I Love My Dead, Lame President

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(Another version of this post was deleted by accident. I apologize for the lost comments.)

Did you think Counterpunch editor Alexander Cockburn was joking when he said Gerald Ford was our greatest president? Oh, he wasn't.

If Ford had beaten back Carter's challenge in 1976, the neo-con crusades of the mid to late Seventies would have been blunted by the mere fact of a Republican occupying the White House. Reagan, most likely, would have returned to his slumbers in California after his abortive challenge to Ford for the nomination in Kansas in 1976.

Instead of an weak southern Democratic conservative in agreement to almost every predation by the military industrial complex, we would have had a Midwestern Republican, thus a politician far less vulnerable to the promoters of the New Cold War.

Would Ford have rushed to fund the Contras and order their training by Argentinian torturers? Would he have sent the CIA on its mostly costly covert mission, the $3.5 billion intervention in Afghanistan? The nation would have been spared the disastrous counsels of Zbigniev Brzezinski.

That's most of Cockburn's reasoning—Ford didn't entangle the U.S. in foreign wars, and he's probably the last president who'll be able to say that. That certainly isn't the reason he's being generally fondly remembered this week. His pardon of Richard Nixon is far better remembered than his wariness of foreign entanglements, which says a lot about our values circa 2006.

And Cockburn's bete noire, Jimmy Carter, is at least as well regarded as Ford. The New Republic's Martin Labouisse Farnsworth Peretz speculates that the anti-Carter storm proved by people like himself means that Carter won't "be put out there to address the American people [at the Democratic Convention], as former presidents usually are." But Carter is incredibly popular in his retirement. A poll taken this month by Gallup showed 38 percent of Americans rating Carter as an "astounding" or "above average" president, and another 38 percent thinking he was at least average. Every president receives the benefits of a decades-long makeover in the media after he's gone, largely the result of the "imperial presidency" we're saddled with. But at least Cockburn's revisionism has a soul.

NEXT: Tea Leaves 2007

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  1. And I will post again, how does Cockburn think that Jimmy Carter was a willing accomplace to the ‘military industrial complex’ after concorting with the Congress to gut the military, leave Western Europe almost defenseless and tried to kill the B-1?

    It is a wonder we have a defense industry at all after Carter’s visit to DC.

  2. was deleted by accident

    Nice use of the passive voice.

  3. #1 reason for liking Gerry Ford:

    He was the only President since Ike who didn’t think being President made him the Voice of God on Earth.

  4. I wish all Republicans were like Gerald Ford.

    No, not dead. Decent. Honorable. Fair. Honest. Respectful of the law, even its limits on their own power.

    And not always looking for somebody to bomb.

  5. He was the only President since Ike who didn’t think being President made him the Voice of God on Earth.

    And didn’t try his damnedest to expand the powers of the Executive. Probably the last one ever who will ever be able to be described in such a way

  6. He was the only President since Ike who didn’t think being President made him the Voice of God on Earth.

    I know that correlation does not equal causation, but note that both men were follicly challenged. Which clearly leads to the conclusion that I should be President.

  7. nice Heathers reference there…thanks for the chuckle

  8. A poll taken this month by Gallup showed 38 percent of Americans rating Carter as an “astounding” or “above average” president, and another 38 percent thinking he was at least average.

    Carter continues to astonish me, but so does the Jerry Springer show. As for being called an average president, since when was that anything other than an insult?

  9. When did “astounding” become a synonym for “excellent”?

  10. Cockburn’s argument comes down to: “If Ford had beaten Carter in 1976, the Soviet Union would still be around today”. He might be right, but what an asinine thing to wish for.

  11. Even Ford’s foreign adventures had a quixotic quality to them. The Mayag?ez incident was a major operation against the brutal Khmer Rouge not to overthrow their regime, but to rescue 39 US sailors. And Ford’s response to North Korean aggression at the DMZ was to cut down a tree.

  12. Ford has to be given credit for returning to Congress a boatload of Emergency Executive Powers that had accumulated since the time of FDR.

    He tried to put the brakes on the Imperial Presidency, but a majority of voters seem to like the president to be imperious.

  13. I don’t understand why the pardon of Nixon is seen as being such a wonderful thing. Maybe it was necessary, but it certainly wasn’t just, and it’s not the sort of action that should be lauded.

  14. Guy Montag, as for Carter’s military policy, the ‘Reagan’ build-up started under Carter. The B-1 was a failure from the word ‘go’, albeit it’s performed quite well against third world countries with no air forces.

    David Weigel: “His pardon of Richard Nixon is far better remembered than his wariness of foreign entanglements, which says a lot about our values circa 2006.”

    It helped justify the Iran-Contra pardons, and whatever Dubya will put out in less than two years. A tradition of pardons for GOP criminals is one that the elites of our country find congenial, even the self-professed liberals.

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