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Jerry, full of grace

jerryThe 1970s were an ugly decade, and it’s only the fact that I came of age then that I hold any nostalgia for it. For instance, I’m stunned today to find myself shedding a tear over the death of former President Gerald Ford.

My mother disliked Richard Nixon even as she carried me in her womb, and by the early 70s the loathing of Nixon had become an article of faith in our household. Yet I remember crying the day we watched Nixon make his last, pathetic walk to that helicopter; and although at the time I thought Ford a giant sell-out for pardoning Nixon, I sort of saw his point, and I never disliked Ford. How could you? After Nixon’s sweaty, malevolent Capricorn-gone-wrong show, it felt really good and reassuring to hear Cancerian Jerry Ford pronounce, “Our long national nightmare is over.” (Well, it sort of seemed true at the time.) It was sweet to watch him bump his head on things, and even though he was a gifted athlete (Sagittarius Moon) his reputation as a klutz took hold – thanks, Chevy Chase! – and was actually sort of endearing. And his wife! Betty was – is – fantastic, the embodiment of Ford’s candid, inspiring Sag Moon id.

He’ll be remembered as a guy who fell down a lot, but also as the accidental president who made a single difficult, graceful gesture that essentially ruined his political career. In the op eds I’ve read today, many have commented on his misguided attempt to impeach Justice Douglas – hey, Ford was no saint – and of course the political risk of the Nixon pardon; but hardly anyone has come out and said, “He shouldn’t have issued the pardon.”

My own reaction upon reading the news last night was, “Awwww!”, quickly followed by the vestigial remnants of my mom’s vendetta: “That pardon was a mistake.” But today, having read and thought about it as an adult who has lived through at least 26 years of a politics almost entirely devoid of grace, I’m grateful to Jerry. If only because he thought it was the right and healing thing to do, I think he did the right thing, Mom. Give him a warm welcome when you see him.

1 comment to " Jerry, full of grace "

  • It does seem a lost behavior, that decency, certainly in politics. I keep thinking about if this will influence how the Dems go forward with probes into pre-Iraq War, how angry I am about it and how angry people were towards Nixon. What’s best to do for the country. Al Gore conceded the White House to Bush without drawing it out – and look at Mexico, with the loser setting up an alternative government – are you kidding me? I hated that Gore did that, but he also felt it best for the country to move forward. Little did we all know what was to come.