Friday, December 29, 2006

Gerald Ford's Mixed Legacy

By Robert Parry
December 29, 2006

The disclosure that Gerald Ford opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq but embargoed his objections until after his death fits with his contradictory legacy as a national leader who opposed the imperial presidency while laying the groundwork for its restoration.

After assuming the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974, Ford earned praise by demonstrating greater respect for Congress than the prickly and paranoid Richard Nixon. Ford also scored points with the public for toasting his own English muffins and acting like a regular guy.

By contrast, Nixon had dressed White House guards up in uniforms more befitting the Hapsburg monarchy than the American Republic. More significantly, Nixon had asserted broad powers to wage war overseas and acted secretly to sabotage his political enemies at home. Nixon embodied the notion that if a President did it, it couldn’t be illegal.

Symbolically at least, Ford represented a repudiation of Nixon’s imperial excesses. Since Ford’s death on Dec. 26, that contrast between Nixon and Ford has been the theme of many eulogies, effusive praise for a common man of the Midwest who helped heal the nation’s bitter divisions from Watergate and Vietnam.

But in hindsight, Ford’s actions in the White House may have done more to salvage the idea of an imperial presidency than to shatter it. From the perspective of three decades later, the two-plus years of the Ford administration could be viewed more like a period of strategic retreat for the imperial presidency than a return to the traditional checks and balances envisioned by the Founders.

Read on.

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