Spinning From the Grave

Ever since Gerald Ford’s death last week, politicians and pundits have rewritten much of his life into a series of victories. Now that he’s in the ground, it’s safe to finish the job.


Ken Mehlman, Chairman
Republican National Committee
Washington, D.C.

Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, Summoned to Heaven; Advisory Role Likely.

Former President Gerald R. Ford, considered one of the 10 most inspiring chief executives to lead the United States since the end of World War II, died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, on Tuesday, December 26, 2006. He was 93. As a committed Christian and man of strong moral character, he has, theologians speculate, immediately ascended to heaven, assumed angel form and, given his extensive knowledge of golf, may counsel God on matters relating to the sport. It is also considered likely that he will take this opportunity to resume his close personal friendship with comic legend Bob Hope.

Mr. Ford, who was a lifelong and stalwart Republican, holds the distinction of being the only American to serve as both president and vice-president without a single vote being cast against him. He enjoyed this unparalleled level of popularity over his entire tenure in the Oval Office, prompting a paltry two assassination attempts (neither of them successful) despite a population at the time of more than 210 million people, many of them registered Democrats with guns.

But to most Americans, Mr. Ford is best remembered for gently leading an anguished nation through the difficult times that followed President Richard M. Nixon’s entirely unsolicited, decidedly unwanted but ultimately unavoidable resignation from office to escape, as he later wrote, “The White House chef. He was terrible. I hadn’t had a decent meal in months.”

At the time, in 1974, no one expected, not even in their wildest imaginations, that the country would ever recover from this incalculable loss; political scientists at Bob Jones University in South Carolina have characterized Mr. Nixon’s leaving office as “the most profound tragedy in human history since the crucifixion.” In fact, people were so distraught at the loss of Mr. Nixon’s leadership, that President Ford deemed it necessary to excuse or “pardon” his predecessor for the perceived “crime” of leaving the country in the lurch.

This tactical masterstroke was just the first of many unexpected and, at the time, misunderstood acts by Mr. Ford. Another was his deceptively brilliant two-pronged strategy for national recovery: 1) deliberately refusing to search for and/or articulate new ideas or initiatives; 2) tirelessly playing golf. This one-two policy punch effectively demonstrated to the American public that it was time to relax, to drift, to take a break, and thus to heal. And it worked. By the time he left office in January 1977, his intrepid rudderless navigation had delivered the country from its malaise by refocusing its attention on nothing in particular.

It was also Mr. Ford who brought the JFK-initiated, LBJ-escalated Vietnam War to an honorable close. Another memorable triumph of his administration was the economy. When he assumed the presidency, the economy was in desperate straits, having been devastated by a profligate Democratic Congress. Certain this tax-and-spend cabal would reject his levelheaded economic proposals and equally sure that requiring citizens to take any real action or make any meaningful sacrifice would severely undermine the government’s image as a problem solver, he launched his famous Whip Inflation Now (WIN) campaign. This crusade, a powerful amalgam of colorful buttons, “can do” oratory and a heroic patience with the economic cycle had an almost immediate impact on business, especially button makers, which would inevitably lead the nation back to boom times.

It was also Mr. Ford who brought the JFK-initiated, LBJ-escalated Vietnam War to an honorable close. It was through his masterful foreign policy and trans-generational foresight that today’s post-conflict Vietnam is steadily moving toward a free market economy with latent democratic undercurrents. And who among us will ever forget the sight of joyous Americans receiving free helicopter rides (with convenient embassy rooftop pick-up) as a reward for their loyal diplomatic service?

The ultimate repayment for this and his other formidable efforts came in the presidential election of 1976. That year, Mr. Ford ran against the lamentable and execrable liberal, Jimmy Carter. The American electorate, fully realizing the Ford administration had accomplished two full terms’ worth of work in less than a single term, felt so indebted to their president that, rather than subject such a kind, gentle, noble man to four more years of crushing pressures, responsibilities and risks, they relieved him of the burdens of office for his own well-being. As William F. Buckley wrote in his syndicated column, “America has decided that if the presidency is going to kill anyone, they’d rather it kill Jimmy Carter.”

In addition to his auspicious political achievements, the late president was also fortunate in his private life. He married Elizabeth “Betty” Bloomer, in 1948, and they had four children, Michael, Jack, Steven, and Susan. It was Mrs. Ford who, through her use of prescription drugs and alcohol, kept herself quietly occupied so her husband could fully concentrate on the issues facing the nation. Later, her triumph over these addictive substances gave the party an opportunity to display its tolerance and sympathy for those willing and financially able to seek treatment.

In retirement, Mr. Ford demonstrated an uncommon grace and a willingness to help those less fortunate. His grace was apparent every time he executed his fluid golf swing or deftly retrieved a ball from a cup, often in a Pro-Am charity event, for which he never demanded a cut of the gate. His love of the links was also the key to other good works, because without the exclusive clubs and courses Mr. Ford played and belonged to, many minorities and immigrants would not have had the invaluable opportunity to find meaningful employment and pull themselves up by the bootstraps. (This stands in stark contrast to the pursuits of his 1976 opponent, Jimmy Carter, who can find little to do with his free time and many advantages other than build houses that do not sell and monitor elections that do not matter.)

Mr. Ford has been laid to rest in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the city he represented in Congress for 24 years. In what he would consider a fitting tribute to his low-key style, many local residents say they never knew he left.

Bob Woodiwiss is a humor columnist for Cincinnati Magazine and Principal/Director of Undirected Thinking at Bob, the Agency. His second book, The Serfitt & Cloye Gift Catalog: Just Enough of Too Much, is a sendup of upscale catalogs. More by Bob Woodiwiss