December 30, 2006
THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT REQUIRES WE ASSUME HE WAS JUST IN WAY OVER HIS HEAD:
Our Short National Nightmare: How President Ford managed to go soft on Iraqi Baathists, Indonesian fascists, Soviet Communists, and the shah â€¦ in just two years. (Christopher Hitchens, Dec. 29, 2006, Slate)
One expects a certain amount of piety and hypocrisy when retired statesmen give up the ghost, but this doesn't excuse the astonishing number of omissions and misstatements that have characterized the sickly national farewell to Gerald Ford. One could graze for hours on the great slopes of the massive obituaries and never guess that during his mercifully brief occupation of the White House, this president had:
1. Disgraced the United States in Iraq and inaugurated a long period of calamitous misjudgment of that country.
2. Colluded with the Indonesian dictatorship in a gross violation of international law that led to a near-genocide in East Timor.
3. Delivered a resounding snub to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at the time when the Soviet dissident movement was in the greatest need of solidarity. [...]
Ford's refusal to meet with Solzhenitsyn, when the great dissident historian came to America, was consistent with his general style of making excuses for power. As Timothy Noah has suggested lately, there seems to have been a confusion in Ford's mind as to whether the Helsinki Treaty was intended to stabilize, recognize, or challenge the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. However that may be, the great moral component of the Helsinki agreementâ€”that it placed the United States on the side of the repressed populationsâ€”was ridiculed by Ford's repudiation of Solzhenitsyn, as well as by his later fatuities on the nature of Soviet domination. To have been soft on Republican crime, soft on Baathism, soft on the shah, soft on Indonesian fascism, and soft on Communism, all in one brief and transient presidency, argues for the sort of sportsmanlike Midwestern geniality that we do not ever need to see again.
Finally to the Mayaguez. Ford did not dispatch forces to "rescue" the vessel, as so many of his obituarists have claimed. He ordered an attack on the Cambodian island of Koh Tang, several hours after the crew of the ship had actually been released. A subsequent congressional inquiry discovered that he, and Henry Kissinger, could have discovered as much by monitoring Cambodian radio and contacting foreign diplomats.
The posthumously published interviews making the rounds, where Mr. Ford shared his view that the Iraqi people should not have been liberated, are a fitting epitaph for a guy who didn't think the Poles should be either. Posted by Orrin Judd at December 30, 2006 4:57 PM