Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Ford, not a Lincoln

You know those movie stars who die, and you say, "I thought he died years ago"?

Gerald Ford was no Pinochet. No one will crowd the streets and plazas to celebrate his death. He ordered no torture, he made no one disappear; he also won no Nobel Peace Prize. As a member of the Warren Commission he may have helped cover up the crime of the century; if so, he had plenty of help. As a Navy officer and a member of Congress, he did his job competently; look how badly he could have done it. All Presidents pardon criminals; in Ford's case, the crook he pardoned just hadn't been tried yet. He was the husband of a brave, intelligent woman, and she loved him; I respect that. Maybe he was a little smarter than he seemed, always falling over and getting beaned by golf balls and shot at by deranged women. After a Great Communicator with nothing much to communicate, and a Decider who invariably makes the wrong decision, we could do a lot worse than a well-meaning doofus. We probably will. Fortunately, it's not my job to eulogize him in platitudes that clang with irony.

We may be bad at most things, from car-making to nation-building, but we can still do ceremonial better than almost anybody but the British. Just look at that bathetic display they put on for old Rumsfeld, everything but the bagpipes and the eternal flame, and he was just a failed cabinet member resigning in disgrace. For Jerry they'll roll out the Lincoln catafalque, the white horses, the Marines in their minstrel-show gloves, the CEOs of the religion corporations. Clinton will squeeze out a tear, Carter will look old, and Daddy Bush will try not to wince as Junior proclaims Ford's greatness with big words he practiced half the night. Dubya, who attends no funerals for the men and women he sends back again and again to Iraq, who meets no caskets at Dover Air Force Base, will snuggle up to this death while mentally planning his own glorious send-off. It comes with the job, no matter how appallingly you do it.


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