Tag Archives: Gerald Ford

‘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.

A pardon for Manafort? Consider the consequence

There’s a good bit of speculation afoot about why Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman who pleaded guilty to felony charges and then agreed cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, would lie repeatedly to Mueller’s team.

Mueller is looking into whether Trump’s campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our election system in 2016. Manafort was thought to have a lot of answers to Mueller’s many questions. Then he lied, according to Mueller. Manafort blew the plea deal apart.

But . . . why? Some analysts suggest Manafort might be angling for a presidential pardon.

I have two words for them: Gerald Ford.

A presidential pardon is likely to explode like a volcano over the political landscape. Hey, come to think of it, if such an event results in Trump’s ouster, then I am all for it!

Back to President Ford. The president took office in August 1974 after President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Barely a month in office, the new president issued a blanket pardon for any offenses his predecessor might have committed. He freed President Nixon from any prosecution.

Ford was vilified at the time for the pardon. He ran for election in 1976 and lost that year narrowly to Jimmy Carter. The pardon was seen at the time as a major contributor to the president’s defeat.

I was among those who criticized Ford at the time. Since then my views have changed about President Ford and the pardon. But the damage was done in real time.

If the current president thinks he is going to cover his backside from any incriminating circumstance by pardoning Paul Manafort, he is likely instead to purchase a whole basket full of political crises.

I am now wondering whether the president has any idea of what might transpire if he is foolish enough to take such an action.

Trump-Pence 2020 in possible doubt?

It’s not unheard of, but in recent years it’s a rare occurrence when a president of the United States jettisons a vice president and runs with a new running mate while seeking re-election.

Newsweek magazine is reporting that Donald Trump’s key advisers are floating the notion of replacing Vice President Mike Pence with U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

Why? Because the vice president was highly critical of that hideous “Access Hollywood” tape in which the future president disclosed how he could grab women by their genitals. Pence, a devout Christian, reportedly was incensed over what he heard … and Trump hasn’t forgiven Pence for the apparent “disloyalty,” according to Newsweek.

I am not going to dictate what I think Trump should do. That’s his call. Frankly, the vice president’s future is of little interest to me, other than whether he would ascend to the presidency if — dare I suggest it — that Trump doesn’t finish his term.

The most recent president to switch VPs was Gerald R. Ford, who kicked Vice President Nelson Rockefeller — who was appointed to the office — to the curb. President Ford selected Sen. Bob Dole as his 1976 running mate. The president lost his bid for election to the office to which he was appointed to Jimmy Carter.

Newsweek reportsThe president could be considering new strategies for his next campaign after Republicans were dealt major blows in last week’s midterm elections. Democrats picked up at least 36 seats to retake the House and prevented Republicans from further bolstering their lead in the Senate. This was an election Trump had turned into a referendum on his first two years in office.

Indeed, as I watched the returns roll in, it appears to many of us that Trump lost that “referendum” … bigly, if you know what I mean.

Does he toss the vice president overboard in some sort of hail-Mary effort to save his presidency? Not a damn thing would surprise me.

‘No longer funny’? How does POTUS know that?

Donald J. “TV Comedy Critic in Chief” Trump declares that “Saturday Night Live” is “no longer funny,” it has “no talent” and “no charm.”

How in the world does the president make that judgment? How is he able to discern whether the award-winning comedy sketch TV show is no longer funny?

Oh, he was watching it — one must presume — while the show poked fun at Brett Kavanaugh’s appearance before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Oh, but the president said he didn’t watch it, but … he did offer some praise for Kanye “Kim Kardashian’s Husband” West for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat during his appearance on the show. So, which is it, Mr. President? Did you watch or didn’t you? Oh wait! He said in his tweet that “word is that” West wore the hat. Nice dodge, Mr. President.

Not that it matters. The leader of the free world surely ought to have plenty to do to instead of wasting his time critiquing a show that he says is “no longer funny.”

This is the kind of response that presidents dating back to Gerald Ford have been getting from “Saturday Night Live.” None of them liked the parody and the occasional ridicule dished out by the writers and the comics.

But, hey. It goes with the territory. At least that used to be the case.

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?