Tag Archives: Gerald Ford

Constitution still works

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Over the life of this blog I have occasionally invoked the words of someone I consider to be one of the 20th century’s more underrated statesmen.

President Gerald Ford took office on Aug. 9, 1974 at the end of what at the time was thought to be the nation’s worst constitutional crisis. President Richard Nixon had resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal and coverup.

President Ford took his oath of office and declared, “Our Constitution works.” Yes! It most certainly did then. It does now.

We are watching another crisis unfold before our eyes. I am going to stand foursquare behind the nobility of our nation’s founding governing document. It is working now. It will see us through this horrifying mess.

Donald Trump is 11 days from exiting the presidency. He incited a riot this week that could have resulted in the destruction of our democratic form of government. Five people died in the melee on Capitol Hill, which is where Congress was gathering in real time to perform a constitutional duty: ratification of the Electoral College vote that declared Joe Biden and Kamala Harris president and vice president of the United States.

Trump would not accept the voters’ verdict. He egged on the mob gathered before him to in effect storm the Capitol and stop the ratification. The rioters ransacked the Capitol Building. They occupied offices. They pranced through the Senate and House chambers while our elected representatives were holed up in safe places to avoid being harmed by the insurrectionists. Five people, including a D.C. police officer, died in the mayhem.

Our Constitution will work yet again. The House is considering whether to impeach Donald Trump once again. Pressure is mounting on the Cabinet and Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president who is incapable of doing his job.

Donald Trump is incapable of doing a job for which he is patently and demonstrably unfit.

And in just 11 days, Donald Trump — one way or another — will be gone from that office. President Biden and Vice President Harris will take over. The task of rebuilding and repairing our government will commence. It will take time and patience to restore order to this government of ours, which is both fragile and sturdy all at once.

President Ford stated it with profound wisdom in that earlier dark time in our history.

Our Constitution works.

Democracy: big winner of 2020 election

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s set aside — if we can — the idiotic challenges that Donald Trump continues to mount against our electoral system.

I want to declare that the big winner of the 2020 election was none other than democracy itself. I continue to watch the straggler votes being counted and am utterly amazed at the huge numbers being rung up by the vote counters.

Nationally, more than 157 million ballots were cast. President-elect Joe Biden captured 51.2 percent of them; Donald Trump collected 46.9 percent. Biden’s vote total is nearly 81 million ballots; Trump has collected more than 74 million. Trump can claim some sort of “moral” victory (although “moral” is a word I usually do not associate with Trump) in knowing he has the second-greatest vote total in U.S. history.

Why are these numbers so staggering? Because they came while the nation is suffering through a massive pandemic that has killed more than 270,000 Americans.

Politicians urged us to vote. The call came mostly from Democrats who wanted to ensure that Americans used their constitutional right. They encouraged us to vote early if possible. My wife and I voted on the first day of early voting in Texas. We were glad to do so.

Democracy came out the big winner. Our democratic process has survived. I am confident it will survive this farcical attempt by Trump to overturn the clear and decisive result that we all delivered on Election Day. It might take some time for democracy to recover from the wounds that Trump has inflicted by sowing all this doubt into the integrity of our democratic system … but it will. Of that I am supremely confident.

President Ford told us on the day he took office that “our Constitution works.” It has shown us yet again — in the midst of a deadly pandemic — that it remains resilient, sturdy and strong.

Would he dare skip the inaugural?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Given that Donald Trump has exhibited a seemingly bottomless pit of boorishness, I cannot get the following thought out of my mind.

Just suppose Joe Biden is elected the nation’s 46th president. Is it possible that the 45th president would skip the inaugural in a demonstration of maximum pique and petulance?

Trump keeps yammering about a “rigged election” in the event of a Biden victory. I cannot stop thinking about whether he truly believes it and whether he would be act on that belief by not showing up for the ceremonial transfer of power from one president to the next.

I mean, the Constitution doesn’t require the outgoing president to sit there and listen to the new one offer a grand vision of what he intends to do.

Moreover, it wouldn’t be an unprecedented act. President John Quincy Adams didn’t attend the inaugural for the man who beat him, President Andrew Jackson. But geez, that was in 1829! It was a bitter campaign and I guess Adams never got over the mean things Jackson said about him.

Other campaigns have produced plenty of bitterness. I recall the 1977 inaugural of President Carter, who in his opening remarks to the crowd, thanked President Ford for all he had done to “heal our land” after Watergate. That was a tough race, too. The men became fast friends for the remainder of President Ford’s life.

Donald Trump, though, harbors the deepest, meanest, most authentic sense of personal animus of anyone I’ve ever witnessed.

I will not predict such a thing from occurring, but merely am saying that should Joe Biden become President Biden, I wouldn’t be surprised to witness the ceremony occurring without Donald Trump anywhere to be seen … or (thankfully) heard.

Concern over Trump turns to fear

My concern over the horrifying possibility of Donald Trump being re-elected to a second term as president of the United States is giving way to outright dread.

I fear for the country. And for the system of government that the Nitwit in Chief has co-opted.

Having been impeached by the House of Representatives and then having been acquitted by the Senate in a sham trial, Trump already has wielded some of the ill-gotten political capital he was able acquire. Trump continues to issue executive orders doing away with regulations approved during the Obama administration. He continues to bully his foes and continues to threaten to do things that flout constitutional norms.

So then the question for me becomes: What will this idiot do during a second term? There can be no way to predict anything when it involves this clown.

Consider his reaction to the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and the uproar it has produced in cities all across the land. What will happen if the demonstrations continue? What might the Control Freak in Chief do if he deems that all those protests — even those of the peaceful variety — are more than he can bear to witness?

The bullsh** he touts about sending in “heavily armed” troops to quell protests is scary in the extreme. How many more general grade officers will stride down the path blazed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, or former White House chief of staff John Kelly, or former Special Operations Commander Admiral William McRaven? They all have told us how they fear what Donald Trump will do, how he seeks actively to divide the nation, how he ignores constitutional principles.

I long have held out hope that our Constitution would protect us from presidential predilections. Gerald Ford told us in August 1974 that “our Constitution works” as he assumed the presidency in a time of dire peril for the nation. I was a young whipper-snapper then, full of political piss and vinegar. The trial and turmoil we’re experiencing these days seems different to me now that I am so much older.

However, I am clinging to the hope that the Constitution that worked so well during that earlier crisis will continue to do its job … even as the current presidential fraud seeks to inflict grievous damage.

It is a frightening spectacle to watch. Oh, how I want this upcoming election to produce the desired result.

The ‘carnage,’ Mr. POTUS?

Presidential inaugurals often produce  signature lines.

Franklin Roosevelt told us the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; John F. Kennedy implored the nation to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”;  Gerald R. Ford — the nation’s only unelected president — told us “our long national nightmare is over.”

Donald John Trump’s signature line? “The American carnage stops right now.”

Well, dude, it hasn’t stopped. Yeah, he was referring to crime … but that hasn’t abated, either. The new “American carnage” came to us via the coronavirus pandemic. OK, he didn’t cause it. His dawdling, dithering and delay in acting initially to it has resulted in tens of thousands of more deaths than it otherwise might have produced had the president acted decisively at the front end of the pandemic.

But he didn’t.

Thus, the American carnage he vowed to stop only has worsened on his watch.

The pandemic continues to rampage across the land. It is producing greater rates of infection and death in many communities, all while the president continues to push state and local governments to speed up the reopening of the economy that has stalled because of the pandemic.

It ain’t working, Mr. President. I will just chalk this “American carnage will end” pledge to be another broken promise.

‘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.