Gerald Ford, Unsentimentally
December 27, 2006
Sorry, but I refuse to let my tear ducts open over the death of Gerald Ford.
There’s something profoundly undemocratic and vaguely medieval about the almost mandatory salutes that we, the people, are supposed to offer when a former President dies.
The niceties of custom all too often reinforce the habits of blind obedience to the unworthy wielders of power.
Say no ill of the dead, we are told.
Hogwash. Let’s look at Gerald Ford’s record.
The first thing he did was to pardon Richard Nixon, even though ten days previously he had said that the special prosecutor should proceed against “any and all individuals” and a year before, he averred that “I do not think the public would stand for it.”
The pardon short-circuited the necessary prosecution of Nixon, which would have served as a salutary check on future inhabitants of the Oval Office. Instead, the pardon set a precedent for such flagrant lawbreakers as we have in the White House today.
If impeachment of Bush and Cheney may be just a remote possibility, prosecution and incarceration remain inconceivable. And so Bush and Cheney, thanks to Ford, can float comfortably above the law.
On domestic policy, Ford was a standard issue Republican, vetoing social spending bills, cutting food stamps and housing and education programs, infamously denying aid to New York City while all the while boosting Pentagon spending. And, in a move Bush and Cheney would have applauded, he proposed the nation’s first official secrets act to provide criminal penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of classified material.
On foreign policy, Ford was damnable.
He fronted for Pinochet in Chile, and kept aid flowing to that vicious strongman.
And on December 6, 1975, Ford and Henry Kissinger flew to Jakarta to meet with dictator Suharto and to give him a green light to invade East Timor.
According to a declassified State Department cable, here was part of their conversation.
Suharto to Ford and Kissinger: “We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.”
Ford: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.”
Kissinger: “We understand your problem and the need to move quickly, but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.”
Ford and Kissinger returned to the United States, and Suharto launched his invasion hours later.
Suharto’s invasion and occupation cost the lives of 200,000 Timorese.
But never mind. We’re not supposed to remember those things. Just that Jerry Ford was such a nice guy.