Tuesday, April 11, 2006

President Ford's Parents: Responsible for the Pardon? The New York Times just reviewed Barry Werth's new book, of 31 Days: The Crisis That Gave Us the Government We Have Today. The book is a day-by-day history of President Gerald Ford's first month in office. The book's thesis, notes the Times, is that "Those 31 days and the ensuing months were a period in which some of the key players in the current Bush administration — most notably Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney — rose to power and established their mastery of intra-administration battles, a period that in some respects serves as a bookend to our own." I was in college when Ford took office. I can still remember Nixon resigning live on TV. I was living in a commune in Santa Cruz and we didn't have a television, so we had to walk down the road to a college professor's house. We all sat around stunned and relieved as Nixon gave his speech. The Times reviewer says that
Like many earlier commentators, Mr. Werth portrays Mr. Ford as a solid, forthright man, a bit naïve perhaps, but frank and well meaning. In addition, he suggests that a central factor in the decision to grant Mr. Nixon a pardon stemmed from Mr. Ford's psychological desire to forgive and forget, and his role in mediating a settlement between his bitterly estranged parents: 'Whether for the country's sake, as he said, or for Nixon's, or for his own, his decision to act swiftly and mercifully towards his predecessor revealed an overpowering inner need to put the past behind, to bury it. Like Ford's father, Nixon had bequeathed Ford a ruinous domestic state, and Ford had closed out the matter as only he could do, by taking it upon himself to try to split the difference and then seal the record as part of the agreement.'"
This is a pretty amazing assertion. Gerald Ford's parents were indirectly responsible for pardoning of Nixon. Any good father will work hard so that he doesn't bequeath a "ruinous domestic state" to his children. And if we conceive of it properly, that "domestic state" will include not just a healthy family, but a healthy planet as well.


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