In December, as a break from reading law texts, I read “A Time to Heal”, the Presidential memoir of Gerald Ford that was published in 1979.
A good man, Ford. Some items of interest, to me if no one else:
· Having just finished a biography of Nelson Rockerfeller, it was nice to hear some of the stories of N.A.R. from a second source, and I’m pleased that Ford held him in genuine esteem.
· Ford criticizes himself, in print, for his “political cowardice” in bowing to the Right and taking Rockerfeller off the ticket in ’76. A brave admission by a politician.
· Ford’s dislike for Reagan, which I’ve read about before, shines through. I can’t blame him. Reagan f’d the GOP in 1976 by seeking the nomination against a sitting Republican President.
· Many of the power players from the last few decades came on the scene in the Ford era, and it was neat to hear about the “young” up-and-comers: GHW Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.
· Joe Biden pops up too, when as a Senator he refuses to allow any funds to be used to evacuate South Vietnamese civilians as Saigon fell. “I will vote for any amount for getting the Americans out,” he said, “I don’t want it mixed with getting the Vietnamese out.” As this quite literally meant condemning 120,000 civilians to possible death or internment, Ford was less than happy with the young Senator (Ford secured private funding to bring them into the US)
· At one point, Ford writes that he wishes he’d been able to pick GHW Bush as his Vice Presidential candidate (Bush had been forced by Congressional Democrats to swear off any such opportunity when he became CIA Director)
· Ford also strongly considered Anne Armstrong as his VP, predating the Geraldine Ferraro nomination by eight years. If given the opportunity to do it again, Ford writes “I might well have said, ‘Damn the torpedoes,’ and gambled on Anne.”
· From a distance, it’s easy to see when something is doomed to fail or succeed. Ford spend some time applauding his own emphasis on truth-in-sentencing and mandatory sentences, both of which would lead to an overcrowded penal system that is now a blight on our culture. He also causally pokes fun at “outrageous” regulations that now seem routine; case in point, the ‘beep’ of a commercial vehicle going in reverse.