Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mills of the gods

Gerald R Ford died yestrday. I had forgotten that the R stood for Rudolph. I guess it is fitting that he died during the Christmas season. Ford is the sterling example of how hard it is to be considered a great man in this country. Here is a guy who was adopted, grew up to be a great football player and student at the University of Michigan, worked his way through Yale law school. Went into the Navy and then became one of the most esteemed Congressmen of the 20th Century. Due to circumstances unlikely to be repeated in our life times, he was appointed Vice President and then became President upon the resignation of Richard Nixon. Yet there are few in this country who would consider him a great man.He was so esteemed by his Countrymen that he almost lost his bid to be renominated by his own party and then was defeated by a peanut farmer, one term Governor of Georgia, largely because he did the right thing by pardoning Nixon, and then said the wrong thing about Poland in a televised debate. That peanut farmer managed to turn into one of the worst Presidents this country has ever had, and that says a lot. No, not as bad as the present guy, but pretty bad.While few thought him Jerry, few disliked him. Everyone was relieved that he suvived two assination attempts, one by the immortal "Squeaky" Fromm. He also survived several falls, one from the ladder of an airplane. He had a penchant for hitting golf balls into the gallery and beaning onlookers and he never met a sentence that he couldn't stumble over. He was married to an alcoholic with a drug addiction problem, but that all turned out all right in the end.Many movie stars have benefitted from the Betty Ford Clinic.

Once, a long time ago, my friend Bruce Bennett found out that Jerry was giving a speech for some local Congressman at the VFW Hall in Williamson County. Bruce and I drove out and joined a crowd of maybe 100 people to hear him speak. While it was hardly the Gettysberg Address we heard, it is one of my fondest political memories. I remember Bruce rushing up to shake Gerald's hand. I wondered how many times his hand had been shaken in VFW halls all over the country. How many crappy chicken dinners he had eaten, how often he'd had to debase himself by asking for money from some plutocrat. I guess it was worth it. He ended up splitting his time between his place in Vail and the one in Palm Springs over the last 30 years of his life. He probably did not get back up to Grand Rapids very much after he left the White House.He was the first Prseident to sell his speeches. Nixon never did it. I don't know about Reagan, but Bush I and Clinton make at least $100,000 a speech now. They owe that to Jerry paving the way for prostituiting the Presidency.They ought to chip in and pay for the funeral.

So you and I will pay a little less in taxes next year since a couple of secret servicemen won't be needed to guard Jerry. I will miss him. I don't think there was ever a time in my life when I thought ill of him. I see him now, his WIN button in his lapel, rolling up his sleeve to get a swine flu shot,wearing a big funny Russian hat at Vladivostok, smoking his pipe. When was the last time you saw someone smoke a pipe ? He was all right, Jerry was. He may not have been great, but he was all right. That puts him ahead of most Presidents.

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