Tag Archives: Gerald Ford

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.

Chaos need not be the new White House norm

As I watch Donald J. Trump’s chaotic first few weeks as president of the United States, I have to keep reminding myself: Does it really need to be this way?

Of course it doesn’t. We’re watching Trump stumble-bum his way through controversy after controversy and his ridiculous rants and riffs with foreign leaders.

Now we’re watching an potentially unfolding major-league scandal involving the president’s former national security adviser, who quit this week in the wake of reports that he had inappropriate — and possibly illegal — discussions with Russian government officials prior to Trump taking office.

Two presidents in my lifetime have taken office amid terrible tragedy and tumult. In both cases, these men grabbed the reins of power and assumed the role of president as if they’d been there all along.

Example one: Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of office on a jetliner sitting on a tarmac at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. His predecessor’s body was in a casket in the back of the plane and the nation was in utter shock over what had happened earlier that day when a gunman murdered President John F. Kennedy.

LBJ flew back to Washington and asked the nation to pray for him. We did. He convened his team and got to work immediately.

The nation buried JFK a few days later, President Johnson went to Congress and declared “all that I have I would surrender” to avoid standing before the nation in that moment.

The nation marched forward.

Example two: Gerald Rudolph Ford became president on Aug. 9, 1974 as his predecessor resigned in disgrace. The House of Representatives stood poised to impeach Richard Nixon for high crimes and misdemeanors relating to the Watergate scandal. It took a stalwart Republican U.S. senator, Barry Goldwater, to tell the president his time was up. He had no support in the Senate, where he would stand trial after the House impeached him.

President Nixon quit. President Ford took the oath and then told us, “Our long national nightmare is over.” He told us he was “acutely aware” he hadn’t been elected vice president or president. But he was the right man for the job.

He, too, called his team together and instructed them to get back to work.

President Ford would lose his election battle in 1976 to Jimmy Carter. It was Carter who, upon taking the oath of office in January 1977, would turn to his predecessor and begin his inaugural speech by thanking the former president for “all he had done to heal our country.”

Presidents Johnson and Ford had something in common: they both had extensive government experience prior to assuming their high office. They knew how the government worked. LBJ had served as Senate majority leader before becoming vice president in 1961 and had many friends on both sides of the partisan divide. Ford had served as minority leader in the House of Representatives before Nixon tapped him to be vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew quit after pleading no contest to a corruption charge. Ford also had many friends on both sides of the aisle.

These men assumed the presidency under far more trying circumstances than Trump did, yet they made the transition with relative ease … compared to the madness we’re witnessing these days with the 45th president.

We are witnessing in real time, I submit, the consequences of electing someone who brought zero public service experience to the most difficult and complicated job on Planet Earth.

‘Our Constitution works …’

You want a feeling of dire straits in the greatest nation on Earth?

This 11-minute video ought to remind us all that we have a resilient nation, with a government cobbled together by a document that is as stout as ever.

I mention this because of those who insist we are about to enter an “unprecedented” era of crisis with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.

Not so.

On Aug. 8, 1974, the nation watched one president resign and another one take office.

Gerald R. Ford ascended to the presidency after being appointed vice president less than a year earlier; the man he replaced as VP had pleaded no contest to corruption charges. Before that he was a congressman from Grand Rapids, Mich., whose No. 1 ambition was to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Fate would steer Gerald Ford down an entirely different path.

As president, he told us that “our long national nightmare is over.” Richard Nixon was flying off to private life in California as President Ford took the reins of power.

And as the new president told us, “Our Constitution works.”

Indeed it does.

I harbor deep reservations and concern about whether the new president is up to the job he is about to assume.

However, I take comfort in the words that an earlier president, Gerald Ford, delivered as we sought to recover from a constitutional crisis the likes of which the nation had never before endured.

We certainly did recover. Whatever missteps the new president makes as he begins his term, I remain confident that our Constitution will continue to work just as our founders intended.

You have to keep the faith.