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The International Writers
Magazine: US Politics Reality Check
some sad reason only known to the gods of misfortune, I found
myself listening to the "Imus In The Morning" radio
broadcast sometime during the surreally long week of funeral events
surrounding the passing of our 38th president. Our pal, Mike Barnicle,
of Fabricated Story fame, was unabashedly stating that all this
talk 33 years ago about "a deal" regarding Gerald Ford's
pardoning of Richard Nixon was patently false and in fact "may
have been one of the most heroic deeds in modern presidential
respecting the dead and supporting the grieving is one thing,
but a complete revision of history is the worst kind of sin.'
The colossal absurdity of this nonsense sent a stinging stream of coffee
to the back of my throat. I was flummoxed, or as flummoxed as a hard-ass
cynic could be. It was a stunning observation even for Barnicle, world-famous
for stupidity. It was then, as I struggled to get my vehicle under control,
that I planned on writing this rebuttal.
Believe me when I tell you I had no intention of wasting two paragraphs
on the human doorstop that was Gerald Rudolf Ford or his misnomer presidency.
The whole terrible fiasco had safely slumbered in my memory banks like
a hazy college speed binge. The images were vague if not frightening.
I recollect something about a puppet man holding the fort after the 37th
president torched the U. S. Constitution, but it was fuzzy and disquieting,
and I chose to let it go, make my peace with the whole debacle. Heal.
Yes, and then the old fart had to up and croak and I couldn't turn on
a network or cable news show for 150 hours without some dink waxing poetic
about Ford's dubious legacy. But I even ignored that, understanding that
there's nothing us humans love more than belaboring burials, honoring
our country, and/or reconfiguring unpleasant history by constructing beloved
myths. Why I even heard one of Saddam Hussein's kids talking about how
much he loved the family pooch. Sure, and Hitler loved his dog too. Loved
it so much he fed it cyanide so it wouldn't have to watch daddy shoot
Look, respecting the dead and supporting the grieving is one thing, but
a complete revision of history is the worst kind of sin. This hooey about
Gerald Ford doing anything approaching "heroic" or the blind
patronization of his freeing a criminal as "healing the country"
or the meaningless celebration of he being "a regular guy" is
as maudlin and saccharine and silly as it gets. How anyone chooses to
sooth the pain of loss is none of my business, to each, his own. Here's
where I get involved: When grieving and flowery speeches replace hard
news and cold fact.
Reality Check, baby.
Gerald Ford? His wife did more for this country by guzzling turpentine.
Here's all you have to know about Gerald Ford: He was the ultimate team
player, a Football Guy. He took one for the team soon after the Kennedy
Assassination and once again after Richard Nixon made a mockery of governance.
Gerry was our sacrificial lamb, saluting bravely and keeping his mouth
shut like a good capo. He was a cover all his life, a beard for the awful
things that needed to be done to stay the American course. He may just
as well have worked for Tony Soprano.
And I would have gladly returned the favor. Kept it under raps. Let the
boy off the hook: Poor bastard, what could he do? They offered him the
vice presidency to keep the Republican Party from closing shop for good.
Protect the country from the Big Bad Commies. This was his sworn duty.
Ford and his Democrat buddy, power-broker Tip O'Neill, along with Al ("I'm
in charge now!") Haig laid the groundwork to get Nixon the hell out
of a mutilated White House and set him free to wander the beaches of Sacramento
like some kind of doddering madman who'd been haunted by gremlins and
beaten by ego. O'Neill and his cronies would never have allowed a beast
like Spiro Agnew anywhere near the title of chief executive. He was a
hateful creature and did everyone a favor by defrauding the government
and evading taxes. Haig? Well, old Al made a deal with the devil; let's
leave it there. And good ol' Gerry, the Team Player, played ball.
Nothing wrong with any of it, mind you. It's politics as usual. Covered
weekly in this space. Well documented in the annals of time. I'm sure
Gerry Ford was a nice guy, good father, and an upstanding citizen with
many fine qualities. He worked hard as a congressman, served the Navy
well in the Big War, did the Shriners proud. But it pales in comparison
to his decision to push the whole Watergate disaster under the rug, make
like it never happened. Smile and go on.
Very nice. Very brave. Very weak. Very gutless.
You decide. Just don't make shit up.
Republicans, however, should erect shrines to Gerald Ford. He did stem
the tide of total extinction. People forget the utter black hole that
was the final months of the Nixon Administration, or whatever was left
of it. The entire episode teetered on constitutional crisis. I laugh every
time I hear a badly conceived comparison to it, as if Clinton getting
hummers and lying under oath or Baby Bush trumping up faulty intelligence
to avenge daddy's enemy could ever approach the atrocity of Richard M.
Nixon. By all rights the entire Grand Old Party should have gone the way
of the Whigs in his wake. But to his credit, Ford stopped the bleeding.
Not so sure his tourniquet was so good for the rest of us, but it did
spare Nixon from justice and help elect Ronald Reagan and two Bushes.
But then Gerry was always adept at keeping his finger in the dyke. He
did it quite well as one of the chosen few to sit on the Warren Commission;
a quickly cobbled smokescreen to fill whatever unsightly holes that pocked
the JFK assassination. Many would argue the group still stands as the
focal point in one of the grandest of cover-ups, others may bandy about
its rush to judgment to keep the wolves at bay, or at least Fidel Castro
at bay. Either way you look at it, the Warren Commission, of which Gerald
R. Ford was the last surviving member, took one for the team. Swept out
the nastiness, shooed away the curious, and glossed over the glaring incongruities
of shady doings, helping the nation "heal" from the shock of
a fallen leader.
So Ford was, in the end, the perfect caretaker of a wounded federal government
and the savior of saviors for the Republican Party. But this does not
make him a national hero. It doesn't make him a villain either. He just
was. A cog in the great machinery of government. Another in the long line
of parts grinding along.
Final word on Gerald Ford: He just was.
Sorry Barnicle. Sorry network geeks. Sorry revisionists.
And that's the unremarkable truth.
Go ahead and twenty-one-gun salute that, I'll finish my
© James Campion Jan 8th 2007
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