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Thread: Remembering President Ford
12-29-06, 07:35 AM #1
Remembering President Ford
REMEMBERING PRESIDENT FORD
Quiet desert burg gets ready to pay respects
Preparations by the military and Secret Service spark curiosity -- and a false alarm.
By Jonathan Abrams and Ashley Powers, Times Staff Writers
December 29, 2006
PALM DESERT — As they prepared to act as hosts during the first official memorial for Gerald R. Ford, residents of Palm Desert took their cue Thursday from the unassuming style of the 38th president — stepping aside as the military and Secret Service swept in to handle the funeral procession.
A trickle of curious and reverential onlookers gathered Thursday on the fringes of sun-washed St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, watching the military Guard of Honor rehearse. The church is where the Ford family will gather for a private prayer service today. A crush of TV satellite trucks filled two nearby residential streets.
By late afternoon, traffic slowed to a crawl in front of the church as Riverside County sheriff's deputies tried to keep the cars moving.
Jan Taylor-Booth of Palm Springs said she hoped crowds wouldn't overwhelm the usually tranquil desert town. Most locals would give the Ford family time to grieve in private, she said.
"It's a very low-key area; you really don't want to see a lot of high exposure," Taylor-Booth said. "When a man is president, a lot of people are going to come out, but there needs to be some kind of privacy for the family and the city." Ford died Tuesday at age 93.
Executing a plan that has been in place for two decades, nearly 500 military officials converged on the Palm Desert area to begin rehearsing the procession and securing the area for the public viewing, which will begin about 4 p.m. at St. Margaret's and last until about 8 a.m. Saturday.
Marines from the nearby Twentynine Palms base are the official hosts for the area's events, and every facet of the agenda has been scripted in minute detail with considerable input from the Ford family, said John M. Spann, a Defense Department spokesman.
After leaving the White House, Ford and his wife, Betty, retired to the desert community of Rancho Mirage in 1977, where he was a frequent fixture on the golf course. The couple immersed themselves in raising money for local charities and institutions — most notably the Betty Ford Center, which she opened after struggling with her own substance abuse problems.
When they were not at their other home in Colorado, the couple frequently attended St. Margaret's, a beige church of modern design with tall windows looking out on the mountains ringing the community.
Shortly after Ford's casket arrives, about midday, the family will gather for the private prayer service. After that, the family will hold a private visitation for friends and guests.
For security, officials have closed off a section of Highway 74 near the church until 11 a.m. Saturday.
Those who wish to attend the repose must take shuttle buses from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells and will not be permitted to bring any bags or personal belongings to the church.
The Rev. Robert Certain, a close friend of the Fords who will preside over the family prayer service, said he had turned away dozens of would-be volunteers.
"We're trying to stay out of the way," Certain said. "This is a national event, and the military and Secret Service is handling everything."
After the public repose, Ford's casket will be taken to Palm Springs International Airport at 9:45 a.m. Saturday for a brief ceremony before being flown to Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington, D.C.
Ford will be honored at a state funeral Saturday evening at the Capitol, where his body will lie in state in the Rotunda on Sunday and Monday. Funerals will also be held at the National Cathedral in Washington on Tuesday and on Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Mich., Ford's hometown. He will be laid to rest on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.
Rehearsals in the early afternoon caused considerable confusion when sleek, black sedans leading a hearse with a flag-draped casket circled St. Margaret's and were met by a military band and the Guard of Honor. A number of passersby jumped out of their cars thinking the real ceremonies had begun.
Among them was 62-year-old Gary Hanson, who spent the last two decades living 1 1/2 miles from Ford — always hoping he would catch a glimpse of him.
The closest he got was hanging the ornate wallpaper in the private dining room of the Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, where Ford spent much of his time.
Jay Trubee, owner of Jillian's restaurant, fondly recalled that Ford would stop in several times a month to order Lake Superior whitefish.
He said with a chuckle that no matter how hard he tried, he could rarely persuade the former president to order anything other than the whitefish — even after Trubee gave him the recipe to try it at home.
"He said in order to get the real thing, you have to come to the source," Trubee said.
Times staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.
Members of the public are invited to pay respects to former President Ford during the public repose at St. Margaret's Church in Palm Desert today and throughout the night.
Public visitation for Ford will begin at about 4:20 p.m. and last until early Saturday morning.
• Visitors will not be permitted to drive to the church and must ride free shuttles from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells. Shuttle service will run from 4:15 p.m. today until 7 a.m. Saturday.
• Visitors are not permitted to bring flowers, gifts, cameras, cellphones, purses, backpacks, bags or water bottles on the shuttles or to the church.
• Entry to the tennis facility, at 78200 Miles Ave., will be limited to the entrance on Fred Waring Drive near the Southwest Community Church or the Washington Avenue entrance. Miles Avenue will be closed to public traffic at noon today.
• For recorded information about shuttles, call the tennis center at (760) 200-8400. For maps and directions go to www.iwtg.net/faq .
Source: Los Angeles Times
12-29-06, 07:42 AM #2
Military guard, band rehearse for services
BY JEFF WILSON, Associated Press
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:
PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP)— Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and florists prepared Thursday for the first memorial ceremonies honoring former President Gerald R. Ford.
A military honor guard and band rehearsed crisp rituals at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, where Ford's family will have a private prayer service today Fridaybefore a public visitation lasting into Saturday.
The nation's 38th chief executive, who died Tuesday at age 93, and his wife, Betty, had worshipped at St. Margaret's since they moved from Washington, D.C., to the California desert in 1977.
Church staff in a golf cart tooled around the grounds of the church, a soaring modern structure surrounded by low ranch-style administrative buildings. An oil portrait of Ford dropped off by a local artist had been placed in the church foyer, where it seemed to gaze over the rehearsals.
Florists brought in with an organizing team from Washington worked in a kitchen next door arranging piles of white stargazer lilies, calla lilies and orchids flown in from Houston. A local florist who works with the church pulled up and unloaded arrangements of red and white roses accented with blue flowers.
About 100 representatives from all branches of the military were present to take part in the honor guard, said Betsy Judge, a retired Marine Corps officer acting as spokeswoman for the contingent.
More service members were at the Palm Springs airport rehearsing a departure ceremony, Judge said. On Saturday, Ford's body will be flown to Washington for ceremonies before continuing to Grand Rapids, Mich., to be entombed at his presidential museum next week.
Uniformed pallbearers practiced walking up and down the short flight of steps in front of the church, miming carrying a casket until a black Cadillac hearse pulled up with an empty flag-draped casket that they used as a stand-in. The procedure was repeated over and over.
"They will rehearse for precision — the precision that is deserved for a commander-in-chief," said Marine spokeswoman Lt. Christy Kercheval. "What people will see is your military paying respects to a commander-in-chief."
A soldier and a sailor holding 10-foot ebony staffs that will fly the American flag and the presidential seal carefully measured the height of the church's portico to make sure they could clear the ceiling.
In a recreation room next door to the main church building, a uniformed brass band from the Twentynine Palms Marine base rehearsed "Hail to the Chief."
The ceremony was specifically crafted to reflect Ford's naval service, said Barbara Owens, a spokeswoman for military organizers. A sailor was deputized to carry the presidential seal.
Some of the service members who flew in from Washington participated in former President Reagan's 2004 funeral, Owens said.
"Precision is key here," Owens said as the pallbearers walked in formation outside the church. "These men have not walked up these steps before, and they have to think of everything." "It's windy — what do they do if their hats fly off? What's the angle of the sun going to be? Will the sun be in their eyes?"
Owens said most of the uniform caps had chin straps that would keep them on even in gusts. Desert winds blew dust and palm fronds through the streets around the church Thursday.
Church officials planned to have eight ushers on duty at all times for the public repose, said Rev. Daniel Rondeau, associate rector.
A local Boy Scout troop will provide 30 Scouts ranging in age from 13 to 18 to help corral an expected 6,000 visitors to the church. Ford, an Eagle Scout, was Scout master emeritus of the troop.
"They'll get a community service badge, but for the kids it's a chance to be part of history," said troop leader Gary W. Johnson, who is also a member of St. Margaret's. "Kids are coming back from their vacations to do this."
Members of the public will be shuttled to the church on buses from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden a few miles away. No cameras, cell phones or personal items will be allowed on the buses. Mourners will be allowed in until about 8 a.m. Saturday.
The casket will then be taken by motorcade 10 miles to the airport. President Bush sent a Boeing 747 from the presidential fleet to carry the casket and the Ford family to Washington.
During a break in rehearsals, a dozen area residents rushed over to the hearse to snap photos.
"It's history," said Stacey Cannon, 43, of La Quinta. "I'm a fan of the Fords. This was real sad. I figure I will never see something like this again in my lifetime."
Associated Press Writer Allison Hoffman contributed to this report.
12-29-06, 08:45 AM #3
By Jeremy Lott
Published 12/29/2006 12:08:51 AM
Most obituarists portrayed President Gerald Ford as a humble man with few ambitions, a great conciliator, a political moderate, an all around nice guy. They may have the "nice guy" part right but the rest is pure hokum.
Ford's genius was in knowing that Americans will take people at their own self-description. In his vice presidential confirmation hearings, the Michigan congressman promised to be "a ready conciliator between the White House and Capitol Hill." He described himself alternately as a moderate, a fiscal conservative, and an internationalist to anybody who would listen. He was also for ice cream and against needless human suffering.
But beneath the soft talk, goofy grin, and crazy tie beat the heart of a relentless partisan with ambition to burn. That many of his decisions have been used to argue for a Picasso-like portrait of the man simply goes to prove that the past is a different country -- the Seventies doubly so.
Ford is said to have been humble and lacking in ambition because he had the presidency thrust on him. His wife has let it be known that she didn't want him to accept it. She wanted him to run for one more term in his district, his thirteenth, then retire. Ford's self-effacing humor is thrown in as the clincher: Didn't he claim to be "a Ford, not a Lincoln" in his acceptance speech?
So what? Self-effacing humor is the least risky kind as long as it's used in moderation. Speechwriters routinely put a few light barbs into politicians' mouths in order to take the sting out of more serious criticisms. If Ford was humble, he was humble like a fox.
As for ambition, it's possible that Mrs. Ford would have prevailed on her husband to retire, but (a) that's not what happened, and (b) one does not rise to the post of Minority Leader through self-renunciation. Moreover, here is one huge problem with portrayals of Ford as reluctant president: He ran for reelection in 1976.
Movement conservatives tend to view that campaign through the lens of Ronald Reagan's primary challenge and Ford's disastrous foreign policy answers during the presidential debates. They see Ford as the last gasp of the old Republican establishment -- a man so clueless that he picked Nelson Rockefeller as vice president, so inarticulate that he lost a debate to Jimmy Carter, so stubborn that he wouldn't bow out of the race in favor of a superior candidate.
There is another way to look at it that doesn't read nearly so much of the present into the past. During his legislative career, Ford was a dealmaker but he was also a partisan. He led the doomed fight against LBJ's Great Society programs and he was involved in the effort to impeach Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. He may have been a nice guy but he was also a fighter.
Ford accepted the vice presidency after Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace and then gave speech after speech in defense of President Nixon. His rationale for the blanket pardon of Nixon was dressed up in the language of national healing -- and I've no reason to doubt that Ford believed this -- but it was also meant to stop the slow bleed of support for the Republican Party.
It didn't work. In the '74 midterm elections, Republicans lost 49 seats in the House -- one for each state Nixon had carried two years earlier -- and several in the Senate. It ushered in arguably the most radical Congress since the Republican Congresses of the Civil War period.
Ford did what he could to limit the damage, starting with a vigorous use of the veto power. In eight years, President Reagan would rack up 78 vetoes; Ford managed to send 66 bills back to Congress in just two-and-a-half years, and cobbled together a large enough coalition to uphold most of those vetoes. His initial refusal to bail New York City out of its financial mess led to the famous New York Times headline "Ford, Castigating City, Asserts He'd Veto Fund Guarantee; Offers Bankruptcy Bill."
Then Ford won a hard fight for his party's nomination and ran a bruising laryngitis-wracked campaign for the presidency. He closed a huge gap to put him within a few thousand votes of being returned to the White House. It was the only election he ever lost.
12-29-06, 09:21 AM #4
Ford Without Tears
He was a decent man, and that was just what the country needed.
Friday, December 29, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
One of the greatest things about Gerald Ford as a former president was that he didn't say much. He had no need for the spotlight. He was modest in the old-fashioned way of stepping aside and not getting in the way of the new guy.
He kept a lot to himself. This was in part because he had a self to leave it to.
It must have taken some effort. The man who replaced him, Jimmy Carter, was a kind of non-Ford, offering personal goodness as his main calling card. He carried his own garment bag. He was not imperial. He was awfully proud of his humility. The man who followed him, Ronald Reagan, differed from Ford not so much characterologically as politically, and his success might have grated on his old foe. But it doesn't seem to have. Ford seemed happy when things turned out well for America. That was apparently his primary interest.
He seemed lacking in vanity. There is no evidence that he was obsessed with his legacy. He didn't worry and fret about whether history would fully capture and proclaim his excellence, and because of this he didn't always have to run around proving he was right. He just did his best and kept walking. What a grown-up thing to do. Former, current and future presidents would do well to ponder this approach. History would treat them more kindly. The legacy of a man who spends his time worrying about his legacy is always: He worried about his legacy.
Now we know Ford was not silent but discrete. He granted an interview with Bob Woodward in July 2004, to be released posthumously, in which he shared his views. Mr. Woodward reports Ford told him he would not have gone to war in Iraq based on the public information available at the time. "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."
This is the authentic voice of the American foreign-policy establishment, and it reminds me, among other things, that establishments are not all bad. They rise for a reason. One is an ability to apprehend reality.
By speaking posthumously, Ford gave his words greater weight. He did not insert himself into the current debate, and because he wasn't in the fight he had nothing to gain or lose, no position to defend or attack. And so he could tell the truth as he saw it.
It is not clear who will speak at his funeral, but it is now unfortunately common practice for politicians to see every eulogy as an opportunity. Invited to reflect on biography, they tend to smuggle in as much autobiography as they can, and advance their personal agendas. If Bill Clinton speaks, one suspects he will laud Ford's personal tolerance. The text: This was a man who did not judge others. The subtext: He wouldn't have voted to impeach me! If George W. Bush speaks he will likely laud Ford as an exemplar of the old bipartisanship. In this way he will attempt to confer the bipartisan mantle on himself. And so on. I don't suppose this is terribly harmful, but it often gives short shrift to the departed. Still, Gerald Ford, a practical man who enjoyed the hit and tackle of politics, would have understood. Would have chuckled, in fact.
There are three points about Ford that I'm not sure can ever be sufficiently appreciated.
The first is that when he pardoned Richard Nixon, he threw himself on a grenade to protect the country from shame, from going too far. It was an act of deep political courage, and it was shocking. Almost everyone in the country hated it, including me. But Ford was right. Richard Nixon had been ruined, forced to resign, run out of town on a rail. There was nothing to be gained--nothing--by his being broken on the dock. What was then the new left would never forgive Ford. They should thank him on their knees that he deprived history of proof that what they called their idealism was not untinged by sadism.
Second, Ford's personal dignity--his plain Midwestern rectitude, his old-style, pipe-smoking American normality, and his characterological absence of bile, spite and malice--helped the nation over and through the great tearing of the fabric that was Watergate. This is often referred to, and yet it is hard to communicate what a relief it was. Whether right or wrong, hopeless or wise, a normal man was in charge. This was a balm, a real gift to the country.
Third, he did not understand, and so was undone by, the rise of the modern conservative movement. He did not understand the prairie fire signaled by the California tax revolt, and did not see it roaring east. He did not fully understand how offended the American public was by endless government spending and expanding federal power. He did not see the growing estrangement between Republicans on the ground and a leadership they saw as tax collectors for the welfare state. He did not fully appreciate the public desire for a fresher, more candid attitude toward the Soviet Union, and communism in general. He was not at all alive to what would prove to be deep national qualms about abortion. He was not aware of its ability to alarm, to waken the sleepy Evangelicals of the South and the urban ethnics of the North, who'd previously been content to go with the Democratic flow. Ford was oblivious to this. He thought in his own stolid way that abortion was pretty much an extension of the new feminist movement, which he supported. How could a gallant fella not?
In all this he proved that it is not enough in politics to be good. You have to have vision. You have to be able to see. If you can't, they can tell, and they'll retire you.
Which Republicans almost did in the great Ford-Reagan primary of 1976, and the electorate did later that fall.
And yet. This must be said and should be said. He was a good man, and that's not nothing--it's something. Gerald Ford fought for his country. He didn't indulge his angers and appetites. He seems to have thought, in the end, that such indulgence was for sissies--it wasn't manly. He was sober-minded, solid, respecting and deserving of respect. And at that terrible time, after Watergate, he picked up the pieces and then threw himself on the grenade.
We were lucky to have him. We were really lucky to have him. Rest in peace.
12-29-06, 09:35 AM #5
Death Does Wonders for Legacy
Death Does Wonders for Legacy
by Michael Reagan
Posted Dec 29, 2006
Saddam Hussein is a lucky man -- in no time at all he can expect to have his reputation vastly improved. And he can thank the hangman who awaits him on the gallows.
Prior to that moment when he breathes his last, his reputation will be in shreds. He has, rightly, been seen as a monster. The mere act of his dying, however, will enable his supporters to smooth over his role in those troublesome times when he was slaughtering his own people by the hundreds of thousands.
If you doubt that scenario, consider what we are now witnessing with the death of former President Gerald R. Ford. After his pardon of Richard Nixon in September 1974, you would have had to hire a private detective to find anyone who did not consider him a scoundrel for pardoning the hated Nixon, whose foes would have been satisfied only if Nixon had been utterly humiliated, tried, found guilty and sent to prison for life.
Ford robbed them of that satisfaction and they never forgave him, but his foes did take great pleasure out of observing that the pardon was the reason why Gerald Ford lost the presidency in 1976.
His name was mud, yet by dying he rehabilitated himself. All those hypocrites who cast him out into the outer darkness for daring to show compassion to his predecessor -- thereby saving the nation from the years-long ordeal prosecution of Nixon would have involved -- now heap praise on him.
Fordís pardon was greeted by a firestorm of criticism, threats were leveled against him, and he was accused of making a shady deal with Tricky Dick to swap a pardon for the presidency. All the hatred and bile the left had for Nixon was then aimed at Ford.
His popularity ratings, sky-high when he took the oath of office, plummeted. He never recovered from the debacle he unleashed with the pardon. And he was driven out of the White House to be replaced by Jimmy Carter, who would become arguably the worst president in American history yet go himself into the honored retirement denied Gerald Ford.
Like most of his Democratic colleagues, Massachusetts Senator Teddy Kennedy was appalled by the pardon, calling it "a betrayal of the public trust."
Unlike most of his Democratic colleagues, however, Kennedy softened and didnít wait until Ford was dead to praise him for what the pardon had done for the nation. At the 2001 Profile of Courage award ceremony honoring Ford, Kennedy said: "We now recognize that Ford was there when the country needed him. He was calm and steady at a time of emotional upheaval and disillusionment. When he said our long national nightmare was over, the country breathed a sigh of relief. He was an uncommonly good and decent man."
In dying, Ford erased all those negative comments and the people who slandered and reviled him came rushing to the microphones to heap praise on him for issuing the pardon they had so vigorously condemned.
Think about the lesson Fordís death teaches. Once a pariah, he now gets the ďde mortuis nil nisi bonumĒ treatment (of the dead speak only good).
Moreover, he is to be further honored by a book by Bob Woodward who, contrary to his usual practice, interviewed him while he was still alive and conscious. Ford, he is said to be ready to reveal, opposed the Iraq war but didnít want anybody to know it until he was gone.
Getting back to what all this means to the soon-to-be-dead Saddam Hussein, if the obits are anything like the ones Gerald Ford earned by passing away, we can expect to be told that after all, Saddam did clean up the mess he inherited in Iraq, and keep order and prevent the population from butchering each other by taking on that job himself.
He introduced law and order, and kept the peace, although in not quite the same way Rudy Giuliani cleaned up New York City. Giuliani, after all, left no unmarked mass graves scattered around New York.
But hey, Saddam got results even we havenít been able to achieve, and as a result the Iraqis have now taken on the job of reducing the population without any help from the government.
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