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100 years after Gerald Ford's birth

On 14 July 1913, Leslie Lynch King Jr was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He grew up as Gerald Ford of Michigan, which is how history knows him: the only man to serve as both Vice-President and President of the United States of America, without ever being elected to either office; no President served a shorter term than Ford and lived to tell the tale; no President has lived longer.

He tends to be particularly remembered for his fluffs: his term of office began by pardoning his predecessor (and even then he fluffed the announcement, getting the month wrong) and ended when in debate with Jimmy Carter he stated that there was "no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe", a pretty massive fluff.

In fact Ford was perfectly well aware of the situation in Eastern Europe, and presumably simply had one of those foot-in-mouth moments that happen to us all from time to time (though hopefully not in the defining public appearance of our careers). By negotiating the Helsinki Accords, he laid the foundations for the strengthening of civil society and embedded human rights in the geopolitical discourse of Europe, laying the foundations for the collapse of Communism two decades later to take a largely peaceful course (with some rather obvious exceptions). Those of us who live in a united, peaceful and free Europe today owe him, and I'll raise a glass to his memory this evening.

It should also be noted that he took a markedly more liberal line on LGBT rights than most of his own party. But the 1970s were a different time.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
treddytrafalgar
Jul. 14th, 2013 12:04 pm (UTC)
In hindsight, it's actually a great tragedy Ford didn't win the '76 election, simply considering what his reelection would have delayed or in some cases probably permanently prevented. Not something that would have at all been clear at the time!
beamjockey
Jul. 14th, 2013 05:36 pm (UTC)
Do you think he would have run for re-election in 1980?
treddytrafalgar
Jul. 14th, 2013 07:59 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I actually meant to say, "if he had been elected in '76." IMO that would have precluded Reagan winning in '80 - after twelve years Republican incumbency, it would be the Democrats' turn finally. Plus the Republicans would have owned the economic disaster of the late seventies (which I think was largely baked in ahead of time). Jeff Greenfield has his counterfactual take on this in his book Then Everything Changed.

Edited at 2013-07-14 08:37 pm (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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