I think almost everyone remembers him as a very decent man who became president under very difficult circumstances and tried his best while the country had undergone a severe political crisis and faced a terrible economic situation and a weakened profile abroad.
In the obituaries, they tend to skip lightly over his congressional career, but at one time, Gerald Ford was the choice of the Young Turks of the House Republicans who sought a more open and modern leadership. As Republican House Conference Chairman, he helped to corral Republican support to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It took real political courage to pardon Richard Nixon one month after taking office as president. At the time there was tremendous outrage and it surely didn’t help the Republicans in those midterm elections. And, as his campaign manager in 1976 said, outrage over the pardon most certainly accounted for Ford’s loss to Carter.
All those crediting Ford today for healing and bringing the nation together after Nixon’s resignation are discounting the tremendous, burning anger there was in the country after the pardon. Democrats in Congress even held hearings to see if there had been some sort of a quid pro quo between Ford and Nixon. The goodwill that Ford had earned with his graceful ascension after Nixon almost immediately dissipated. Fortunately for Mr. Ford, he lived long enought to see the verdict of history come around to think that he probably made the right decision to spare the country months of seeing Nixon on trial.Read all of Betsy’s post, which reminded me of the way events are viewed so differently through the lens of history, just as many viewed Ronald Reagan’s presidency differently years later. Also check out the posts Mark Tapscott rounds up, tracking the pardon debate, at the Examiner.
I have memories similar to Kim’s of the Ford-Carter election. Our class was assigned a candidate to support and we had a mock election. I still remember one sign that said “I would rather be a Carter peanut than a Dole banana,” referring to VP candidate Bob Dole. I remember that the adults I heard discuss Carter thought of him as the conservative candidate. He was the born again Southerner, after all, and this was in North Carolina. My parents voted for Carter that election. They voted for Ronald Reagan four years later though.