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RIP, Gerald Ford

Former President Gerald Ford passed away yesterday at the age of 93.

Former President Gerald R. Ford, who declared “Our long national nightmare is over” as he replaced Richard Nixon but may have doomed his own chances of election by pardoning his disgraced predecessor, has died. He was 93.

The nation’s 38th president, and the only one elected to neither the office of president nor vice president, died at his desert home at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.

“His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country,” his wife, Betty, said in a statement.

Ford was the longest living former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in June 2004, by more than a month.

[…]

Ford was an accidental president. A Michigan Republican elected to Congress 13 times before becoming the first appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew left amid scandal, Ford was Nixon’s hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straightforward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

Ford took office moments after Nixon resigned in disgrace over Watergate.

“My fellow Americans,” Ford said, “our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”

And, true to his reputation as unassuming Jerry, he added: “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.”

He revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president.

That single act, it was widely believed, contributed to Ford losing election to a term of his own in 1976. But it won praise in later years as a courageous act that allowed the nation to move on.

I’ll let history judge Ford’s actions in pardoning Richard Nixon. I think Atrios provides a little perspective on that to counterbalance the story line that you’ll read in most of the obits. Make of it what you will.

For what it’s worth, I barely remember Ford’s presidency. I remember Nixon’s resignation, and I remember Carter’s election, but there’s nothing about Ford that stands out in my mind (well, okay, there was Chevy Chase’s portrayal, but I don’t think I saw any of that until years later). I recall participating in a fifth grade class project on the 1976 election, and deciding that I supported Carter because I didn’t think it was right that a guy who hadn’t been elected President or Vice President should be President, but that’s about it. Like everyone else, I always perceived him as a decent enough fellow. I don’t have much beyond that.

Rest in peace, Gerald Ford.

UPDATE: Jim Henley and Steve Benen have interesting takes as well.

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2 Comments

  1. Wich says:

    Hmm, me thinks you’re forgetting that other non-elected president…

  2. Burt Levine says:

    In all the mentioning that Ford was never elected on a nation-wide ticket before he became vice president or president it must be noted he also was never elected on a statewide ticket before he became vp or president.

    The only folks ever to vote for him as a majority where the voters of his one house district in Michigan but not a whole state because not only had he never won for vp or president in an election but he also never won for us senator or gov in election.

    Even Dick Cheney, like him or dislike him and I’m on record he wasn’t my pref for the GOP nod for vp, had been elected statewide for wyo congressman because only has one congressman a George HW Bush ran statewide twice.