39 years ago today, President Richard Nixon resigned from office, as the rule of law triumphed, and America returned to sanity with the the inauguration of Gerald Ford as our 38th President.
Nixon might have accomplished a great deal in his five and a half years in the White House, but he represented the greatest threat to our government stability since the Civil War, as he abused power, showed definite signs of mental illness, and had proved on the Watergate tapes that he had obstructed justice and broken the law, and had expressed what we did not know clearly at the time, overt racism and anti semitism!
The Constitution worked, as the Congress and the Supreme Court intervened and saved America from a President out of control, and we were blessed with a man who replaced him, who we now realize was the right person to take the helm at a time when we desperately needed a person of conscience, decency, and principles.
We found that man in Gerald Ford, who never had ambitions to be President, but came along as an acceptable choice under the 25th Amendment, which had only been added to the Constitution six years earlier, in 1967. We were saved from a fate worse than Nixon, the crooked, unqualified, and demagogic Spiro Agnew, who scared the living daylights out of many decent, principled Americans.
Ford came into the Presidency, moved us past the nightmare of Richard Nixon by pardoning him, so that the nation could look to the future, and deal with the many problems it faced at that time in the mid 1970s…He suffered defeat for a full term in 1976 by a small margin, certainly caused by that controversial pardon. But he steadied the ship of state, and gained respect for his handling of a terrorist incident, the Mayaguez Affair with the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia; gave us one of the greatest recent Supreme Court Justices, John Paul Stevens, who served 35 years, longer than any Justice except William O. Douglas; graced us with his wonderful wife, Betty Ford, who set a modern standard for First Ladies to follow, as the most active since Eleanor Roosevelt; and held off the right wing tilt of the Republican Party for four years, by stopping Ronald Reagan’s attempt to turn the party to the Right. He also gave us one of our best and most activist Vice Presidents, Nelson Rockefeller, and bravely survived two assassination attempts within 17 days of each other in September 1975. Ford also showed us how a Republican President could be a responsible, mainstream conservative.
Gerald Ford restored the dignity and status of the Presidency at a time when it desperately needed a boost, and graced our nation for a longer life than any President of the United States.
Having visited the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last month brought this author and blogger to a greater understanding and appreciation of the contributions of Gerald and Betty Ford. While he served the shortest term of a President who did not die in office, it was a significant 895 days, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his service in the Presidency, as well as his 25 years in the House of Representatives.