Gerald Ford, RIP

When I think of Gerald Ford, I always think of a comment my uncle made a couple of years after Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter. We were having a little group rant about media bias and my uncle brought up how the press had portrayed Gerald Ford while he was in the White House.

Ford had been depicted during his presidency as a not too bright, physically spastic guy bumbling along through his presidency. The shot of him tripping on the steps of Air Force One or the story of his golf drive beaning a spectator were repeated over and over until they became national jokes. Chevy Chase made a career of Fordian pratfalls on Saturday Night Live.

But, as my uncle pointed out, Ford was anything but dim. He had been Editor of the Law Review at Yale, a great honor at one of the country's leading law schools. He worked his way to the highest position in Congress that a Republican could hold at the time. He was a popular and effective leader in congress, and was reelected by large majorities in more than ten congressional elections. Ford had what his predecessor lacked... not only a superior analytical mind, but also a healthy dose of "emotional intelligence".

And more to the point, Ford was hardly uncoordinated. He was probably the best natural athlete to hold the nation's highest office. He was a football All-American at the University of Michigan and, in later years, a quite good golfer. I'll never forget seeing him play at the tournament named in his honor held annually at Vail, Colorado. While in his mid-seventies, he competed well in a field of retired and semi-retired professional golfers.

The way that Gerald Ford was misrepresented by the press is a severe blot on that institution. Ford was a truly honorable man. He made the difficult but necessary decision to pardon Nixon, which he knew his political enemies would use to hinder his reelection. The media will now writing lofty articles about his life and times, but it should not be forgotten how they treated him when it really mattered.