Tag Archives: Gerald Ford

Wyoming: stranger political climate than Texas?

CASPER, Wyo. — I love this state. It’s spacious, gorgeous and virtually uninhabited.

It’s the 10th-largest state in the union in terms of area; but it ranks No. 50 in terms of population, with about 580,000 residents scattered across 97,000 square miles.

It also has a single U.S. House of Representatives member representing it, along with two U.S. senators, Republicans John Barrasso and Mike Enzi.

And what about that member of Congress? She is Liz Cheney, who happens to be the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Here’s where the strangeness of Wyoming politics comes into play. Our friend Tom — a longtime journalist of some standing here — was showing us around Casper and he told me that Wyoming isn’t too keen on carpetbaggers, the politician who barely knows a region he or she wants to represent in government.

Why, then, did Wyoming elect Liz Cheney, who grew up in Washington, D.C., while her dad was serving in the Defense Department, Congress and as President Ford’s chief of staff before being elected VP in 2000?

Tom’s answer: “Because she has an ‘R’ next to her name and her dad happens to be the former vice president of the United States.”

I don’t have a particular problem with carpetbaggers. Indeed, my first political hero — the late Robert F. Kennedy — carried that title when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 1964. So did Hillary Rodham Clinton when she ran for RFK’s old seat in 2000 after serving eight years as first lady of the United States. Indeed, Mitt Romney — the former Massachusetts governor — is facing down the carpetbagger demon as he runs for the Senate in Utah.

I do find it cool, too, that a U.S. House member can represent the same constituency as two U.S. senators. Indeed, senators tend at times to lord it over House members that they represent entire states while their House colleagues have to settle for representing a measly House district.

Not so in Wyoming, where equality between the “upper” and “lower” congressional chambers is alive and well.

‘Our Constitution works …’

No one can predict how the current tumult involving Donald Trump, the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign and the insult onslaught that is being hurled at the special counsel conducting the investigation.

However it ends, I take heart in a statement that came from the newly sworn-in 38th president of the United States.

“Our Constitution works,” declared President Gerald R. Ford moments after taking office on Aug. 9, 1974. “Our great republic is a government of laws, not of men,” the president said.

The 45th president is up to his armpits, his eyeballs, perhaps even his comb-over in a probe that is seeking to determine whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral process. Special counsel Robert Mueller is no fool. He’s not a hack. He is a dedicated professional who once led the FBI. However, the president has launched a full frontal assault on Mueller, seeking to discredit an honorable man and a dedicated public servant.

I don’t know what he’ll conclude when this process ends. Whether he recommends criminal prosecution of senior White House advisers or even the president himself, or decides there’s nothing there, then I will accept whatever he determines.

He is doing this all under the guidance of the U.S. Constitution, which as President Ford told us when he took office functions as it should.

Gerald Ford’s ascent to the presidency was unique. His predecessor, President Nixon, was forced to resign after seeking to cover up a “third rate burglary” at the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972. One thing led to another and a pair of intrepid Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — peeled the layers of deception away for the nation to see for itself.

The constitutional crisis that evolved from this investigation was unprecedented in its scope. Yet the government held together.

Nixon quit the presidency. Ford — who became vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned in another scandal involving bribery — calmly took office and assumed control of the executive branch of government.

No matter how this latest controversy ends, I am taking considerable comfort in the words of wisdom offered by a president whose straightforward eloquence spoke volumes about the inherent strength of our governing document.

It held together then … and will do so now.

Why not just ‘mend’ the 2nd Amendment?

President Gerald R. Ford thought he was appointing a conservative jurist to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975 when nominated John Paul Stevens.

Wrong, Mr. President. The justice turned out to be a liberal icon on the court. The retired justice has ignited a wildfire. He writes in a New York Times essay that it’s time to — gulp! — repeal the Second Amendment.

Justice Stevens is 97 years of age but he still has a razor-sharp mind. He’s a learned and brilliant man.

That all said, I happen to disagree with him on the need to repeal the amendment that says the “right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Stevens writes, in part: Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.

Read the entire essay here.

I don’t intend to suggest I can match Justice Stevens’s intellectual wattage. I just want to offer the view that the Second Amendment contains no language that I can identify that says it must remain sacrosanct.

With the March For Our Lives emboldening literally millions of young Americans to seek legislative remedies to the spasm of gun violence, I am going to cling tightly to the view that those remedies exist somewhere in the legislative sausage grinder. And those remedies can be enacted without repealing the Second Amendment.

I know what the amendment says and nowhere does it ban any reasonable controls on the purchase, sale or the possession of firearms. Gun-rights proponents keep insisting that any legislation that seeks to impose tighter controls on gun purchases launches us down some mysterious “slippery slope.” They fill Americans with the fear that the government is coming for their guns; they’ll be disarmed and made vulnerable to governmental overreach.

That is the worst form of demagoguery imaginable.

Surely there can be some way to allow “law-abiding Americans” to purchase firearms while keeping these weapons out of the hands of lunatics. This can be done under the guise of a Second Amendment guarantee that Americans can “keep and bear Arms.”

Omarosa needs to chill out

I don’t know why I’m concerning myself with this, but I will anyway … against my better judgment.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former White House aide who was let go by the president — who also fired her from “The Apprentice” show he once hosted — has declared that she tried to get Donald Trump to “stop tweeting.”

She was shut down by other White House aides.

Omarosa offered a weepy assessment on an episode of “Celebrity Big Brother.” She told a fellow contestant that she fears the United States won’t “be OK” after Donald Trump’s time as president is over.

“It’s going to not be OK, it’s not. It’s so bad,” she told fellow cast member Ross Matthews while wiping away tears.

C’mon, young lady. Get a grip here.

I’m no fan of Omarosa’s former boss. I don’t want him in the White House any more than other Trump critics. But I do believe strongly in our constitutional system of government. We’ve been through plenty of crises involving presidents, lying, coverup, scandal and impeachment.

Thus, I think Omarosa (and I hope it’s OK if I refer to her by her first name) is being a tad melodramatic. I mean, she is on a TV show and she is weeping to her fellow contestant with the cameras rolling.

I feel the need here to remind us all of what a brand new president said moments after he took the oath of office. President Gerald R. Ford took office on Aug. 9, 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The new president then declared, “Our Constitution works.”

Yes it did, Mr. President. Take heed, Omarosa. The U.S. Constitution still works to this day.

Arpaio pardon no ‘profile in courage’

Donald John Trump Sr.’s pardon of former “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio is likely to haunt the president well beyond the foreseeable future.

Trump this week pardoned the bad-ass former Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff who had been convicted of contempt of court; Arpaio refused to obey a federal court order to cease rounding up people he suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Arpaio disobeyed a lawful federal order, from a duly sworn federal judge. For that, the president pardoned him. His pardon speaks to Trump’s penchant for appealing to the nation’s divisiveness.

I doubt seriously that this president is going to be honored — ever! — for this callous decision.

With that … I want to look back briefly at another presidential pardon that at the time drew enormous political push back. In the four-plus decades since, though, it has been seen as a courageous act by a president seeking to bind the wounds of a nation.

President Richard Nixon resigned his office on Aug. 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, took the oath and declared that “our long national nightmare is over.”

President Ford wasn’t quite right. A month later, the new president issued the pardon that most assuredly cost him election as president in 1976.

Many years passed and President Ford’s stature grew slowly over time. Americans who were critical of the decision to pardon President Nixon began to think differently about it. I was among those who went through a change of heart.

In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library did something quite extraordinary. It gave President Ford its annual Profile in Courage Award, honoring the president for the courage he showed in issuing the pardon, knowing the consequences it would have, but looking out only for the national good.

As the New York Times reported at the time: “Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts told the audience at the John F. Kennedy Library: ‘I was one of those who spoke out against his action then. But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right. His courage and dedication to our country made it possible for us to begin the process of healing and put the tragedy of Watergate behind us.”’

And this, also from the Times: “Mr. Ford said: ‘President Kennedy understood that courage is not something to be gauged in a poll or located in a focus group. No adviser can spin it. No historian can backdate it. For, in the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity’s approval.”’

Time has allowed us to re-examine why President Ford acted as he did. Time also might provide us the same opportunity to take a fresh look at what Donald Trump has just done.

Then again, I doubt it. Seriously.

Primary challenge awaits POTUS?

A version of the term “primary” has become a verb, in addition to it being an adjective and a noun.

Its verb form is used in a political contest, as in so-and-so is going to get “primaried.” Donald J. Trump, for the purposes of this blog post, is the “so-and-so” under discussion for a moment or two.

The president of the United States has managed to p** off damn near the entire Republican Party establishment with his hideous behavior and his tirade of insults against leading GOP politicians, namely those on Capitol Hill.

It’s tough, naturally, to predict any outcome as it regards this individual. He wasn’t even supposed to get elected in 2016 after a string of ghastly comments, campaign deeds and his generally acceptance ignorance of anything having to do with the federal government.

But … there he is. Sitting in the Oval Office and making an utter ass of himself, not to mention disgracing the presidency.

If this clown faces a primary challenge in 2019 and 2020 — presuming he’s still in office — how does that bode for his re-election? Recent political history doesn’t look kindly on these things.

* In 1968, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. LBJ won, but Clean Gene got a substantial vote. Then U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy entered the primary race — and LBJ bowed out. The party’s eventual nominee, Hubert Humphrey, lost the presidency to Richard Nixon later that year.

* Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan decided to run against President Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination in 1976. Ford was running for election after taking over from President Nixon in 1974. Reagan didn’t think Ford was conservative enough. The men fought for the nomination until the convention. Ford was nominated, but then lost to Jimmy Carter.

* President Carter got a challenge of his own in 1980 from U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who thought Carter wasn’t liberal enough. Carter fought back that challenge, but then got trampled by Reagan in that year’s general election.

What lies ahead for the current president?

One of the men he beat on his way to the White House, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was utterly appalled at the president’s remarks in the aftermath of Charlottesville. He sounds like someone who’s going to “primary” the president. He was asked directly the other day whether he intends to run for the GOP nomination in 2020. Kasich gave that classic non-answer: “Look, I have no plans to run … ”

“I have no plans” is code for: I am thinking reeealll hard about running. Actually, given that Gov. Kasich was my favorite Republican in the 2016 primary campaign, I hope he does take the leap one more time.

Trump’s poll numbers keep plummeting. He keeps stuffing both feet in his mouth. He continues to embarrass the nation that managed to elect him. And, oh yes, we have that Russia investigation proceeding with all deliberate speed.

Indeed, history is unkind to presidents who face challenges from within their partisan ranks. Will this president defy conventional wisdom yet again? 

And then there’s the 25th Amendment

The United States of America functioned for nearly two centuries before it ratified a constitutional amendment dealing with presidential succession and the appointment of a vice president.

The 25th Amendment was ratified in February 1967. It came in reaction to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The new president, Lyndon Johnson, served the remainder of JFK’s term without a vice president. LBJ got elected in 1964 and Hubert Humphrey joined the administration as vice president. President Truman took office in April 1945 after Franklin Roosevelt died just a month into his fourth term; Truman served nearly a full term, therefore, without a vice president.

The amendment has been used exactly once. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 and President Nixon appointed House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to become vice president. The new VP then settled into the Oval Office Big Chair when Nixon resigned in August 1974.

I mention this today because the 25th Amendment is getting some attention these days. It allows for a temporary replacement of the president if a majority of the Cabinet determines he is unable to continue doing his presidential duties.

Donald John Trump is in trouble. A special counsel is examining whether his campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to meddle in our 2016 election. There might be some issues relating to Trump’s myriad business holdings, too. Oh, and then the president declares that “both sides” were at fault in the Charlottesville riot, causing a serious rift between the White House and members of Congress of both political parties.

There have been some questions about the president state of mind, his ability to actually govern and, yes, his mental competence.

I’m not qualified to offer a psychological diagnosis, let alone from half a continent away. So I won’t go there.

The 25th Amendment is meant to ensure the executive branch continues to function even in these difficult times. Just how difficult will they become? I guess that depends on how the president responds to the mounting pressure.

I keep hearing about how angry he is getting. He’s been cutting people loose all over the place: national security adviser, gone; press secretary, gone; communications director, gone; chief of staff, gone; FBI director, gone; senior strategist, gone.

Trump popped off about neo-Nazis and Klansmen. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have effectively rebuked the commander in chief, although not by name. Congressional leaders are starting to weigh in. There might be some diehard Trumpkins among them, but the vast majority of public response has been highly critical.

Republican leaders are aghast. Never mind what Democrats think; it’s a given that they detest the president already.

In the meantime, the 25th Amendment looms as a serious talking point among the chattering class in Washington, D.C. Don’t for a single moment believe that the president is ignoring the chatter.

‘The Constitution works’

The hour is late, but I cannot let this day pass without commenting briefly on a monumental event in our nation’s political history.

This single-sentence document is President Nixon’s resignation letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. As someone noted on social media, it could fit into tweet.

The Watergate scandal came to a conclusion with this note. The president said goodbye to the White House staff, shook hands with the new president, Gerald Ford, then boarded Marine One with his wife, Pat, and flew off into political oblivion.

It’s worth mentioning yet again, I suppose, because of the current president’s troubles. There’s been no shortage of comparison to what doomed the 37th president’s tenure to what we’re witnessing today in real time.

I am not going to predict a similar end to Donald Trump’s tenure.

I merely want to recall what President Ford said shortly after taking the oath of office 43 years ago today.

“The Constitution works,” the president reminded us.

Yes, that governing document gives me great comfort as we watch the current drama play out … no matter how it all ends.

GOP: the party of diversity in thought, philosophy

I want to toss a bouquet or two at the Republican Party.

The Grand Old Party has become the organization filled with diverse thoughts, philosophies, competing ideas. It is being revealed yet again as the GOP struggles over how to enact a bill that would overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t always this way.

A couple of generations ago, those of us of a certain age remember when the Democratic Party exemplified turmoil, tumult and tempest. The Vietnam War tore Democrats apart, had them ripping out the throats of their brethren. Republicans stood firm in support of that war.

The GOP would split in 1976 when conservative champion Ronald Reagan challenged President Ford’s election effort, only to lose narrowly at the party’s political convention.

Now we see Democrats standing as one in opposition to the GOP plan to dismantle the ACA and replace it with something else.

Republican moderates dislike the GOP alternative because it takes too much money from Medicaid. Republican conservatives hate it because they call it a “light” version of the ACA and are pushing for a more drastic departure from President Barack Obama’s landmark domestic legislative achievement.

Frankly, I find the intraparty debate refreshing and healthy for Republicans. There might be a purging after it’s all over. Whichever sides wins the argument will likely have to heal the rift that has developed with the other side, and vice versa.

I’ve always like diversity of thought. Democrats’ divisions in the 1960s and early 1970s cost them dearly over the course of many presidential election cycles. They would lose six of seven presidential elections from 1968 to 1988. Democrats eventually got their act together enough to win in 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012.

It remains to be seen whether the current Republican political divide will cost that party as dearly as it did the Democrats. I believe, though, that the party’s struggle over health care overhaul will be ultimately good for its long-term future — if the GOP is able to cope with all this arguing.

Watergate burglary + 45: Where has the time gone?

Forty-five years ago, some goons broke into the Democratic Party national headquarters office in a business complex in Washington, D.C.

Little did they know that they would change history.

The Watergate scandal gave birth to a new name for political scandals. They attach the “gate” suffix on every transgression. There’s only one scandal worthy of the “gate” identifier.

The “third-rate burglary” — which occurred June 17, 1972 — became swallowed up by what would come afterward. That would be the cover-up orchestrated by President Richard Nixon.

Two dogged Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — were turned loose eventually to follow the leads they got suggesting that the White House was involved in the burglary. They hit pay dirt and opened up a new wave of interest in investigative journalism. They lured a generation of young reporters into the craft; I happened to be one of them.

Forty-five years later, the memory of that earlier time is coming back to the fore as another president flails about while a special counsel examines whether he and/or his campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to influence the 2016 election outcome.

There won’t be a “gate” attached to this matter — even if it explodes into a scandal that rivals the granddaddy of political scandals.

Cable news networks are going to look back at that break-in. They’ll examine the journey upon which the nation embarked in the weeks and months to follow. We’ll get to relive that “long, national nightmare” referred to by yet another president, Gerald R. Ford, who took office when President Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate cover-up.

Yes, it was a dark time. However, as President Ford noted, “The Constitution works.” Watergate put the Constitution to its supreme test and in the process, the scandal delivered to Americans a shining illustration of the founding fathers’ brilliance in crafting a government.