Even though I was just a little kid when Gerald Ford was president, I liked him. To me, he was a good, kind man, and Chevy Chase’s “impression” of him, which was comprised of nothing more than Chevy stumbling, ticked me off. It was mean.
I was in the fourth grade during the campaign between President Ford and then Governor Jimmy Carter. One girl in my class, Darleen, wanted Jimmy Carter to win because she thought he was cuter. Even at nine years old, I was outraged that anyone could possibly want someone to be president just because he was better looking (so you can imagine my disgust at the soccer moms who fawned all over Bill Clinton in 1992). I wanted to stay up the night of the election to see who won, but my mom nixed that idea and said I had to go to bed. The next morning, I jumped out of bed to see if President Ford won, but my mom had to break it to me that President Ford lost and that Jimmy Carter was President-Elect. I was so disappointed.
But my recollections of Gerald Ford were correct: he was a good, kind man, who, as President Bush said, was president when our country needed him most.
Here’s what others are saying about the President Ford, who died at 93 years old:
See-Dubya at Hot Air:
By all accounts he was a decent and genuine man. He survived two assassination attempts and relentless mocking by Chevy Chase, who portrayed him as hopelessly clumsy (even though he was quite athletic and a college football star).
Plus the dude smoked a pipe. That’s a stone cold mack-daddy Prez, there.
Not much happened on his term, which in a grim decade of worldwide socialism, squalor, and chaos is quite an achievement. His was a thankless job, cleaning up after Nixon and then inevitably turning over the country to the tender mercies of Carter. He did it well, and we thank him for it. RIP.
Michelle Malkin has a collection of news articles.
Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House has a wonderful story of meeting former President Ford in 1980:
As a volunteer for the Wolf campaign, I was working the registration table that morning, handing out name tags and accepting late donations to the event. Taking a short break, I wandered out into the hallway behind the hotel’s ballroom for a smoke when I saw a lone man walking toward me. There was something familiar about him that I couldn’t quite place. He was striding purposefully but the rest of his body language denoted utter exhaustion. His shoulders drooped. His face, sagged so that the wrinkles came out in bas relief. His eyes were half closed, the circles under them pronounced.
With a shock I realized it was the former President. There were no Secret Service Agents. No clutch of sycophantic aides trailing in his wake. It was just me and the former President of the United States. I was thinking that he might not make it through the speech, so tired and careworn he looked. And then, magic.
He didn’t notice me until he was almost even with where I was standing against the wall. But when he saw me there with what must have been a dumbfounded look of disbelief on my face, he grinned and extended his hand. At that exact moment, his face lit up, the wrinkles disappeared, the eyes snapped open, and he drew himself up to his full height. It was like someone had thrown a switch. He clasped my hand firmly while all I could do was stutter out some meaningless platitude. I think I murmured “Thanks for coming” or some such nonsense that he probably didn’t hear anyway. And then he was gone, striding down the hallway toward the front of the room where he was to be introduced.
Making my way back to the ballroom, I stood along the wall opposite the podium and saw him in the doorway. His body and face had resumed their exhausted demeanor. But after the introduction, someone threw the switch again and he strode confidently to the lectern to deliver a barnburner of a political speech. Ford may not have been noted for his speaking ability. But I can attest to the fact that the wild applause and standing ovation he received was fully deserved. He skewered Carter and the Democrats for defeatism. He praised Reagan to the skies (despite his long standing anger at him for what Ford believed was the unnecessary challenge Reagan made for the nomination in 1976). And he talked about America as only a Midwestern politician can; with a hushed and reverent tone and a catch in the throat.
Please read the rest of Rick’s piece. It’s a rare but touching glimpse of President Ford that illustrates his true commitment to his party and his country.
Greg Tinti has other stories and recollections as well.
B. Daniel Blatt writing at Gay Patriot offers his memories of meeting President Ford:
This steady leader also inspired a young boy in Cincinnati who, after being disappointed with Ford’s predecessor, thought that the former Michigan Congressman helped restore honor to the presidency and helped make us all proud once again to be Americans. That boy took a busy downtown after school to volunteer for his campaign. At age 13, working for Jerry Ford, I got my start in American politics.
I met that good man when he came to Cincinnati in June 1976. I recall he was wearing a gray suit. He signed a paper in my notepad and was delighted that someone so young would volunteer for his campaign. I’ll always remember how his face lit up when he thanked me for my efforts on his behalf. It seemed he was almost laughing.
The Editor at Webloggin:
I will always remember President Ford through the eyes of a 12 year old, immortalized as a klutz on Saturday Night Live by Chevy Chase. Ironically though President Ford was a star football player in college at The University of Michigan and was considered a tremendous natural athlete. The media penned the stereotype and it stuck. But I did not think of that as anything detrimental to a President at the time who was also criticized by many for pardoning President Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal. To me it just seemed like good natured political satire for a nation that probably needed a good laugh after Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. Unfortunately I also believe now that this opened up the media floodgates for those who have had a deep disrespect for the government ever since. President Ford was the first person in Hollywood’s distrustful sights but not the last. The nation is worse off for the lack of respect given to Presidents on all sides of the aisle.
Like me, Dean Esmay‘s first memories of an American president were of Gerald Ford:
Jerry Ford was the first President I clearly recognized as a child. In the last 35 years of my life I have struggled to find things to dislike about him. I think he was wrong about some things, but right about many others. The more I have learned about him, the more I have come to think that he is the very model of what a President of the United States should be.
The Esmay household sends its heartfelt condolences to the Ford family. Your dad is gone, and that must hurt a lot. As an American, I hurt too.
Ford was the first president whose innauguration I remember as a current event. Indeed, my political awareness (at age 12) really began with Nixon’s resignation, which I watched from a barber’s chair in Tupper Lake, New York, less than five miles from where I write this today. After that, I began reading the newspaper, watching the evening news, and arguing about politics with my friends. A blogger was born with Gerald Ford’s move to the Oval Office, we just didn’t know it at the time.
Ford was a remarkable man, as the wire service obituary reminds us. Even as the country mocked him for his clumsiness — the press conveniently forgetting that he was perhaps the most accomplished athlete ever to occupy the White House — and derided him for his pardon of Richard Nixon, he led with a decency and competence that I think most Americans of the left and right wish we could conjure up today. He did this at a time when the country was extraordinarily difficult to govern, and he almost paid for it with his life. In September 1975, two separate Californians tried to assassinate him only 17 days apart.
Ann Althouse offers her recollections:
I was all set to vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976. I’d voted for Carter in the New York primary when he was still a face in a crowd of candidates. But the day before the election, I saw a TV interview in which a reporter asked Carter what he would do if he didn’t win. He said he’d go back to his peanut farm. This answer — does it seem innocuous to you? — gnawed at me overnight, and, as I was walking to my polling place, I sat down to talk about it with someone who was also planning to vote for Carter, and the two of us changed our vote to Ford. It wasn’t so much Ford. It was Carter. I’d decided he was a small man. He didn’t fit the Presidency. Did Ford? But Ford was already President. In truth, no one deserves to be President. But Ford did not select himself as President. He had only selected himself to represent one legislative district. I found that appealing.