I met Gerald Ford a couple of times during my work with former President Nixon. While many saw Nixon's death as an end of an era, I would argue Ford's passing is the true milestone. It marks a psychological end because when you take a look at the images of mourning we've been seeing for the past couple of days, you see the great impact Ford had on America.
Richard Nixon said it best when he called Ford's pardon of him the kiss of death. That pardon was the end of the Ford presidency, and Ford knew it. That is called courage. That is called leadership. That is called patriotism. Ford put his country first, ahead of his own political aspirations. That should be the template for all of our politicians. Sadly in today's world, it is not.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Ford pardon was that everyone assumed that the Democrats would have no problem winning the White House in 1976. It didn't matter which Democrat. They could have put up Lassie the dog and still won the presidency in 1976. Yet Gerald Ford came within a point and a half of Jimmy Carter on election night. That's even after the pardon, and Ford's major gaffe in the debate with Carter, where he said there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Even after all of that, Ford still came within a point and a half of Jimmy Carter.
That speaks volumes of the decency of Gerald Ford. He may not have been brilliant like Richard Nixon, or a visionary like Ronald Reagan. But he was good and decent-- a regular guy in an almost impossible job. He was in many ways one of us. It was as if one of us found ourselves in that job. A simple man with simple tastes, using common sense to tackle the toughest job in the world-- a job he never sought. That's not a bad legacy, not a bad legacy at all.
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