THE PLANK DECEMBER 30, 2006
Over at The Atlantic's website, Robert D. Kaplan has a short piece arguing that, in his words, "Ford has been our greatest contemporary ex-president." More Kaplan:
The fact that Ford embargoed, until after his death, an interview he gave Washington Post writer Bob Woodward in 2004 is further proof of his estimable reticence. While his displeasure at President George W. Bush's Iraqi policy was real, he seems to have had mixed feelings about publicly airing them. He had to have known that once deceased, he would not be able to go on television or issue statements, clarifying or embellishing, according to the news cycle, what he had told Woodward. He knew that he would be stuck with what he said. That's character.
Why is this a sign of character? He could have issued a statement two years ago (which is when he spoke to Woodward), and then simply left it at that. Or he could have answered questions on the subject by repeating what he had already said. Kaplan writes as if the former president would not have had the power to stick by his statement were he still alive. As for Ford's funeral, and Vice President Cheney's laudatory words (seconded by every talking head the cable news networks could find) on the Nixon pardon ... well, it would be nice if somebody (anybody!) could explain what would have been so bad about prosecuting a president who broke the law. If our "healing" had been delayed by two years, what would the detrimental effect actually have been? Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger prolonged an awful war, bombed Cambodia, and used thuggish tactics against their domestic opponents (did these things not create "division"?). But, Nixon has now been "reevaluated", Kissinger is an elder statesman, and Ford is praised for helping our country through a difficult time. Maybe if we were a little harder on those who were actually dividing our country (much less ripping other countries apart), we wouldn't need to be so easy on those who supposedly unite us once the smoke clears. --Isaac Chotiner