In another few days, thirty-seven years will have passed since the resignation of the thirty-seventh President. The recent passing of Betty Ford has reminded Rachel Patron, a writer for the Fort Lauderdale (Florida) Sun-Sentinel, of the example of courage and statesmanship set by President Ford when he issued a pardon to his predecessor in September 1974. As she points out in her column, Sen. Ted Kennedy, one of the most vocal critics of Ford’s decision at the time, was the one who, 27 years later, honored the former President with the Profiles in Courage Award named for John F. Kennedy, by way of recognizing that the pardon had ultimately helped the nation to move past the trauma of Watergate. The column goes on to note that the contemporary political scene could certainly use the ability Gerald Ford displaying in rising above partisan rancor.
Ms. Patron supplements this piece with three highly interesting and insightful interviews. In one, the president’s son Steven talks about Ford the family man, and how his values at home were reflected in his political life. In the second, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State in the Ford Administration, examines Ford’s accomplishments in the foreign-policy area, which have long been in the shadow of the spectacular achievements of his precessor’s White House, but are nonetheless quite substantial. And, finally, Benton Becker, President Ford’s special counsel, describes the process by which the pardon came about. Ms. Patron asks Becker whether, in his own opinion, Ford should have pardoned Nixon. The lawyer’s response:
Oh, yes, I always believed it was the right thing to do. But I did point out to President Ford that he was taking a great political risk. And here’s what he said: “Too many decisions had been made in the Oval Office based on political considerations.” Maybe those words should be engraved on the wall.