What I most remember about Gerald Ford is Chevy Chase's portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live in the show's first or second season. I also remember my grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who had found refuge in the US, wiping tears from his eyes as Nixon left the White House for the last time before he could be impeached.
For the next few days, we'll hear all about how wonderful Ford was. If nothing else, he at least had the good sense to leave office when he left office instead of hanging around on the periphery of political society pontificating on every damn thing he could think of and looking like an escapee from a psychogeriatric ward. Jimmy Carter could certainly take a lesson from Ford.
His death did get me thinking about the people who have been President during my lifetime and about the presidency in general. It seems to me that it's been a long time since there has been a really good President, maybe FDR was the last one. Becoming President, or leader in any democratic society, has kind of become a race of mediocrity over the past half century. Certainly the two party system in the US has lent itself to that but media scrutiny has played a big part, too - anyone who doesn't look right or who has been less than perfect in their life before running for President is in big trouble. Then, there is the PC crowd and the candidate handlers who, respectively, look for any statement that can be used against a candidate and look for any way to avoid having your candidate make a statement that can be used against him/her. So, most candidates avoid substance in favour of mindless platitudes.
Lyndon Johnson was President when I was born. The Vietnam War was the issue of the day. I don't remember him at all. Nixon's legacy seems to have grown in positive stature over the years but he was a crook. Ford didn't have much of a legacy but he did make Chevy Chase very famous. Carter was the worst of the bunch, hands down. Reagan seems to have stumbled into a great legacy although it seems kind of doubtful it was by his own design. Bush Sr. screwed himself on taxes and Iraq. Clinton was basically a lovable psychopath and Bush Jr. is screwing himself solely on Iraq.
Ford seems to be in the middle, which isn't too bad for a guy who was never even elected to the office.
Meanwhile '08 looms. I really hope there's a candidate out there who's liberal on social issues, centrist on financial issues and conservative on foreign affairs issues, as they relate to the West's enemies, out there somewhere.