Wednesday, December 27, 2006


A Long, Decent, Lifetime is Over

R.I.P., Gerald Ford, 1913-2006.

One of the interesting ironies of Gerald Ford is that his brief presidency -- which to the extent it was controversial was more because of events swirling around him than what he initiated -- was populated by personnel who decades later cast huge shadows across this country's policies: His secretary of defense was Donald Rumsfeld (then the youngest SecDef in history); his chief of staff was Richard B. Cheney; his head of National Economic Advisers was Alan Greenspan; his ambassador to China (and later CIA chief) was George H.W. Bush. Further down in the bureaucracy was a young budgetary wonk named Paul O'Neill. Brought into the government for the first time was a young military officer named Colin Powell.

A second irony, connected to the first, is that Ford -- in deciding to pardon Richard M. Nixon -- chose to act as "a uniter not a divider," yet several of those staffers ended up leading an administration three decades later that is one of the most divisive in history.

It is not a coincidence that a Ford veteran (named Cheney) has been the most prominent member of the current administration to insist on the prerogatives of executive power -- specifically initiating a pushback on the erosion of executive branch that began following the Nixon resignation and accelerated during Ford's tenure.

UPDATE: John Derbyshire seems to get the Ford character just right (Ford was also the first president that I got to know from beginning to end).

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