Gerald Ford, we hardly knew ye
I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.
— Gerald Ford, as quoted by Hunter S. Thompson
Gerald Ford, who, by his own admission, has gone South
One cannot offer a real summation on the legacy of the Ford Administration, meaning a look at the outcomes of its own policies and politics, for the simple reason that Ford was not in office long enough for his effect to be truly measured. But nevertheless, this ship of state has limped along, listing to one side, ever since then. We took on too much filthy, scum-ridden water under one captain. And when the next captain took the wheel, he refused to man the bilge pumps. The pardoning of Richard Milhous Nixon is a festering pustule on the body politic, one that has never been properly seen to. Had Nixon been held to account for his crimes — had justice been done — this country would be stronger for it. Future presidents would have looked at Nixon as a warning of what can happen when a president believes he is above the law. Instead, Ford demonstrated that the president is, indeed, just that. Instead of restoring honor, Ford, the first president of my lifetime, was the first in a long, duplicitous line of goons. Not one decent man has occupied the Oval Office in my entire life. Not one.
What does that say about our national character? Whatever it is, it's not good. It starts with Richard Nixon, but it festers to this day because of Gerald Ford. And with only two years in office, that will be his primary legacy — the long, slow sinking of innocence, of decency, of the American Dream.
In the end, Ford will be noted for his clumsiness:
One of the president's many spills
He'll also be remembered for the assassination attempt by Squeaky Fromme, which ranks as the weirdest presidential assassination attempt ever ...
Manson Family member Fromme, who forgot to chamber a round.
... at least until John Hinckley came along a few years later and tried to kill Reagan to impress Jodie Foster.
Hinckley, who remembered
And most of all, he'll be remembered for the pardoning of Richard Nixon, who ranks as the worst, most corrupt president ever ...
The man himself
... at least until George Bush came along a few years later.
But, under the radar, perhaps the biggest effect of the Ford presidency was this:
Ford with his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and his chief of staff, Dick Cheney
While Donny and Dick had lesser positions in the Nixon White House, where they got their starts in executive-branch politics, both rose to power in the Ford Administration. Without Ford, it's unlikely we would have seen them in power in the Bush administration(s). In a sense, Ford made these men what they are. He gave them their first real crack at inner-circle presidential politics. And so, here we are today. Thanks, Gerry.