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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Ford on The Bushies

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction. And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."
-President Ford in 2004, in an interview with the Washington Post

"I don't think I would have gone to war,"

In a world of political correctness, where one regards how they say something more important than what they are saying, these words from former President Ford just a year after the Iraqi invasion speaks volumes. Remember that Ford is the president who hired both Dick Cheney as his Chief of Staff and Donald Rumsfeld as the youngest ever Secretary of Defense. These men are, arguably, the two main proponents for the current policies as they pertain to Iraq.

"I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."
-Ford, from the 2004 interview

Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the President's tactics of shooting first and never asking questions (as opposed to shooting first and asking questions later) regarding this war of choice. Remember that this was a war where the United States attacked a nation unprovoked, regardless of what Fox News attempt to tell us. Sanctions were working, and deserved to be kept in place in pre-war Iraq. It's also important to remember that the weapons inspectors were on the ground as the invasion began. They were making progress.

In President Bush's zeal to become "The War President", he gave up on any hope of diplomacy and peace.

"obligation number one... what's in our national interest,"
"I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe..."

If protecting the US is really job one, then Ford was right and Bush has forsaken what his main duty is supposed to be. Bush was right in attacking those who harbored the 911 terrorists in Afghanistan. He was wrong in tying a real war on terror with a war for profit in Iraq. The ex-president must have realized that.

"He was an excellent chief of staff. First class. But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious" as vice president.
"I think that's probably true," that Cheney developed a "fever" about the threat of terrorism.

"Pugnacious: Having a quarrelsome or combative nature"
-The Merriam-Webster online dictionary

In other words, Cheney grew into a pig-headed, uncompromising, "I'm never wrong, so you can't be right" from the time he was Ford's Chief of Staff to the time he became this nation's president in charge of vice. Cheney, for his own reasons which, I believe, include plain and simple greed, has become the denial mouthpiece of an administration which lives in denial.

In another revealing statement, Ford showed his contempt (as diplomatically as possible) to his very own Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger:

"I think (Kissinger) was a super secretary of state, but Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend."

Funny how this current administration sought out the advice of one such as Kissinger who, according to the interview, if he had his way, would have made us "stay the course" in Vietnam indefinitely. Not being wrong in the Bush years must be contagious.

Ford relieved Kissinger of his dual-role of Secretary of State and head of the National Security Council because he felt it was a conflict of interest. After all, those two positions are supposed to apply checks and balances on each other. This is yet another foible of the Bush administration who only look for yes-men (and yes-women). Checks and balances simply don't happen in a Bush-led government.

Kissinger "had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew."

Those words could apply to just about anyone in the Bush White House. If anyone disagrees, just point them to any exchange between Press Secretary Tony Snow and anyone who has the temerity to question just about any White House decision ever made by President Bush.

Ford was the last Republican president this nation will ever have. The New Republican party, founded the day that Ronald Reagan took office, has been steadily eroding our nation's middle class, and its international reputation for years.

The words Ford spoke about the current administration shouldn't go unnoticed and certainly shouldn't be ignored. Let his words continue the change that started with this past election. The Bushies are wrong and maintain the foolish theory that they will be proved right... someday.

Someday will be too late.

-Noah Greenberg

On Bush's Next Move

By now, it should be obvious that Bush is not going to listen to any of the ISG recommendations. Instead of meeting with the ISG to discuss further details, Bush sought the advice of the American Enterprise Institute. Bush's policy changes are coming directly from the neoconservatives at AEI - in particular, Mr. Frederick Kagan. Bush has met with Olmert and Blair to discuss the "new" strategy. There has been talk of a troop "surge". Be afraid, be very afraid that the neoconservatives are going to "save" Iraq by expanding the war to Iran and Syria. This is the same bad thinking that got the United States into Cambodia and Laos even though Vietnam was a lost cause. Be very concerned when neoconservative war hawks act like are cornered animals. They are dangerous species indeed.

-Robert Scardapane

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006,2007 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

The best eulogy for most of us is one in which no one has anything bad to say about the deceased. When Gerald Ford died at 93 last week, that was the consensus around the country: There was almost no one with a harsh word for the former president–not politicians, reporters, ordinary Americans, nor even historians. As one editor from Michigan noted, “With Gerry there were no secrets. What you saw was what you got.”

In an era of secrets and scandals, what a remarkable statement to be able to make about a statesman.

Gerald Ford was a man who loved his life–he adored his wife, his children, his grandchildren. He never regretted his truncated political career because he believed he had fulfilled his role in government.

And he did. Some might question that Ford was as statesman, but history has proven that he was. The Hippocratic oath that physicians take begins, “First, do no harm.” Politicians–and especially presidents–should have to take that same oath. It can be said of Ford that he tried to follow that dictate without ever taking the oath; he was more determined to heal as a leader than anything else. He was not always successful, but he did steer the nation through its worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War when he succeeded the disgraced Richard Nixon after his forced resignation in 1974.

Ford was the first person to be president without ever having been elected. He also wasn’t elected Vice President; when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign after pleading nolo contendere to a charge of income tax evasion, Nixon appointed then-Congressman Ford to the nation’s second-highest political office. The Agnew scandal, however, would only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg of corruption with the Nixon Administration. The Watergate affair would rock Washington and the nation and force Nixon to resign. Ford’s most famous quote–would follow his ascension to the vacated presidency: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

And draw to an end the nightmare of Watergate did, under Ford’s hand. Yet in ending that nightmare, in attempting to heal the nation, Ford also sealed his own fate. He would not be elected in his own right, but would be defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Ford’s most controversial action as president was to pardon Nixon. It was a decision he always defended and history has, in fact, proven him to have made the statesman-like decision. The nation indeed needed to move on from Watergate and Ford knew that Nixon had become the most polarizing figure in the country. Getting him out of the national spotlight as quickly as possible was, retrospectively, the appropriate decision. It was also the decision that would cost Ford his career.

In 1974, a majority of Americans disagreed with Ford’s pardon of Nixon. They wanted to see the man who tried to hijack the presidency and subvert the Constitution punished. Even though I was still a teenager, I certainly was among those who believed Nixon should have been held accountable for Watergate and its consequences. But 30 years later, and in the context of the current presidency where incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has made a similar decision not to file for impeachment against George Bush, it is clear why Ford made the decision he did. And why Pelosi is following in his footsteps.

When the Republican Congress went after Bill Clinton for his extra-marital affair with Monica Lewinsky, a circumstance that involved no valid constitutional issues and should never have even become a public concern, Washington and the Congress ground to a halt. Nothing was accomplished. Millions were spent on investigating Clinton’s sex life.

Clinton was impeached for lying about having sex with Lewinsky–a personal and private matter that had none of the merit that an impeachment proceeding against Nixon would have had (unlike Republicans in 1996, Republicans in 1974 knew how it would damage the nation to impeach the President; they went to Nixon and demanded that he resign for the good of the country). The Clinton impeachment proceeding was, on its face, meritless and in the end, useless, as Clinton did not resign, making those who voted for impeachment look simply foolish.

Impeachment proceedings against Bush would stymie the country still further than his Administration and the outgoing Republican Congress already have. Pelosi, taking page from Ford’s record, seems to have intuited that.

While Ford is remembered best for his pardon of Nixon, another pardon that he made is all but forgotten, but was also part of the healing of America. Ford, who served four years in World War II, gave amnesty to those who had fled the U.S. rather than serve in Vietnam.

When the Vietnam War ended in a U.S. defeat with the fall of Saigon, Ford expressed his hope that the nation would heal from what he called, “An American tragedy in which we have all played a part.”

Throughout his 24 years in Congress, Ford was known as a negotiator and a reconciler. He had hoped to become Speaker of the House one day. He had served on the Warren Commission under Lyndon Johnson and he had been Chairman of the House Republican Conference. In 1965 he was elected House Minority Leader.

Ford was known as an “Old Guard” Republican–the sort that believed in less government. He insisted that, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

In the end, Ford knew his own limitations as a leader. He opened one speech by noting, “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.” But he made no pretenses of being a Lincoln. He did, however, note the following with regard to Watergate: “The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.”

The posthumous release of interviews he did with Bob Woodward on the war on Iraq are excoriating of another political adolescent: George Bush. Ford was adamant with Woodward that Bush–and Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (both of whom Ford had appointed to roles in his Administration)–had done everything wrong with regard to Iraq and that the war was “ill-advised.” Ford told Woodward that Bush and his cohort should have made every effort at diplomacy and that using weapons of mass destruction as an excuse for the invasion was a huge mistake.

“I don’t think I would have gone to war,” Ford told Woodward a year after the invasion of Iraq. “Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

Despite his less admirable decisions, such as supporting Suharto’s invasion of East Timor, history has judged Ford kindly. He took his job as negotiator and reconciler seriously. Ford did heal the nation–by pushing Nixon into the shadows where he belonged and by acknowledging the tragedy of Vietnam. He also provided a template for future negotiators like Pelosi by noting that the nation comes first, the individual second. Ford was the antithesis of his predecessor. Where Nixon was intent on superseding everyone and everything else in the country–including the Constitution–Ford wanted one thing: for America to mend. Ford said, “Truth is the glue that holds government together. Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.” Nixon never understood that. Nor does George Bush. Pelosi does. And so must whomever becomes our next president. There are worse things than being known for doing no harm. And that is Ford’s declarative legacy.

More on Ford

OK. You got a point, but I still think this is another. Welcome Defocus from the spiraling death toll in our face, but not in our face. Every channel has this story today and, once again, death and destruction in Iraq is blacked out.

I cannot watch the documentaries about our abandonment of Viet Nam. It is too much of a betrayal that we Viet Nam Vets know all too well. When Ford pulled out, precipitously, he also pulled the rug out from under the Vets, too. Too bad "Mr. Integrity" did nothing about that then. Watch the faces of those poor Vietnamese's desperation. How many left t torture, tiger cages and summary executions?

PTSD was not yet discovered but suicides and "deadly accidents" by veterans were rampant. It was ignored. The usual "blond-eye" for Vets.

From the "Left" who called us "baby killers" and from the "Right" as saving money for their pork, but mostly it was the "Left".

Every quote is politically correct. The Clintons' represent no one but themselves and are no example of anything a-political. Chameleons all.

Ford did what he could do. Given the historical nature of the situation, he drew the short straw.

In his own way, he marches in place and let the oil crisis and the economy fall on Carter full force.

Joe D.

Gerald Ford-- "Nice guy, Mean policies" like Reagan...--
Ford supported Indonesian Invasion of East Timor that Killed 1/3 of Population

-Roland James

Noah, you do realize that the reason the withdrawal from Ho Chi Minh City was so chaotic is that the North Vietnamese had won the war and threw our butts out? It is a fatal consequence of American historical ignorance that we think that early withdrawal of our troops has such horrific consequences.

Can you imagine how history would have taken a different course if the United States had honored its commitments to the Vietnamese in 1956 and permitted the elections to take place and the country to be united under the government of the National Liberation Front?

Vietnam may have gone non-aligned, but more likely would have become an east Asian Yugoslavia, and perhaps with Sukarno leading Indonesia, Nehru in India and no imperialist power on the Asian mainland, perhaps the wars of liberation and the military repression that have accompanied them might not have happened.

Who knows, maybe the Asians would even have figured out someway to advance human civilization that doesn't entail massive social violence.

The hidebound decency of leaders like Gerald R. Ford prevented all that.

They were not mislead by greed or even the lust for power that infects the neoCons, they were mislead by their paternalistic decency and America knows best attitude.

-Robert Chapman

Nixon, Bush Superman, the US did not have the power to maintain its presence in Vietnam in the mid seventies when we withdrew.

The way things are developing in Iraq, we may find ourselves in the same situation again.

In 04, I thought we could a coalition together and get a half million troops into Iraq, but the situation has deteriorated so radically, that option today is probably not tenable.

Did you read the news reports that if the US withdraws, Saudi Arabia has pledged to send troops to Iraq to protect the Sunnis and establish order?

Do your correspondents and contacts have any opinions on that.

Oh and Noah, just so you know, I am not mad with you, but get really frustrated with the oh weren't the 70s great nostalgia, and Happy New Year!!!!

-Robert Chapman

In response to, "Is it possible that many more would have gone to prison for their parts in the aftermath of a presidential investigation? You bet." Robert Chapman writes:

Noah, don't you think that scores among the hundreds who would have faced prosecution in a post- Watergate trial would have turned states evidence for a get out of jail free card? These canaries would have sucked all the air out of Nixon's defense and nailed his coffin so shut it couldn't even sink.

The brouhaha about the nation being consumed by month's of trial over Nixon's numerous felonies is pure BS cooked up to protect good old Jerry.

There was no quid pro quo, if the GOP had been in the majority in the House, Ford would have been speaker and next in line. Nixon picked him as VP for that reason only.

Ford is simply too nice a guy to let his old buddy Dick go up the river.

Instead of purging trial, we got a festering boil.

Worst of all Nixon was able to rehabilitate his reputation and the coffins keep coming back from battle fields as a result.

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-Noah Greenberg