Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Dissing of an ex-President

Gerald Ford arrived in Washington yesterday for the last time. Amid all of the pomp and pageantry (toned down a bit at Ford’s request) some things made an impression. It was moving to see the flag draped coffin carried by the military honor guard while cannons boomed in salute, and the band played Hail to the Chief. But other things stood out too. Like the mourners on hand. The Vice President was at Andrews Air Force Base to lead the delegation. The outgoing speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate were on hand when the body arrived at the Capital Building to lie in state. But the gaps were shocking.

The incoming Speaker and Majority Leader were absent, as also most of the cabinet, the Supreme Court and almost 500 (of 535) members of Congress from both parties! But probably the most glaring absence was the current President of the United States, George W. Bush. Mr. Bush did not attend the arrival ceremonies for former President Reagan’s body either, although then he had an excuse. He was hosting the G-8 summit. This time it appears he just could not be bothered to interrupt his vacation. As a matter of protocol last night’s ceremony in the Capital Building was the actual “State Funeral.” The funeral on Tuesday morning is the religious service. There were so many absentees from the State Funeral in the capital rotunda that congressional staffers had to be rounded up to fill all the seats left vacant by their bosses. That this many important people would fail to show a modicum of respect for the passing of a head of state is a sad reflection on how bad things are in Washington.

Politics aside Gerald Ford was an incredibly descent man who had very few true enemies (if any). When he was told about Nixon’s famous “enemies list” Ford responded rather acidly that anyone who can not keep a list of his enemies in his head has too many. Other than his pardon of President Nixon for which history has almost unanimously vindicated him, he was as close to a non-controversial president as we have had since Eisenhower. He was a staunch Republican, but not a partisan one. He was conservative in finances, crime and foreign policy, while being moderate on social policy. He enjoyed remarkably cordial relations with just about everyone from both parties during his presidency. And he restored honor and trust to the office, after it was so badly tarnished by his predecessor. Yet, all of this seems to have counted for naught in today’s Washington. Jerry (and Betty) Ford deserved better than this.

(Side Note: I want to say a quick thank you to the people at St. Athanasius Church in Sacramento for their warm welcome to a visitor this morning. I hope to be able to attend again the next time I am in Sacramento over a weekend.)

1 comment:

Death Bredon said...

Unfortunately, through no fault of President Ford, certain occupants of the White House have cheapened the Office and generally sapped public respect for it.

Though Presidents Carter and Reagan were both decent men, scandal did occur under Reagan's watch and economic and foriegn policy nightmares under Carter.

Maybe of the recent occupant's, Bush 41 did the least to tarnish the Office of the President.

Kennedy stole his election and brought prostitutes into the Whithouse. Johnson did an abysmal job and chose not run for re-election. Nixon had to be pardoned of his conduct by Ford, and Clinton was impeached and almost expelled by the Senate for his slezzy use of the Oval Office.

Even now, Bush 43 has record low approval ratings.

After so much mediocrity, I believe the American people, and even the beltway insiders are becoming quite cynical of government, and the Office of President.