Wednesday, December 27, 2006

X-Pres Gerald Ford Now Eligible to Appear on Money

Had Gerald Rudolph Ford's life taken the path that I imagine he probably thought it would, I would not be writing this piece today, for the death of a fairly obscure and relatively undistinguished former Congressional Minority Leader from Michigan would garner no special notice from the world's media. But Fate, Destiny, or Kismet, whatever you wish to call if you believe in such forces, had other plans for the Hon. Mr. Ford. The term "Accidental President" has been used to describe Vice-Presidents who ascend to the presidency when the President is unable to finish his term, usually because he has died, ever since John Tyler, the first to do so, assumed the office following the death of William Henry Harrison, but in Ford's case the term is particularly apt, for no presidency was more accidental than his. Named to replace disgraced former Vice-President Spiro Agnew in 1973, Ford found himself sitting in the Oval Office following President Richard Nixon's resignation as a result of the Watergate scandal on August 9, 1974.
While Ford was not exactly a great President, nor was he the buffoon that his occassional public clumsiness and the infamous WIN buttons led comics to portray him as. He was a gentle, honest, and soft-spoken man pulled by the tide of history into waters that were way above his head, but he managed to avoid drowning and emerged as one of America's most respected ex-Presidents and elder statesmen.
True, his was, for the most part, a "placeholder" presidency, and he was really just keeping the seat warm until the next "real" President showed up, but after the "long national nightmare" of Watergate, not to mention Vietnam and pretty much the entire preceding decade, that's probably precisely what this country needed in order to begin the long process of recovering.
These days, in the post-Watergate era, it seems as if the highest praise you can pay a former Chief Executive is that he did nothing to disgrace the office of the President of the United States or himself. By that yardstick, Gerald R. Ford may, in fact, be one of the great Presidents of my lifetime.

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