Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald R. Ford, 1913-2006

It is being reported that Former President Gerald R. Ford has just died.

President Ford was unique among all of America's chief executives in that he was never elected, either to the Presidency or to the Vice Presidency. He was picked by Richard Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew during the scandal-choked year of 1973. The following year he acceded to the Presidency when Nixon resigned. Ford was President for two years. Even before that Ford was a sometimes controversial figure, having served on the Warren Commission that eventually concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, had fired all the shots that hit President Kennedy and Governor Conally on that black day in November of 1963; Ford was the last surviving member of that commission. Ford served in the House of Representatives representing Grand Rapids, Michigan, until the day he was confirmed as Vice-President of the United States.

During his two years, he was a sometimes-controversial President. He set a modern record for vetoing legislation, as even after the 1974 election he did not concede an inch to the Democratic Congress. He also pardoned Richard Nixon after Nixon resigned the Presidency (effectively ending the Watergate investigation), raising the spectre of a backroom deal (which both men vigorously denied for the rest of their lives, but the possibility has to be considered nevertheless.) Ford presided over the final American withdrawl in Vietnam, including the evacuation of embassy personnel by helicopter from the rooftop of the embassy in Saigon. In 1975, Khmer Rouge guerillas, who had just seized power in Cambodia, seized the U.S. spy ship Mayaguez. Ford authorized a rescue mission, which also became controversial, as 38 marines died to rescue 39 hostages. Ford also survived two assassination attempts, including one by 'Squeaky' Fromme, a former member of the Manson family.

To be honest, for a Republican President I almost liked Gerald Ford. Even with all the vetoes, he was willing to work with Congress, and the strident partisanship, which are in abundance now and which was in abundance when he took office, had all but disappeared by the end of his term. He was also arguably the last ex-President to behave as people had come to expect an ex-President to behave, largely ducking involvement in big projects or working for the betterment of the world, instead occasionally coming in off the golf course to answer a few softball questions. Both his predecessor, Nixon, and his successor, Carter, began to set a different pattern for ex-Presidents, that of social activist and worker.


Frederick said...

I can think of another President right off the bat that was never elected. Appointed, not elected.

Eli Blake said...

OK, Frederick, you got me. Who is it?

Remember we are talking U.S. Presidents, George Washington being the first, and George W. Bush being the 43rd. Prior to 1804, elections were done differently, but Washington, Adams and Jefferson were still elected by Congress.

Frederick said...


Eli Blake said...


And you are right, of course.