Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The big news as I write this is that Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, has died at the age of 93.

Mr Ford will be remembered for several things, not all of them positive. He was the first unelected president, having been appointed Vice President by Richard Nixon after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, and then moving up to the oval office upon Mr Nixon's resignation in 1974. He was mercilessly lampooned by comedians (notably Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live) for his alleged lack of coordination, although he had been a star athlete in college. He pardoned former President Nixon for any crimes committed in office - an act of political courage at a difficult time. He opened himself to ridicule for his "WIN" program ("Whip Inflation Now," and the accompanying lapel pins). And he was the face of America during the debacle of the frantic evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.

But I will remember him for something larger: a humble man with generosity of spirit and a steady, calming personality that the nation needed following the Nixon resignation, the loss of the war in Vietnam, and the low days of the Cold War. I was a second lieutenant in the Air Force when Mr Ford came to office, and I looked at him as a man I could respect and follow as Commander in Chief...not just because he sat in the Big Chair, but because he was a solid, reassuring presence at the right time.

Things are different now. Instead of the calm and humble persona of Gerald Ford as Vice President and President, we have the cocksure and uncompromising George Bush and the vaguely sinister Dick Cheney. Leadership consists of more than standing on the wreckage of the World Trade Center and vowing's setting the example of an America that the world envies and respects. Fears if necessary, but envies and respects.

I think that Gerald Ford would have been a good President today, better perhaps than George Bush. We'll never know.

But I wish we could.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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