Friday, December 29, 2006

Musings on Gerald Ford:

Well, it's a day late and a dollar short, thanks to the Philly library system and their state of the art internet connection, but here is what was on my mind on Tuesday when the news of Gerald Ford died hit. Note, this was before he spanked W., Cheney and Kissinger from the grave.

The media is all a buzz about the death of former president Gerald R. Ford. NPR is having another one of its dead president banachals, although, mercifully, they're not in full Ronald Reagan funeral mode yet. [Just wait until Sharon dies!] News of Ford's death comes hours after the announcement of the death of the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown, who died on Christmas morning. I think one could argue James Brown probably had a lot more influence on the history of the country than old bumbling Gerry Ford ever did, but all you hear is Ford, Ford, Ford: ''He was a healer, he was a steady hand (when he wasn't falling out of planes), blah, blah, blah.'

One thing you can say for him, he helped heal the GOP, that's for sure. Ford's pardon of Nixon made it a certainty that there wouldn't be any kind of nasty trial dragging on in the midst of the elections in 1976. Daily exposes in the press about tricky Dick and Henry Kissinger's role in the overthrow and assassination of Salvador Allende's government or the secret bombing of Cambodia, or spying on domestic enemies, would not have been good for business. There is the distinct possibility the Republican Party may not have recovered from a thorough public investigation into Nixon's dirty deeds for decades if not a century. Imagine if Kissinger had had to testify under oath about putting machine guns into official U.S. diplomatic pouches bound for Allende's assassins in Chile! (If W. wanted to talk to him now about the New Way Forward in Iraq, he would have had to do it while visiting him in Leavenworth.)

Whatever Ford's motives may have been, pardoning Nixon may have ended his Party's long nightmare, I don't know about the Nation’s. I think the American people were entitled to a fuller explanation and accounting of what exactly the Nixon regime was up to. Sending a few lower level functionaries to fenced-in gulf resorts for a few months didn't come close to "healing" this Nation after what Nixon & Co. had done. Letting that bunch off with a slap on the wrist gave Cheney and Rummy -- both in the Ford administration -- the idea that they could get away scot-free with something like Iraq.

If there is anything to say about Ford's legacy, it's that he was one of the last GOP moderates. For sure he is the last moderate GOP president we'll ever see. The whole notion of moderation in the GOP went to hell when kindly old grandpa Reagan came in and gave the bomb throwers and religious nuts the keys to the asylum. In retrospect, I actually wish that Ford had beat Carter in '76, so we could have had four more years of Chevy Chase signing and vetoing his hand, petting his wooden dog "liberty" and falling over his desk.

There would be a lot more golfers with serious head wounds and crazy hippy chicks serving time for trying to kill the president, but at least Ronald Reagan and his -- what was then considered the -- "crack pot" wing of the Republican Party, would have remained on the fringes. [By the way, it sure would have been nice if Ted Kennedy hadn't done his part to destroy what little chance Carter had of winning by launching a last minute coup d' tat at the Democratic convention.] Cheney and Rummy would have gone ahead and had disastrous careers in corporate America, like they should have done all along, and W. would now be an infrequent blip on the pages of the tabloids, playing the role of semi-prominent politician's black sheep son. [Kind of like Neil Bush does nowadays.]

Newt Gingrich is really into the "alternative history" thing; like 'what if Hitler had won,' that sort of thing. That was my humble attempt at the alternative history. My alternative future history is that Cheney gets caught lying at Scooter Libby's trial -- really going out on a limb here -- and has to resign. W. appoints Bill Frist or Trent Lott -- one of those dumb rednecks -- as VP and in '08 America comes out in droves to vote for Barak "Osama" "Saddam" Hussein Obama. That's the only way I see Obama having a chance against whoever the GOP puts up. If Hillary doesn't completely destroy him in the primaries, what's left of him will be mopped up by the son's of Rove new model attack machine. The "Hussein" "Osama" thing is a real killer.

In any case, Gerry Ford wasn't really all that bad, he was a nice guy and he loved beer, nachos and "Big Blue." Here's to a decent man who did his best under difficult circumstances. Rest in peace.


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