Gerald Ford passes -- let's debate his legacy

Just found out about this – not from the media but from an MPSIMS thread.

Debating a just-deceased U.S. president’s legacy is, of course, obligatory. But I don’t expect this thread to get nearly as contentious as the Reagan thread. Few people have strong feelings about Ford one way or the other, AFAIK. All I really remember from his administration is the WIN buttons. The only way it could get really ugly is if it turns into a debate on Carter, and whether we would have been better off if Ford had won the 1976 election. Then all bets are off.

I was going to link to the Wikipedia article on Ford but some clown has posted a scat photo at the top of it. Which moves me to reconsider the above . . .

Well, there’s East Timor to consider, as well as Cheney and Rumsfeld getting a career boost
thanks to him. The Nixon pardon? I know my dad, a DITW Republican, didn’t like it when he
let Tricky Dick off the hook.

Or if we debate his pardon of Nixon, which I believe was uncalled for.

Other than that, Ford was an OK president, a place-holder, with really no legacy at all; a good guy when we needed one. It’s odd that thanks to Chevy Chase, he will be remembered as a clumsy oaf when he actually had quite solid athletic credentials.

Ford’s manin legacy is that he allowed the nation to put Watergate behind it. While the pardon of Nixon was unpopular, it certainly let the nation move beyond the issue. Having a long trial, along with the variety of partisan rancor it would have produced, would have distracted the nation and only intensified a nation that was still trying to heal the divisions produced by the Vietnam War. Ford made the right choice.

A minor legacy is that his failed 1976 campaign set the stage for the completion of the conservative takeover of the GOP. His loss to Carter showed that a moderate Republican was unable to capture the public’s favor.

His foreign policy legacy is pretty poor. He had the right instincts in fighting communism but was ineffectual in achieving that (especially facing such a heavily Democratic Congress). Ford’s poor foreign policy paved the way for the failures of the Carter years.

I was born in '65, so the Nixon pardon is dimly recalled by me. (Not involved or interested in national politics at the time.)

I presume he did it becuase he was protecting something.

Renob says it was the nation. I guess that could be so, if, from Ford’s perception, the nation was “tearing itself apart” or was going to suffer needlessly from self inflicted wounds.

Ford may also have been worried about some backlash against the powers of the Executive Branch, as well.

In the “zeal” to right a wrong, Congress may have attempted something drastic (from the point of view of the Executive Branch). (Dunno what, just speculating here.)

To preserve the office of the Presidency for future presidents (for the purposes Ford may have thought that that office serves the country), he pardons Nixon, especially if he felt that the faults of one man (Nixon) should not be used as an indictment of the system.

I would be very surprised to hear creditable reports that the probability of a pardon was not part of the price for “not having Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Nixon was entirely of the type to grimly hang on and watch the nation fall into ruin around him. With Agnew, he was safe from being asked by his own party to step down since Agnew scared the crap out of anyone higher up the food chain than mold. When he fell, the possibility was there.

I think it entirely likely that he was told plainly that Ford would be likely to pardon him, and no one else would take that chance. (Or, at least no one who could be confirmed without an ugly fight in both houses.)

We needed a guardian of the process. We didn’t need a political crusade, or a rush to punish or blame. We got what we needed, and we were lucky. Both sides got a time out. Centrism became a viable path, and the Democrats got there first. That was just the way the dice fell at the time.


I think his appointment of John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court was his zenith. I think Stevens is one of the better picks of the last half century.

Of course the pardon is the 900 pound gorilla in his legacy, but let’s not forget that he handled the Mayaguez incident pretty well.

Funny thing is, his wife is likely to have a greater legacy, since her example led to more open discussion about addiction which continues to affect far more people than Watergate.

He wasn’t as stupid as he was made out to be either. He had a law degree from Yale and his House career wasn’t the work of an idiot, despite his frequent attacks on the Great Society.

His role in the investigation of JFK’s assassination, OTOH . . . just might suggest something a whole lot worse than stupidity . . .

BTW, the Wikipedia article is now SFW.

There is no reason to be surprised, since there is no evidence to support this contention. Everyone involved in the process denies there was any sort of a deal for Nixon to resign if Ford pardoned him.

Any attacks he made on the Great Society are testaments to his intelligence, in my opinion.

Since it’s basically been accepted by most mainstream historians that Oswald was the assassin and acted alone, I’m not sure Ford’s work here can be attacked.

Testaments to his ideological consistency, at any rate.

Ford also, while in Congress, heavily criticized LBJ’s conduct of the Vietnam War.

Ford did falsify the records:

That doesn’t prove there was any conspiracy, but it does suggest Ford was something less than entirely honest.

Ford will be remembered mainly for being the first unelected President and for pardoning Nixon. Other than that he was a relatively unoffensive non-entity. He’s destined to become one of those names to be memorized and rattled off on the list of Presidents like Benjamin Harrison or James K. Polk. At best he’ll be the answer to a trivia question (like how Cleveland was the only Prez to serve non-consecutive terms. He at least didn’t do any damage while he was in office and there’s something to be said for that.

Ford happens to be the only sitting President I’ve ever met in person. I shook hands with him on a rope line at Mildenhall Air force Base in England. It was around '74 or '75. I was 8 or 9 years old. he had Kissinger with him. The only impression I remember from my brief encounter was that he had really soft hands.

The Helsinki Accords.

My wife and I were invited to dinner by Dr. Rudi Unterthiner, a well known plastic surgeon who was a US ambassador during the Ford administration. Over cigars, he waxed eloquently over his disdain for Bush II and his admiration for Ford. He believed that the inclusion of human rights for minorities in the Helsinki Accords was a stroke of genius enabling minorities to express dissention within the Soviet Union under the protection of the appointed watchdogs. Individuals don’t get press like groups. This was a major factor in the breakup of a serious threat to the USA.

In Ford’s case, his trivia value is at least partly in being (AFAIK) the only president to survive two assassination attempts.

I would be very surprised to hear creditable reports that the probability of a pardon was not part of the price for “not having Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Nixon was entirely of the type to grimly hang on and watch the nation fall into ruin around him. With Agnew, he was safe from being asked by his own party to step down since Agnew scared the crap out of anyone higher up the food chain than mold. When he fell, the possibility was there./QUOTE]

That prompts the question: Do you think Agnew was outed for tax evasion, pulled down, and replaced specifically in preparation for removing Nixon from office?

Is or was there any serious scuttlebutt to that effect?

He was allowed to becme prez by the Dems. The Dems thought he was so innocuous that he could not possibly be taken seriously as prez when the next elections came.
The power of incumbency was made clear. There was a list presented of Repub choices. He was picked as the weakest choice.


A ridiculous statement. Ford was not “allowed” to become anything by the Democrats. Ford was picked because he was popular with the House GOP and Nixon was trying to shore up his support with them. When Ford was picked, there was little indication that Nixon would either resign or be forced from office.

What list was that? Who presented it? Who chose from it?

There was no “list.” Nixon mulled over a few options and when his first choice, John Connally, elicited too much opposition, he chose Ford. Under your scenario, the Dems would have much rather had Connally, a shady politician with quite a few ethical problems. He would have been much easier to run against than Ford.

Oh, I’m sure that was on everybody’s mind. Ford’s appointment was announced 10/12/73. By then the Senate had been investigating Watergate for months. In fact, Nixon had been forced to ask for the resignations of Haldeman and Erlichman on 4/30/73, and Dean was fired the same day.