Fondly Recalling President Jerry Ford
--President Jerry Ford, After Taking the Oath of Office as Vice PresidentDecember 6, 1973
By John E. Carey
December 28, 2006
I came to Washington directly out of high school. High School in Ohio.
Just as Dorothy says to Toto in The Wizard of Oz, I thought “We aren’t in Kansas any more!”
I took a job in a House Ways and Means Committee Member’s office. I thought I was smart, articulate and well read.
Boy was I wrong. I was totally naïve.
We witnessed the death of J. Edgar Hoover, whom my Dad had served at the FBI. We witnessed the agonizing end of the Nixon Administration, and, for just one moment, it seemed like the end of the presidency and perhaps the Republic.
In walked a man of quiet calm, resolve and wisdom. A college football hero. A man from the upper Mid West. A former member of the House of Representatives.
Jerry Ford calmed the nation’s nerves. The Washington Post seemed to go from Pit Bull to Bassett Hound. Government order and comity were restored.
President Ford presided over one of the saddest chapters and most joyful recoveries in American history.
The economy’s performance during the Ford years was nothing short of miserable. America was largely out of Vietnam after withdrawing troops and leaving an IOU promising military support like air power in case the South Vietnamese army got into trouble. When trouble loomed, President Ford petitioned the Democrat controlled Congress for funding support. The Democrats sent a denial: sentencing many hundreds of thousand and perhaps millions of Vietnamese allied with America to a life on the run or in prison or both.
The economy never recovered and Vietnam became a Communist country: but the Nation, the United States of America recovered nonetheless.
President Ford brought a relatively unknown money man named Alan Greenspan into the government. President Ford was in favor of nuclear and solar power to help curtail polution and to reduce the U.S. reliance upon oil from the Middle East. Still he knew we'd be engaged in the Middle East for a long time. He favored an Indian Ocean U.S. Navy Fleet and associated bases, including big improvements for Diego Garcia.
President Ford had a lot of vision that he didn't get much credit for.
President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon of all crimes he committed or may have committed. Many in the nation gasped in disbelief, gripped with the desire to hang the former president.
But Mr. Ford was correct: the nation needed healing.
Everyone who knew Jerry Ford knew he would pardon the man he never called by name, the man he referred to as "my predecessor." Washington Post Style writer Wil Haygood wrote on December 28, 2006, "There was something of a Hemingwayesque code at play in Ford's upbringing. .... By the time he had emerged onto the national stage, something simple and munificent had bled its way into his being: decency."
In his brief but memorable non-elected presidency, Jerry Ford became my hero.
“As president,” Ford recalled in a 1995 chat with grade-school children sponsored by Scholastic, the publishing company, “it was most important that I heal the land to restore public confidence in our government.”
“Healing America was the greatest accomplishment in my administration,” Ford said.
I guess it just proves that in America anyone can be president.
May he enjoy the fruits of heaven.
President Ford's Pardon of Richard Nixon
September 8, 1974
Note: The proclamation granted Nixon a pardon for all offenses from January 20, 1969, the day he was first inaugurated as president. In reading the proclamation on national television, Ford inadvertently said 'July 20'. The text of the proclamation takes precedence.
Ladies and gentlemen:
I have come to a decision which I felt I should tell you and all of my fellow American citizens, as soon as I was certain in my own mind and in my own conscience that it is the right thing to do.
I have learned already in this office that the difficult decisions always come to this desk. I must admit that many of them do not look at all the same as the hypothetical questions that I have answered freely and perhaps too fast on previous occasions.
My customary policy is to try and get all the facts and to consider the opinions of my countrymen and to take counsel with my most valued friends. But these seldom agree, and in the end, the decision is mine. To procrastinate, to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable turn of events that may never come or more compelling external pressures that may as well be wrong as right, is itself a decision of sorts and a weak and potentially dangerous course for a President to follow.
I have promised to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best that I can for America.
I have asked your help and your prayers, not only when I became President but many times since. The Constitution is the supreme law of our land and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which govern our consciences, are superior to it.
As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family.
Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.
There are no historic or legal precedents to which I can turn in this matter, none that precisely fit the circumstances of a private citizen who has resigned the Presidency of the United States. But it is common knowledge that serious allegations and accusations hang like a sword over our former President's head, threatening his health as he tries to reshape his life, a great part of which was spent in the service of this country and by the mandate of its people.
After years of bitter controversy and divisive national debate, I have been advised, and I am compelled to conclude that many months and perhaps more years will have to pass before Richard Nixon could obtain a fair trial by jury in any jurisdiction of the United States under governing decisions of the Supreme Court.
I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.
The facts, as I see them, are that a former President of the United States, instead of enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen accused of violating the law, would be cruelly and excessively penalized either in preserving the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining a speedy determination of his guilt in order to repay a legal debt to society.
During this long period of delay and potential litigation, ugly passions would again be aroused. And our people would again be polarized in their opinions. And the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad.
In the end, the courts might well hold that Richard Nixon had been denied due process, and the verdict of history would even more be inconclusive with respect to those charges arising out of the period of his Presidency, of which I am presently aware.
But it is not the ultimate fate of Richard Nixon that most concerns me, though surely it deeply troubles every decent:and every compassionate person. My concern is the immediate future of this great country.
In this, I dare not depend upon my personal sympathy as a long-time friend of the former President, nor my professional judgment as a lawyer, and I do not.
As President, my primary concern must always be the greatest good of all the people of the United States whose servant I am. As a man, my first consideration is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience.
My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not merely to proclaim domestic tranquillity but to use every means that I have to insure it. I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right. I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference. I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.
Finally, I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved ones have suffered enough and will continue to suffer, no matter what I do, no matter what we, as a great and good nation, can do together to make his goal of peace come true.
Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and ninety-ninth.
I have been informed that President Ford has granted me a full and absolute pardon for any charges which might be brought against me for actions taken during the time I was president of the United States.
In accepting this pardon, I hope that his compassionate act will contribute to lifting the burden of Watergate from our country.
Here in California, my perspective on Watergate is quite different than it was while I was embattled in the midst of the controversy, and while I was still subject to the unrelenting daily demands of the presidency itself.
Looking back on what is still in my mind a complex and confusing maze of events, decisions, pressures and personalities, one thing I can see clearly now is that I was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy.
No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and the presidency -- a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.
I know many fair-minded people believe that my motivations and action in the Watergate affair were intentionally self-serving and illegal. I now understand how my own mistakes and misjudgments have contributed to that belief and seemed to support it. This burden is the heaviest one of all to bear.
That the way I tried to deal with Watergate was the wrong way is a burden I shall bear for every day of the life that is left to me.
President Ford’s Greatest Quotes
--It can go on and on, or someone must write "The End" to it. I have concluded that only I can do that. And if I can, I must. (Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon for Watergate)
--It would be tragic for this country if we went down the same path and ended up with the same problem that Great Britain has.
--The length of one's days matters less than the love of one's family and friends.
--Things are more like today than they have ever been before.
--There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.(This gaffe during the debate with Jimmy Carter cost Ford dearly in the election)
--I watch a lot of baseball on the radio.
--I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, so I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.
--I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad. In all my public and private acts as your president, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end.
--I guess it just proves that in America anyone can be president.
--Teddy Roosevelt . . . once said, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' Jimmy Carter wants to speak loudly and carry a fly swatter.
--Our inflation, our public enemy number one, will, unless whipped, destroy our country, our homes, our liberties, our property and finally our national pride as surely as will a well-armed wartime enemy.
--When I talk about energy, I am talking about jobs. Our American economy runs on energy. No energy—no jobs.
--I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.
--When I became president, I did not want to have a powerful chief of staff. Wilson had his Colonel House, Eisenhower his Sherman Adams, Nixon his Halderman, and I was aware of the trouble those top assistants had caused my predecessors.
--If the government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have.
--The Constitution is the bedrock of all our freedoms; guard and cherish it; keep honor and order in your own house; and the republic will endure.
--He was one of the few political leaders I have ever met whose public speeches revealed more than his private conversations. (On Ronald Reagan)
--Truth is the glue that holds government together. Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.
--The American people want a dialogue between them and their president . . . And if we can’t have that opportunity of talking with one another, seeing one another, shaking hands with one another, something has gone wrong in our society. (Following two assassination attempts)
--I was America's first instant Vice President, and now America's first instant President. The Marine Corps band is so confused, they don't know whether to play 'Hail to the Chief' or 'You've Come a Long Way, Baby.
Quotes from: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Gerald_Ford
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