Tag Archives: Gerald Ford

‘Our Constitution works’

I am fond of recalling the words of a brand new president who took office in the wake of a dark time in American history.

Gerald Rudolph Ford placed his hand on a Bible, recited the presidential oath of office, then stood before the world to declare that “our Constitution works.” He succeeded Richard Nixon, who quit earlier that day to avoid being impeached. The Watergate scandal brought down the Nixon presidency.

Yes, the Constitution worked just as it should during that time.

It is working now as another president faces the unforgiving assurance that every morning he awakes for the rest of his life, he will be an “impeached president.”

Yes, the Constitution works, just as President Ford declared on Aug. 9, 1974.

No matter the outcome of the Senate trial that is pending, the Constitution will have done its job. If the president is cleared, it will have worked. If he is convicted and removed from office, it will have performed as the framers constructed it.

Almost no one believes the current president will be kicked out of office. A failure to convict him doesn’t mean failure for the Constitution. It means only, to my mind, that an insufficient number of senators were willing to put duty to the nation ahead of fealty to a president. That doesn’t besmirch the Constitution, under which the House impeached Donald Trump and the Senate conducted its trial.

It is good at times like this to take a step back and look at the big picture. The framers crafted a brilliant governing document. It’s a bit clunky at times, but that’s the nature of a representative democracy, which is as Winston Churchill described it: a lousy form of government, but better than anything else ever produced by human beings.

My faith in the system remains as strong as ever, regardless of the outcome that more than likely awaits the nation at the end of this process.

I shall cherish the words that President Ford spoke moments after assuming the nation’s highest office: Our Constitution works.

Remember ‘Tan Suitgate’?

Wow! I actually am longing for the days when some folks got all riled up over the color of the suit the president might wear while talking in the White House press briefing room.

It was a bit more than five years ago when President Obama showed up wearing the tan suit. Remember that one? Why, you woulda thought the world had been swallowed into a black hole, that the president of the United States had gone batty, that hell had frozen over and that the Martians had landed … for real this time!

According to Yahoo.com: In addition to being generally panned by fashion experts, Obama’s light-hued look, worn to a White House briefing, scandalized cable news pundits. Lou Dobbs called it “shocking,” while Republican congressman Peter King said it represented POTUS’s “lack of seriousness” in the wake of recent ISIS attacks.

Hey, does anyone remember the plaid suit that President Ford wore on occasion? I think the president was stylin’ back in the 1970s. Imagine any president today appearing that getup.

Well, we’ve progressed — or perhaps regressed — to bigger scandals these days. The sharply dressed president of the moment, Donald J. Trump, is accused of impeachable offenses and is awaiting, along with many of the rest of us, the moment he becomes the third president impeached by the House of Representatives.

But what the heck. He wouldn’t be caught dead in a tan suit.

Wake me from this ‘long national nightmare’

Gerald R. Ford ascended to the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974 and declared that “our long national nightmare is over.”

That was then. The Watergate scandal consumed the presidency of Richard Nixon. He was facing certain impeachment by the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate. So, he resigned.

President Ford’s declaration comes to mind now as we lapse into another nightmarish stupor. Donald Trump is facing nearly certain impeachment by the House. The acknowledged circumstance appears to make the Watergate burglary and the cover up seem tame by comparison. Trump has admitted to soliciting foreign government help in securing his re-election. Today, he astonished the world by saying China and Ukraine both should investigate business dealings done by former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential opponent of Trump in the 2020 election.

I fear the nightmare this time will not end as cleanly as it did in 1974 when President Nixon resigned.

The House has enough evidence to impeach Donald Trump. The Senate, though, isn’t showing a hint of the courage demonstrated during the Watergate matter. Republican senators are standing behind Trump, who clearly has violated his oath of office by placing his personal political interests ahead of the country’s national interest.

How this crisis ends is anyone’s guess. Trump could follow the Nixon model and resign; he won’t. The president could be impeached and then be acquitted by the Senate; then he’ll run for re-election crowing about being found not guilty of what he has acknowledged doing.

He could be impeached and then convicted; but how might he depart the White House? I have zero faith that he would leave with any sense of shame or humility.

We’re entering another long national nightmarish scenario that doesn’t appear headed toward any sort of clean ending.

It’s not all grim, however.

President Ford also reminded us that “our Constitution works.” It most certainly did in 1974. I am clinging tightly to my belief that it will work yet again this time around.

Happy birthday, Mr. President

James Earl Carter is a force of nature.

He builds houses for poor people; he writes books; he lectures Americans on the value of ethics in politics; he teaches Sunday school at his rural Georgia church; he has monitored elections around the world; he lives modestly with his wife of more than seven decades.

Today he becomes the oldest former president of the United States. He already holds the record for living the longest past the time he left office; he exited the White House in 1981, which means he has lived 38 years past his presidency.

President Carter turns 95.

He has beaten cancer. He ran for president more than four decades ago, defeating a crowded field of Democratic Party primary foes. He ran a tough and bitter race against an embattled incumbent, Gerald R. Ford, and won with 297 electoral votes, which reflected his narrow popular vote majority; he and President Ford would then forge a friendship that lasted until Ford’s death in 2006.

President Carter lost his bid for re-election in a landslide to Ronald Reagan in 1980, but he didn’t skulk off to pout over his loss. Instead he poured his energy into building the Carter Center in Atlanta and then building houses for Habitat for Humanity, a faith-based organization that does the Lord’s work around the world.

I will not engage in a debate over whether he was a successful president. I will say that he has been the most consequential former president in the past century, or maybe even longer than that.

President Carter is getting lots of good wishes from around the country and the world today. This good and godly man deserves all of them.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

Happy Watergate Day, everyone!

I want to wish everyone who gives a crap a happy Watergate Day.

It was 45 years ago today that President Nixon walked out of the White House for the final time as the nation’s leader. He boarded the helicopter, flashed that goofy “V for Victory” salute and then lifted off into oblivion.

Nixon quit the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974 rather than face certain impeachment by the House of Representatives for — dang! — obstruction of justice and other crimes related to the Watergate burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters in June 1972.

Actually, it fell to some Republican heroes to deliver the bad news to the president about his political future. Sen. Barry Goldwater — Mr. Conservative — led a GOP congressional delegation to the White House to tell the president he didn’t have the support to withstand a trial in the Senate. He was toast. A goner. His political goose was being cooked in that moment.

So, Nixon cut his losses and quit.

Thankfully, he had chosen a decent and honest man in Vice President Gerald Ford to succeed him. Ford got the call after another crook, VP Spiro Agnew, quit in the wake of a growing bribery scandal.

President Ford told us “our Constitution works” and that our “long national nightmare is over.” It did and it was. Sadly, we’re in the midst of another nightmarish circumstance that likely won’t end the way the earlier trauma ended 45 years ago. Why? The party of the president lacks the guts it exhibited when those senators spoke “truth to power” to Richard Nixon.

That was then. The here and now is still playing out.

I believe I’ll pray for the country.

Back bencher bails on GOP … will there be more?

Justin Amash used to belong to the Republican Party while serving as a congressman from a reliably Republican district in Michigan.

How reliable is it? Grand Rapids, Mich., used to be represented in the House of Representatives by Gerald R. Ford, who went on to become the nation’s 38th president. If there was anyone who was more “establishment Republican” than President Ford, then he or she has been hiding in the tall grass for generations.

Amash bailed on the GOP this week. He is the lone GOP House member to sign on to the call to impeach Donald J. Trump. He believes Trump has committed crimes against his high office and the Constitution. Yet his formerly fellow Republicans are having none of it. Now, Amash is having none of them.

He is now an independent. Rumors are flying that he will run for president in 2020 — as a libertarian! Well, good luck with that.

Actually, I admire Amash for sticking to his principles. He likely won’t change any Republican minds by leaving the party. There are those of us out here in this vast nation of ours who believe he is right, that the president did commit crimes that have risen (or sunk!) to the level of impeachment.

He isn’t going to place fealty to the president or to his former political party over the principle of adhering to the law and defending the Constitution.

Is this former GOP back bencher going to move to the front rank of politicians? We will need to see how that plays out. My hope is that he does. My concern is that he will disappear.

How might Joe Biden channel The Gipper? Here’s how

Joe Biden is the political star of the moment.

Democrats are waiting with bated breath for the former vice president to declare his expected candidacy for the presidency of the United States. He’s dropping hints all over the place that he’s decided to make one final run for the top job.

Oh, and then we have former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke who’s playing a similar cat-and-mouse game with Democrats and the media. He, too, is sounding and looking like a candidate in the making.

Here’s my thought about all of that.

Biden is in his late 70s; Beto is in his mid-40s. I harken back to 1976 when former California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenged President Ford for the Republican presidential nomination.

Gov. Reagan shook things up a good bit by naming Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Richard Schweiker as his running mate prior to the GOP nominating convention in Kansas City, Mo.

Is there an avenue for Biden to select O’Rourke as his VP running mate and the two of them could run as a ticket for the Democratic Party’s nomination next year?

Oh, probably not. If they both run for POTUS, they’re going to run against each other. Then one of them will drop out. Maybe they both will, which of course makes this whole notion a moot point.

But suppose Biden’s support among rank-and-file Democratic voters holds up and he secures the nomination next year in Milwaukee. I could see him declare that he would serve just one term and then he could select someone such as Beto as his running mate.

Biden would be the candidate who could clear out the Trump wreckage. Beto would be the candidate of the future who could carry Biden’s message past the president’s single term.

This is not a prediction. It’s merely a scenario that has played out before. Granted, Ronald Reagan didn’t get the GOP nomination in 1976. He laid the groundwork, though, for his 1980 campaign and subsequent landslide victory over President Carter.

I believe that if Biden runs, this will be it. If so, then he could have a ready-made successor waiting in the wings.

No ‘retribution,’ Mr. President; it’s not possible

How many times does one have to tell you, Mr. President, that you are not a monarch, or a dictator? You cannot bring “retribution” against a comedy show made famous by its parodies of powerful people.

But there you go again, threatening “Saturday Night Live” because it decided to spoof you yet again.

“SNL” trotted Alec Baldwin out to do that hilarious send-up of you and you just cannot stand being ridiculed. C’mon, Mr. President! Get a grip.

The comedy show has been doing this to presidents since 1975, when Chevy Chase poked fun at President Ford. It hasn’t stopped. They’ve all gotten the treatment. Not a single predecessor of yours has threatened “SNL” with any kind of political or legal payback.

And do I need to remind you once more, Mr. President, about that First Amendment matter? You truly need to read it, try to understand what it protects. It guarantees the right to worship as we please; it protects the press from government intervention; it says we can protest the government. It also says we can criticize the government without facing “retribution” from the government we are criticizing.

Your tweet about “SNL” was typically idiotic. As a reminder, you wrote:

Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

Total Republican hit jobs? They “get away” with it the way “SNL” poked fun at Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama. Those Democrats didn’t bitch constantly about “SNL.” For that matter, neither did the Republican presidents who had to take the heat, too.

I am tiring of repeating myself, Mr. President. Still, it bears repeating that you need to understand that positions of power invite this kind of treatment from the entertainment industry and the media. You are the most powerful man in the country, Mr. President.

You can act like it simply by stopping these mindless, brainless and feckless threats against a TV comedy show.

Get ready for the thundering herd . . . of candidates

Lawrence O’Donnell, a noted MSNBC commentator, believes the upcoming campaign for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination is going to be a very crowded affair.

He believes the number of candidates will “start with the number two,” meaning that he expects more than 20 politicians to seek the nomination in hopes of running against Donald J. Trump.

On almost any level, this is an astounding story if it develops as O’Donnell believes it will. We might have an incumbent seeking re-election. Incumbency is supposed to build in a lot of advantages: platform, visibility, name ID, the perks of power.

Incumbent presidents often seek re-election miles ahead of any challenger.

Not this time. Not this president.

In 2016, we had 17 Republicans declare for their party’s nomination at the start of the primary season. Trump knocked them one by one over the course of the GOP primary campaign. He won the nomination on the first ballot and then, well, the rest is history. Meanwhile, Democrats fielded four candidates at the start of their season. Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged as the nominee. Again, you know it turned out for her.

That number seemed high at the time, although we had no incumbent running in 2016. President Obama had to bow out, according to the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The expected massive field of Democrats well might not even be the biggest story of the 2020 campaign. I am wondering — although not predicting — whether the president is going to receive a primary challenge from, oh, as many as two or three Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee might be in the mix. Same for Ohio Gov. John Kasich — my favorite Republican from the 2016 campaign. Then there might be Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

History shows that incumbents who receive primary challenges often do not fare well when the smoke clears and they have to run against the other party’s nominee in the fall. Just consider what happened to President Gerald Ford, President Jimmy Carter and President George H.W. Bush when they ran and lost in 1976, 1980 and 1992 respectively.

So, the new year begins with two Democrats already getting set to launch their campaigns. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro are planning to form exploratory committees as precursors to their candidacies. There will be many more to come.

Oh, and then we have the Robert Mueller investigation and whether his final report might inflict more political damage to an already wounded incumbent.

I am so looking forward to this new year.

‘Our Constitution works . . . ‘

Three words define for me the reason I remain optimistic about how the current tumult surrounding the president of the United States is going to end.

President Gerald Rudolph Ford took the oath of office on Aug. 9, 1974 and declared the following: Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.

The 38th president took office under the most unusual circumstance this nation ever has experienced. His predecessor, President Richard Nixon, quit the office, giving the nation roughly 15 hours notice from the time he told us on national TV to the moment his resignation took effect the next day at noon.

We had just endured the most rigorous constitutional crisis in our nation’s history. Nixon resigned to avoid certain impeachment and virtually certain conviction of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Yes, our Constitution worked then. It will work now, matter where Donald John Trump’s troubles take him . . . and us.

Even out here in Trump Country where I live, there are rumblings of serious danger in store for the president. A special counsel, Robert Mueller. appears to be closing in on some matters that could produce actual indictments of the president’s closest advisers, even members of his family — and, yes, quite possibly the president himself.

Much of what transpires over time well might depend on how Trump responds to what could occur. Does he do something foolish? Does he issue pardons to indicted conspirators and then open himself up to demonstrable evidence of obstruction of justice?

The nation’s founders knew what they were doing when they drafted the Constitution. They built in a system of government that limits presidential power; they gave additional power to Congress; they also gave the federal courts power to rule on the constitutionality of laws and presidential actions.

Divided government is about to descend on Congress, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives. The White House and the Senate will remain in Republican control.

One of the many beauties of the government the founders created lies in the ability of Congress and, when needed, the courts to rein in an overzealous executive branch.

So, when the president makes noises about what might occur within the White House, he sends alarm bells clanging all over Capitol Hill and throughout the federal judiciary.

Yes, indeed, the Constitution works. President Ford spoke a fundamental truth to us in our moment of dire constitutional peril. It worked then. It works today.