Thursday, May 08, 2008
Gerald Ford: Unelected Jock President
You know, I was reading about Gerald Ford's earlier life, when he was a football star at the University of Michigan and turned down some NFL recruitment offers to go to law school (he eventually got into Yale's), and thinking about how he's a Republican and never did anything of note in his 25 years in the House of Representatives, despite serving as the Minority Leader for, like, eight years, and I was like, "God, Gerald Ford sounds kind of like a douchebag." But then I continued reading the Wikipedia article I'm using as my one and only source for this post, and I decided that he didn't suck quite as much as he could have as President, and certainly not after his presidency.
Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. was not born with that name. His birth certificate said Leslie Lynch King, Jr., because in 1913 Leslie was still a boy's name, and he was named after his biological father. Apparently LLK, Sr. was an abusive asshole, and he and Jr.'s mother divorced when he was a baby. Later she married Gerald Rudolff Ford, who never officially adopted the future president, but she started calling her son Gerald, Jr. and he legally changed it in 1935. At the University of Michigan, the Eagle Scout was the star of the football team, was in a fraternity, and majored in poli sci. After doing some football and boxing coaching and finishing law school, Gerald Ford joined the Navy to fight in WWII. His main tour of duty took place in the Pacific Theater, where they were engaged in the Marianas(!), among other places. And one time Gerald Ford heroically led some men to put out a dangerous below-deck fire. I think Gerald Ford was kind of a badass. He did some more coaching before his stint in the military was up, won a bunch of medals, and decided he was committed to internationalism (he'd been all Charles Lindbergh isolationist-y before the U.S. was attacked).
At various points in his life, Gerald Ford became a member of the Elks, the American Legion, the VFW, AMVETS (too lazy to find out what this is), and the FREEMASONS (that's emphasis, not a really long acronym). Fucking Freemasons. I wonder if he knew about the Confederate treasure hidden in Mt. Rushmore. But anyway, Gerald Ford married model/dancer/divorcee/future-famous drug addict Betty Ford, who is kind of awesome. And did you know that LBJ appointed Ford to the Warren Commission to investigate JFK's assassination, and was the guy to write Lee Harvey Oswald's biography for the report? Because you do now. I do wonder what kind of slant he put on the whole thing.*
Anyway, apparently Richard Nixon did some sketchy things as President (who knew?), but first his VP Spiro T. "Agnew" Anagnostopoulos (his dad actually shortened their name to Agnew, but I think Anagnostopoulos is way better. Anagnostopoulos. I'm just copying and pasting this, but imagine all the misspellings and the ink that would be used if his family has stayed the Anagnostopouloses.) took a bunch of bribes and had to resign in 1973. Richard Nixon was like, "Dear Congressional Leaders, Who should I choose for my new Vice President? Love, Dickie." And Congress was like, "You're taking Gerald Ford whether you like it or not." And so he did. It is unclear whether he liked it or not. But then Nixon had to resign because he "participated in illegal activities," and Gerald Ford, who had not been elected by the American people to be either Vice President OR President, took the oath of office in August 1974. Then Gerald Ford told America that they should "confirm me as your president with your prayers." Apparently Gerald Ford was not counting on the atheist vote. Now it is time to list some things that happened during his short stint as POTUS:
1. Pardoned Nixon. Supposedly this was a controversial move, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why.
2. Helped "popularize" the Whip Inflation Now (WIN) pin.**
3. He got caught in the middle of a "swine flu" scare in which more people died from the vaccinations than the flu itself. Do you guys remember how the avian flu was going to kill us all? Man. I mean, I'm really glad it didn't come to America and start killing lots of people, but I had to avoid touching live chickens for MONTHS before they thought it would be safe again. Highly inconvenient.
4. A couple of women tried to shoot him. The first one was part of the Manson Family. The second one just got paroled in December. Maybe they didn't agree with his support of the ERA.
5. He appointed Stevens to SCOTUS. That didn't quite turn out the way people expected.
6. He presided over the 1976 bicentennial celebrations. I bet everyone was wearing like 89757832687 flag lapel pins during that shit. However, Ford and his new running partner, Bob Dole, still lost to Jimmy Carter in November. For some reason, people weren't so big on "Republicans" at that time.
7. Oh, and he like pulled everybody out of Vietnam finally and helped establish detente with the USSR or something.
8. He had a golden retriever named "Liberty." That is so much lamer than the dog Nixon got from Khruschev named "Checkers." Sorry, Jerry.
1. Eventually came out in favor of gay rights and as a pro-choice proponent.
2. Served on lots of councils and committees and started his own school of public policy or something.
3. He was our longest-lived U.S. President, dying in 2006 at the age of 93.
4. Holds a special place in the hearts of millions of Reagan-era-born children as "that one guy who Chevy Chase played and was always falling down or whatever, right?"
*I am not accusing Gerald Ford of special bias. Everybody has a slant. Duh.
**These were not actually popular. Nor did they do anything to improve the economy.