Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Lesson from the Ford Presidency

The WSJ has a fine piece on President Ford's legacy in today's WSJ which is available free at  It's a balanced account of a presidency at a rather difficult time in our history.

One point in the piece struck me.  An excerpt:

Congress had trampled over a weakened Nixon, and another Ford contribution was restoring some measure of executive authority. Far more than Nixon, he used his veto pen (66 times in 895 days), blunting liberal excesses after Democrats picked up 46 House seats in 1974. He also deserves credit for resisting the isolationism that was rampant as the Vietnam War wound down. It was a rare period in postwar U.S. history when the public favored spending less on defense.

Democrats exploited the mood in early 1975 to block Ford's funding request for our allies in South Vietnam, as the North began its offensive. Ford pleaded with Congress that "American unwillingness to provide adequate assistance to allies fighting for their lives could seriously affect our credibility throughout the world as an ally," but to no avail. Saigon fell by April, and the boat people and massacres in Southeast Asia soon followed. Thus one irony of this week's praise for Ford as a unifying President: At the time, he was mocked as clumsy and dull, and he was vilified for blocking Congressional priorities. Any of this sound familiar?

Vietnam was a scarring American defeat, but it could have been worse had Ford capitulated to the Congressional stampede. Instead, he fortified U.S. relations with the rest of free Asia, and he sent in the Marines despite liberal howls when the U.S. ship the Mayaguez was taken hostage by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.

But, read the whole thing.

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