I was just 16 when Gerald Ford became president. I had mixed feelings, and some suspicions, when he pardoned Richard Nixon.
I have no memory of the remarkable event I just watched on C-Span: Ford’s October 1974 self-initiated, voluntary appearance, under oath, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee to explain his reasons for granting the pardon and to answer questions.
What a truly remarkable event in the history of government of, by, and for the people.
In my final years of high school I gave little thought to politics, and never developed much of an opinion about Ford; the media caricatures of him as a stumbling, not-too-bright guy had some effect on me. What I just saw, a sitting president testifying (intelligently, articulately, and and with an authentic air of principle, patriotism, and passion) to a Congressional committee at his own request to explain and defend a highly controversial decision, has given me the highest respect for this man. And what a remarkable contrast with the slick evasiveness and public lies of President Clinton (whom I greatly admire in other ways) and what appears to be the tragic disconnect with reality of President Bush (whose good intentions have paved the road to the hell of our Iraq debacle).
Surely President Ford realized that the pardon might cost him election in 1976, yet he firmly believed it was the best thing for the country, and did it despite the potential political cost. He was an honest, decent man who acted as a statesman at a time when we so needed it.
Every once in a while something reminds me of the greatness of this country. Watching Ford’s stunning testimony was one of those moments. Thanks, Mr. President, and rest in peace.