Slate dares make the call…


It has been interesting this week watching the media swirl around the deaths of both Gerald Ford and James Brown.  The media circus is likely increase in intensity now that Saddam Hussein has been put to death.

I am spent much of the week thinking about the dead: what is appropriate to talk about and what is best left unsaid when someone passes?  At some point, I’ll pass, too and I suppose I’d like to be remembered for whatever good I contributed to this world.  I suppose it is that feeling that drove my annoyance at Matt Drudge’s linkage to a YouTube video this week of James Brown breaking down on the set of a news network show, the poster pointing out that he was high or drunk or both.  Drudge is a jackass, so he has no taste or respect for the passing of people.  In a world driven by karma, Drudge’s passing will be marked by a laundry list of every half-truth, poorly written headline or straight lie that appears on his “news” site.

Ford’s death is a little more complicated.  Ford *was* a great American.  He served our country in World War II, played high school and football football, and has a distinguished career in the Congress.  He is worthy of phrase for a number of reasons, all of which we need to remember as Americans this week.

Of course, Ford’s brief time as Vice President and President of the United States is marked by the realities of Watergate. Ford took the Presidency after Nixon resigned.  Ford watched the legal system work through the Watergate mess investigation by investigation.  Ford faced a tough election bid in 1976 but thanks to clever electoral strategies like “W.I.N.,” he was the president that was never elected.

What concerns me is all of the positive spin now put on his worst decision: pardoning Nixon.  Chatter claiming that Ford is credited for helping healing the country by pardoning Nixon seems to make a historical judgment that isn’t quite right, even if we are honoring Ford’s life.

Slate Magazine steps forward and takes the minority view that the pardon was flatly wrong.  The article is worth a read from start to finish but generally speaking it traces the precedent it set in later administrations.

I have taught American History and modern textbooks for high school students barely cover the issue.  I think it is perhaps too soon to pronounce that Ford’s actions were justified or not.  I do wish I could read more about his time in the House and his tough position as a presidential candidate in ’76, rather than his “brave” actions pardoning one of the most crooked figures in our country’s history.  I think I would even rather hear from Chevy Chase about Ford.

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