December 29, 2006


"The President's Watching. Let's Make Him Cringe And Squirm." (Ed Driscoll, December 29, 2006,

While late-1960s milestones such as Walter Cronkite's calling the Tet Offensive an American loss, and Hollywood's shift towards nihilistic movies such as Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy were considered the early signs of a culture war between what was then called "the new left" and mainstream America, a significant moment also occurred on April 17th, 1976, when Ron Nessen, President Ford's press secretary, appeared on an episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, during the show's first season, to attempt to show that the Ford Administration had a sense of humor about itself, and the ribbing that SNL's Chevy Chase gave Ford about his occasional stumbles.

Nessen's appearance, along with a videotaped cameo of Ford saying, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night", marked perhaps the last time that most Republicans in office would ever fully trust the mainstream media. And even then, Nessen was concerned about being set-up by the show. What he didn't know was that the SNL production team had conceived a strategy of feinting left and running right, to paraphrase one of the show's then-writers, so that the sketches that Nessen appeared in were relatively tame. It was the rest of the show that was deliberately raunchy and over the top, even for SNL. Because, as Rosie Shuster, another of the show's writers, remarked, "The President's watching. Let's make him cringe and squirm."

If he'd had any sense Mr. Ford would have nudged his way onto a couple football telecasts, the way Ronald Reagan snagged an All-Star game. the Ford people even gave much of the credit for his comeback against Jimmy Carter to a series of political ads where he chatted with Joe Garagiola,

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 29, 2006 6:05 PM

Woody Hayes blamed himself for the Carter presidency. He considered taking a year off from coaching Ohio State to work on the Ford campaign, but didn't do it. Afterwards, he thought that he could have swung Ohio and Wisconsin from Carter to Ford and made the difference.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at December 29, 2006 7:11 PM

Could Reagan have been elected w/o a Carter presidency?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 29, 2006 8:04 PM

Much as we love him, it does seem likely that Reagan would have lost to Carter had he knocked off Ford in '76.

Posted by: oj at December 31, 2006 9:23 AM