Friday, January 05, 2007

Gerald Ford, The Bush Family And What If?

Now that the bunting is down, the crowds have dissipated and the ceremonials are over, what are we to make of the legacy of Gerald R. Ford and the media blitz surrounding his funeral.

Taking the easier question first, the media coverage was, to say the least, extensive. While I would not go as far as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg in saying that it deserved little or no coverage or observance at all, I would say that equal time needed to be given to all parts of the Ford legacy.

For example, Ford seemed all too willing to bow to wonderful dictators like Pinochet and the Shah of Iran (under the tutelage of Henry Kissinger, no doubt). While this can be said of all presidents (that they deal with people that do not exactly fit our picture of a just and fair leader), Ford did not break the chain. And, as the Guardian points out, Ford can also be seen to be complicit in the East Timor massacre in 1975.

On the positive side, after years of complex, difficult men in the White House (namely Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon), America needed a boring guy from Michigan to calm things down a little. His pardon of Nixon was the supreme act of political self-sacrifice and quelled a potential constitutional crisis of epic proportions.

This was all mentioned in the hours of coverage spanning six entire days.

Then I got to speculating.

I remembered that, during the 1980 presidential election, George H.W. Bush was not Ronald Reagan's first choice for the office of vice president. Care to guess who it was?

Yes, the aforementioned boring guy from Michigan.

During the 198o Republican Convention, when it was sure that Reagan would get the nod, the search for the veep candidate was on. Reagan's first inclination was to offer the job to Ford. Read a reminiscence of the event by a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean here. The deal could not be struck, unfortunately, and the job was given to former CIA director George H.W. Bush.

Here is my speculation. Had Gerald Ford been given the vice presidency in 1980, the political fortunes of the Bush family would have been dealt a significant blow, perhaps even a death blow. G.H.W. Bush perhaps would have ran for the presidency in 1988, but he would have been an obscure figure from years before instead of the vice president of one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century.

With this scenario of a lessened impact of the Bush family on national politics, one naturally extends it to our current president. Given the above scenario, I think that it is entirely possible that he would have never been governor of Texas and certainly not president.

I know that such speculation about the course of history is dangerous and not advised for historians such as myself. But still...

1 comment:

Matt Jenks said...

No, I believe that you're very dead-on in this regard. A lot of times, especially for people who aren't as into the political scene as I (and I'm by no means THAT far into it, but I can usually identify people and places), name recognition is chief in selecting a candidate. That, and apparently who has the better hair.

If Ford had been selected as VP, would Regan have won? Carter was by no means a world-beater, but then again, people WOULD remember Ford and his pardon of Nixon. It might not have been enough to kill Regan's political momentum, but there might have been a few hiccups along the way.

Enter the Bushes. How would they have ascended the throne, as so many liberal media fonts spew, were it not for Regan pulling up this relative unknown in the early 80s who carried over into a presidency of his own? Very likely doubtful. Now THAT should be Al Gore's inconvenient truth.

And since they're sort of intertwined (with your reference to foreign dictators and Ford)...how much of the days-long coverage of Ford's remembrances and funerals were affected by the execution of Saddam Hussein? It was almost as if Ford's death masked what should have been THE story of 2006, but instead it was like "Well...he's dead. And here is the plane landing with Ford's body..."