Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"I'm Not a Lincoln. I'm Just a Ford"

I saw him speak once. In Pasadena. I was a junior in high school, due to turn 18 on November 2, 1976 -- election day. So I was permitted to cut school and go watch him stump for the California Republicans. I came from a diehard Democratic family, but it didn't matter. I was and would remain an enormous personal fan of Gerald R. Ford. I fear that he was the last of a dying breed -- a moderate, good man who loved and listened to his beloved, opinionated and outspoken wife, adored his progressive, adventurous children, though he did not always understand their choices, and made his Presidential decisions based on what he believed in his heart and his soul was right, and not necessarily what was politically strategic or polemically advantageous.

And did I mention that he was dead handsome standing at that podium, the warm spring sun beating down on his tanned forehead, glinting off his thinning blonde hair. Hey, I was 17. I noticed. So sue me.

The thing that came across always about Gerald Ford, in person and on television, was the word that everyone uses about him -- decency. He was nice guy. A decent guy, who didn't have a mean bone in his body. He was honest and good and he tried always to do the right thing, even when the right thing would, he knew, get him into hot water. Like pardoning a former president whom almost everyone wanted to see hung out to dry. It has been speculated that, with a 75% approval rating in August of '74, Ford might have thought he could coast through the firestorm. But in interview after interview given between 1975 and his last in 2003, Ford was clear that he knew full well he'd be reviled for his decision at the time. He knew it might cost him re-election, and he also knew it was something he had to do, for the good of the nation.

In hindsight, of course, most of us would now agree with him, regardless of how violently we opposed Nixon's pardon at the time. Nothing was more exculpatory for Ford than the Clinton impeachment hearings. They nearly tore this country to bits, and they were only over a lie told about a blowjob in the West Wing. It is difficult to imagine, given what state we were in after months and months of televised Watergate hearings, how we would have survived the several months of testimony in a Nixon criminal trial, and still emerged with our democracy, let alone our sanity, intact. Moving on, Ford concluded, was the only correct solution. Let Nixon go be Nixon in San Clemente.

A day short of one month earlier, Ford had proclaimed the "our long national nightmare is over." On the day he pardoned Nixon, he said simply, "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." People screamed bloody murder.

Senator Ted Kennedy said at the time that Nixon's pardon would lead "many Americans to believe it was a culmination of the Watergate cover-up." By 2001, however, Kennedy had changed his tune from castigating to apologetic. On the day in May of that year that he and his neice, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, presented former President Ford with the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award, the Massachussetts senator said that because of the pardon decision, "which was differed with by great numbers of Americans including myself, America was able to heal itself and move back to the path of reconciliation. It was an extraordinary act of courage that historians recognize today was truly in the national interest." Schlossberg said of him, "As President, he made a controversial decision of conscience to pardon former President Nixon and end the national trauma of Watergate. In doing so, he placed his love of country ahead of his own political future."

It is so hard for me to recall when any president, let alone a Republican, acted "truly in the American interest" or placed "his love of country ahead of his own political future." Ford was the last of the moderate Republicans, the last Republican who campaigned on a pro-choice platform, and the only President I think we've ever seen in my lifetime who had a real marriage to a real woman. The election on November 2, 1976, between two of the most moderate, most decent, most honorable men in history (though probably two of the personally dullest), was one of the closest counts in American history. Ford lost, but only just barely.

Yesterday, the day after Christmas, thirty-four years to the day after the death of another plain-spoken, decent guy who was radically underestimated as president, Harry S. Truman, Gerald R. Ford succumbed to what had become a succession of illnesses. He was 93. He was a husband, father, grandfather and greatgrandfather. He was an avid golfer and pipe smoker. He loved football and once told Larry King that he didn't regret turning down the three NFL teams that were recruiting him so that he could attend Yale's School of Law, but he did sort of wish he could have played for one season, just to know that he could do it. He was beloved by his Congressional cohorts on both sides of the aisle. He was, in the words of his daughter, Susan, "a nice guy."

He will be missed by all. But that his death comes now, at this time, could be considered propicious. Maybe he's thrust back into the limelight to remind us that once, not so very long ago, there was such a thing as bipartisanship. Once, a man could be God-loving without being a theocrat. Once, a man could make decisions based not on personal gain or self-agrandisement, not on the acquisition of power, but merely on what he believed in his heart of hearts was best for his country, and for his people.
If he left us no other legacy, he left us this.

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.

"In vain do they talk of happiness who never subdued
an impulse in obedience to a principle.
He who never sacrificed a present to a future good,
or a personal to a general one, can speak of
happiness only as the blind speak of color."

~Horace Mann~


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

John Lennon: Musician, Composer, Artist, Poet, and Threat to Western Civiliation as We Know It

The truth about John Lennon's sinister attempts to overthrow Western Civilization have finally been uncovered. After a 25-year battle with the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, historian Jon Weiner has finally prevailed and the FBI released files obtained in the early 70's from a previously-unnamed "foreign government". In fact, the FBI's argument for refusing to release the papers was its fear that doing so "could lead to diplomatic, political or economic retaliation against the United States."

Among the things the files revealed about that notorious seditionist, John Lennon, were that he was approached by radical leftists to fund the opening of a leftist bookshop and reading room, but refused to give them money. Furthermore, it appears that Lennon intentionally and with malice aforethought contributed absolutely no money to underground or radical organizations. I think we can understand why the FBI was watching this guy so carefully throughout the 70s. He was just full of tricks, wasn't he. (And, to think, some of us actually wondered aloud why it took these guys 19 months to find Patty Hearst. "What could possibly be distracting them?" we would ask, only somewhat rhetorically, looks of bemused consternation on our innocent, upturned faces.)

Oh, and... the foreign government in question? Turns out it was Great Britain.

No word from Tony Blair's government as to when Britain will be declaring economic santions or sending troups into Weiner's stomping grounds at UC Irvine to give him that beat-down he so richly deserves.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hey, Guess What! I'M Time Magazine's Person of the Year!

I first heard about this while watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I swear to God, I was sure it was typical TDS antics. I thought, "Oh, cool... they got Soledad O'Brien to go along with the gag." O'Brien's stock rose for an instant with me.

Then the horrible, dark reality dawned on me. As the sky opened up and the truth(iness) rained down, I realized that we are now perched precariously on the edge of time as we know it. TIME Magazine's Person of the Year is... me. And you. And, yes, even Soledad O'Brien.

I wanted to cry. After everything that's happened this year, after all the good (reclaiming Congress from rightwing goofballs) and the bad (Mark Foley and continuing war in Iraq), the best... the VERY MO-FO BEST that TIME could come up with was this self-referential, pandering piece of crap. They even put a little mirror on the cover of the magazine, presumably so we'd be so taken with our own reflections, we wouldn't look up and see that no one in the mainstream press is even remotely interested in current events.

I think this must signal the end of an era in modern American journalism. They should be ashamed of themselves, but I know they're not. So I'll just be sitting over here being ashamed for them.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

News Flash for Bush Staffer: "At Least Jim Baker Has Had a Day Job.... Unlike Some Presidents I Know."

Because little boys on the playground don't like being bossed around by grown-ups, it should come as no surprise that the Iraq Study Group's findings are being shoved aside by "White House insiders" (betcha five dollars, it's Karl Rove). reports that when asked his opinion of the ISG's extensive strategies for changing the trajectory of the Iraqi War, "a spokesman for Mr. Bush said, 'Jim Baker can go back to his day job.'"

Pretty fancy words for a guy whose boss couldn't find a day job with a bloodhound, a divining rod and a state-of-the-art set of night goggles.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Smartest Thing Anyone's Said In Ages

Just received my copy of Rahm Emanuel's book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America. I have high hopes for this book, especially after reading the back cover, which so eloquently expresses the problem I've been grumbling about for the past year or so:

"We've spent much of our careers helping Democrats win. But in our view, that is the right answer to the wrong question. The politics of the Bush era, on both sides of the aisle, was based on a mistaken premise. America is not a partisan prize or political project. Without a map to the challenges of the new era, all political roads lead to ruin...."

~Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed~
"The Plan: Big Ideas for America"

Yeah. What they said.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Two Words, Johnny: "Buh" and "Bye"

As I predicted back in September, unable to secure Senate confirmation, John Bolton has submitted his letter of resignation and will leave his United Nations job when his temporary post terminates. That's the good news. The bad news is that George W. Bush will have the opportunity to name someone else to the post of UN ambassador who is as bad if not worse than Bolton.

Now before you start getting all logical on my ass and saying things like, "Oh, Catharine, don't be so reactionary. Bush wouldn't dare make the same mistake twice," please let me remind you that this is the same lunkhead that, after helping his party lose both the House and the Senate to the Democrats, based largely on the American perception that we must, must, must leave Iraq as soon as possible, has assured us with unflagging tenacity and intent of purpose, that he has every intention of sticking it out, "until we achieve complete and total victory." And that nothing less than "complete and total victory" will constitute "complete and total victory." This means that our grandchildren could be dying in Iraq. Also let me remind you that when it came time to choose someone to oversee the program that provides federally funded education and contraception distribution, he chose a man who believes that all birth control is demeaning to women. Bush appointed him. On purpose. Just because he could.

No, no... I am glad to see Bolton go. But I have absolutely no faith whatsoever that George W. Bush is even remotely sane enough to appoint a better candidate for the job. And I'm a little worried that Congressional Democrats might not have the chutzpah to stand up to him twice in a row over his poor choices.

Shakin' in my boots a bit....


P.S. This is totally off-point, but I've been trying for the past two years to figure out exactly whom Bolton reminds me of. It's been driving me nuts. Then, it hit me just the other day. For those of you who remember as far back as 1974.... doesn't Bolton look like Patty Heart's erstwhile fiance, Steven Weed? Whatever happened to him, I wonder? Hmmm... Maybe he's just let his moustache get thicker and is now posing as an international diplomat. Perhaps that would explain the whiff of imposter about him. ~C~