« Life imitates art | Main | The Theodicy of satellite radio »

Ford coverage

I'm interested to hear what readers think of the media coverage of Gerald Ford's death. As my friend Mal pointed out, one might easily conclude, based on newspaper accounts alone, that Ford was Abraham Lincoln made over, or at the very least, the next visage to be carved in rock on the face of Mount Rushmore.

Why is this? I always considered Ford a nice guy, but a fairly inept president. I cut him a fair amount of slack for his two years in office simply because he "ended up" in the White House, even though he never campaigned for the job, and because he wasn't Nixon.

So what's behind the glowing media portraits of the guy? My guess is twofold.

First, I think it's just a natural proclivity we humans have for speaking well of the dead. And dead Republicans in particular tend to fare better than their living counterparts. That's a laudable aspect of human nature, and I have no problem with that.

I think there's more to it, however. I think there's also a subtext of "look how far the Republican Party has descended down into the morass of right-wing fanaticism since Ford's time" at work here. Let's face it, Ford was no conservative, even by pre-Reagan standards. Remember Nixon's characterization of the McGovern Democratic platform as "acid, abortion and amnesty?" At least two of the A's in that formulation described Nixon's successor as well (to the best of my knowledge, Jerry Ford never dropped acid in the Oval Office, but I suppose one can't be sure.)

Most of the liberal blogosphere seemed to take this angle, and came across as almost nostalgic for the guy. More bizarre, however, was the minority of lefty bloggers who took the reverse route, and actually savaged Ford as some kind of extremist, ideologically driven hack, whose legacy to the world was Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (still no mention of Earl Butz, however. Am I the only American who hasn't blocked that from my consciousness?)

I'm not linking to specific examples of bloggers who chose to shout "Good riddance!" over Ford's grave. You can find them yourselves if you search. They tend to be the same bloggers who couldn't find it in themselves to utter even the most muted criticism of Saddam Hussein on the occasion of his death, typically eschewing even the obligatory liberal boilerplate of "Yes, Saddam was a bad man, but..." It's bloggers like those that reinforce every negative and unfair stereotype of the anti-war left that Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter can spew out, and that's a pity.


Okay, so I finally looked up Earl Butz on Wikipedia since you brought it up again, and might I say thanks? I could have gone my entire life without ever knowing about him, and know what? It would have been a pleasure. So, thanks. :-P

Also, I think part of the love-fest is not just a knee jerk reaction/nostalgia for the Republicans of yesteryear but also because of nostalgia for moderates, of which there don't seem to be that many in Congress, from either party.

I followed your lead and did a bit of web research myself and uncovered some interesting stuff. Apparently Mr. Butz actually inspired a 1980 movie called Loose Shoes, believe it or not, whence comes this clip. You have been warned.

I really don't think it is that much different than the feelings that were expressed for Paul Wellstone or Barry Goldwater. There just are politicians who carried themselves with grace and dignity and who had the knack of getting along personally with those they disagreed.

At the time, Ford was reviled for vetoing so much legislation, but it was the only weapon he had for fighting the Dem's spending spree. (Vietnam was the only expense they wanted to cut.) The economy had been screwed up by Nixon's wage& price controls, a bad response to an inflation that was caused by federal overspending in the first place.
The economy actually improved under Ford, but Jimmah took care of that.

The left isn't the only place you'll find damnation with faint praise of Ford. As an example, here's the no-class polyanna Larry Kudlow with his 'tribute' to Ford. "Gerald Ford was a good and gracious man.

He was a dedicated and honest public servant—well liked by all who knew him personally. And I think his controversial pardon of Richard Nixon was a good idea—good in the sense that it got it off the table so the country could move on.

However, President Ford was one of a long line of American executives who presided over the decline of the U.S. in both national security and economic terms. This began under LBJ and stretched out through Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.

In national security terms, Mr. Ford was a détentist who accommodated the Soviet Union in a number of ways, including unverifiable arms control deals that Ronald Reagan put an end to when the Gipper assumed the presidency in the 1980’s.

The U.S.’s Vietnam retreat from the rooftop of our embassy in Saigon was one of the low points in the history of American foreign policy—a disgraceful action. Reagan, of course, changed all this in the 1980’s with his many actions to overturn and defeat Soviet communism.

In economic policy, Mr. Ford was a traditional Republican budget balancer who had no pro-growth policies. Arthur Laffer tried to persuade Ford of the merits of supply side economics to reduce marginal tax rates and grow the American economy—but Ford, acting on advice of top economic advisor Alan Greenspan, rejected this.

June Wanniski called this root canal economics and Newt Gingrich described Ford’s futile obsession with the budget deficit as simply the tax collector for the welfare state.

The combination of high inflation interacting with high marginal tax rates led to stagflation and the continued decline of the American economy. And the infamous “whip inflation now” program was nothing more than price controls and state planning.

Again, it took Ronald Reagan to reverse all this by adopting the incentive-minded growth model which slashed tax rates and reignited the U.S. economy in the 1980's - an economy whose fire still burns brightly a quarter of a century later.

At the end of the day, Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter, who was just as baffled about stagflation and Soviet hegemony as Ford was.

Mr. Ford attempted one last play on the national political stage at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit. Reagan had soundly trounced Papa Bush in the primaries to capture the nomination. But the Papa Bush forces—led by James Baker—attempted a bizarre co-presidency that would have made Ford the vice president and divided up all the executive branch responsibilities.

Reagan himself squashed this, chose Papa Bush instead, crushed Carter in the election, and went on to become one of the greatest presidents in United States history.

Thank God for Ronald Reagan."

I e-mailed this schnook, telling him not to bother showing up to my own funeral as a eulogist because he'd probably ending up spending all his time praising my kid's stepfather.

The way I see it, we've only had 42 guys serve as President, so when they die, it's a big event--and deservedly so. It serves a civic purpose in allowing the country a week to look back on a long-ago era, reflect on the times and the man in the Oval Office and realize that every era has its divisiveness and rancor, but over the long haul, those are hopefully just blips on the radar.
Yes, there is much more partisanship these days than 30 years ago. And Presidents these days, and most politicians, seem more image-obsessed. I watched all the Ford stuff this week and compared him to the present White House occupant and tried to imagine Ford pulling a stunt like the landing on the aircraft carrier of May 2003.

On the other hand, it will surely be interesting to hear the tone of the coverage and the reactions of people when Jimmy Carter goes off to that big Habitat for Humanity in the sky. Reagan got a nice unified send-off, as did Ford. I'm sure Bush I will as well. But Carter?

Most people are happy when any Republican President finally dies. It is always sad that it couldn't have happened sooner, like BEFORE they became president.

Ford was a tool, and a dull one at that. Nixon used him to assure pardon for his endless felonies, only exceeded by those of Chimp W. Bush.

Oh, Bailey. Grow up.

Post a comment