Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford, 38th President of the USA, passes away

He was the only unelected President to take office (though there are those that will remind us of the first George W Bush election I guess), taking over from the disgraced Richard Nixon in 1974.

Gerald R. Ford, an unassuming politician from Michigan, became the band aid to a nation quite divided as Vietnam raged and Watergate exploded onto the headlines.

Ford passed away in California on Tuesday night at the age of 93. No cause of death has yet to be released, nor what plans will now be made for the always impressive spectacle of the state funeral.

Perceived in the day as a bit of a plodder if not a klutz (see the Chevy Chase interpretations for examples), Ford seemed to guide the United States through some of the direst moments of the seventies, an era when all seemed wrong with American governance.

Denied a legitimately elected term by Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ford probably will be best known as the caretaker president who pardoned Nixon, which while probably not the best example of the truth will win out, was most likely the only way to get the American nation out of the mess that Nixon had left it in.

As President he only had 895 days in the Oval Office, a bit of a footnote compared to the likenesses of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan, there were no Great Societies launched during his tenure, no expansion of the nation, nor strides in Civil rights. Just a safe face for a troubled time, he always seemed to be on the periphery of American times, from his time with the Warren Commission, to the replacing of Spiro Agnew as Vice-President, soon to take over the presidency as Nixon's troubles mounted. He seemed like the consummate choice, neither to offend nor threaten the powers that be.

He's perhaps best known for his opening remarks upon taking the oath of office as President, "our long national nightmare is over." Which while probably not true of the time, probably set the wheels in motion to move forward from the cynicism of Watergate.

People are still cynical we suspect, but in an era of self serving and rather dis-honest politicians, Ford was considered a man of integrity until the end. Which considering the taint of the occupation these days makes for a pretty good epitaph for the man.

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