Blogs > HNN > What Gerald Ford tells us about American politics

Dec 27, 2006 1:46 pm

What Gerald Ford tells us about American politics

Gerald Ford always said he never wanted to be president. Almost certainly, but for the twisted poliics of the Watergate Era, he never would have been.

This says something about Ford. But more importantly it says something about our political system. If Ford looks good in retrospect, we should wonder why a Ford couldn't get elected president.

David Broder said that Ford was the least neurotic president he knew. Is it possible to be a normal person and get elected president in this country? I have my doubts. A normal person wouldn't put themselves through what you have to go through to be elected president.

Ford was picked in a backroom deal, in effect, between Carl Albert, Mike Mansfield and Rchard Nixon. Do we get better people this way? If we do, what does that say about our system of mass politics. The more democratic it has become the wierder the people have been whom we elect. Cause and effect? Maybe.

Ford's two chief decisions as president were both taken in the face of public opinion. 1. His pardon of Nixon and 2. his decision not to pump up spending in 1976 when he faced Jimmy Carter. Both decisions look good in retrospect.

What dos it say abou our system that a president was punished for doing what was right?

We should take this moment to ponder this question. We spend so much time lionizing the system it is worth remembering how it fails us.

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Oscar Chamberlain - 12/30/2006

Over at Cliopatria we have had a nice little discussion about Ford's pardon. I think it was a mistake and that the later tendency to support is based on a mis-remembering of the circumstances. Others have made reasonable arguments defending Ford's decision.

But none of these arguments, on either side, go so far as to suggest that Carter's narrow victory represents a failure of the system. In your disillusion, you are looking for systemic failure. In the case of the 1976 election, there was, at worst, a mistake by a pretty small percentage of voters.

HNN - 12/29/2006

The People changed their minds. All polls have indicated for more than a decade that they now believe Ford was right to pardon Nixon.

Oscar Chamberlain - 12/27/2006

"What does it say about our system that a president was punished for doing what was right?"

Perhaps the people did not agree with what you think is right.