has something to do with that. His biography of Ronald Reagan as Governor (titled "Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power") is especially good, a book that should be read especially if youare a Californian, or even if you're just an American, and even if you're not.

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