Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I'm Gerald Ford, And You're Not

For a couple of years, I forgot exactly what Gerald Ford looked like. For two years, when I thought of Mister Ford, I thought of Chevy Chase. I know now that these two men knew nothing alike, but Chevy became, for me, the embodiment of our thirty-eighth president. Whether he was falling over a podium or asserting that he was "told there would be no math" during a presidential debate, my world view was formed by late-night television.
Gerald Ford fell down a few times, smacked a spectator or two with a golf ball, and was shot at by a girl named Squeaky. His presidency had a certain Murphy's Law element to it. Of course, anyone who walked in to pick up the ball after Richard Nixon had dropped it near his opponent's goal line would have had a long road. Gerald Ford walked that road with his head up, so it was natural that it would bump into a few things on the way.
He was left with the wreckage of Watergate and Vietnam. He walked into the Oval Office without ever seeking it. By virtually all accounts, he was a nice man asked to do a nearly impossible job. Moments such as the time he asserted that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" as he mounted his campaign for re-election in 1976, or his ubiquitous "Whip Inflation Now" (WIN) buttons, he always seemed just a little overmatched by his circumstances.
Maybe that's why I appreciated him so much. He was so very obviously human, after the scary Shakespearean caricature of Tricky Dick. He had a golden retriever named Liberty. His wife speak her mind and periodically gave him fits, but he loved her fiercely. He was, perhaps, our first mensch president. He kept the ship of state afloat during an economic and constitutional crisis, and made the world safe for "Foul Play."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I never took Gerry Ford seriously until we went to his presidential museum in Grand Rapids. Turns out he is - was - a thoughtful man with amazing strength of character.

So, first James Brown. Then Gerry Ford. Who's going to be #3?