Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So long, Jerry

The 38th president of the United States is dead. He was 93, and was the oldest living leader in our nation's history.

I never met Gerald Ford. But I did visit his library in Grand Rapids, Mich., last year. What I found there was the story of a decent guy, Mr. Middle America, who was a superb athlete at Michigan (not the clumsy clown who fell down the steps of Air Force One) and a dedicated small-town leader.

Ford was a popular Republican in Congress, well-liked by members of both parties. He was immediately seen as a welcomed alternative to Spiro Agnew after becoming vice president in October 1973 and later to Richard Nixon himself.

When Nixon resigned in August 1974, Ford declared "our national nightmare is over" as the only man never elected to either office became president. His decision to pardon Nixon that September probably cost him the presidency in 1976, but the move is almost universally lauded today.

He was never flashy, never all that polished, probably were it not for Watergate would have ever become vice president, much less the leader of the free world. What he always wanted was to be Speaker of the House. But that was a dream never meant to be.

But he was honest, decent, very much in love with his wife and one of the few good guys in politics. He'll be remembered for steering the ship through some rough waters.

So long, Jerry. Godspeed to you, Mr. President.

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