Not long after he became president, Gerald Goddamned Ford took a vacation to Vail, Colorado, for some skiing. According to the book Presidential Anecdotes, while the Ford family ate dinner, one of their dogs took a shit in the lodge. An attendant ran over with a rag to clean up the dog shit. Ford intercepted the attendant, took the rag from him, and reportedly said, "No man should have to clean up after another man's dog." Then Ford cleaned up his own dog's shit from the floor.
It's no Gettysburg Address, of course, and it's ironic, too, considering that Ford spent his whole White House career trying to clean up other people's shit, but it's typical Ford: At first, it makes you think he's a great guy, but then you realize he's just a schlub, running to and fro with a shit-stained rag, unaware or, worse, uncaring of his place in history.
Gerald Ford died on Tuesday, December 26, 2006. He was 93 years old. Gerald Goddamned Ford was a virtual treasure trove of oddball presidential trivia: the only president who never won an election for president or vice president; the only president who survived two assassination attempts made by women (Squeaky Fromme, a Charles Manson acolyte, and Sara Jane Moore, obsessed with Patty Hearst); the only president who was often referred to by the media as a "Boy Scout" and "Mr. Nice Guy."
Born Leslie Lynch King Jr. on July 14, 1913, Gerald Goddamned Ford renamed himself after his stepfather and quickly proved to be the kind of man who rises to the top through no fault of his own. He had his talents—he was a star football player at University of Michigan and fought with the navy in World War II—but even he probably couldn't believe his luck when he was elected to Congress and stayed there for nearly a quarter century, somehow getting elected minority leader on his nice-guy merits. President Lyndon Johnson was befuddled by Ford's rise to power, famously saying that Gerald Goddamned Ford "is so dumb he can't walk and fart at the same time." His congressional career is most notable for his time served on the now infamous Warren Commission.
When Richard Nixon's vice president Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace, Ford was nominated precisely because he seemed innocuous. Compared to the dark and brooding Nixon, Ford seemed like a golden boy.
The first month of Gerald Goddamned Ford's presidency, as detailed in Barry Werth's recent book 31 Days, turned out to be one of the biggest disasters in American history. Ford failed the one mission that mattered: not pardoning Richard Nixon. The only thing he had to do to come out of the presidency with a legacy was not pardon Richard Nixon. It took Ford a month to fuck that up, and he dared to announce, "Our long national nightmare is over."
That's bullshit, and we'll get to precisely why in a moment. First, it has to be said that the stench of Gerald Goddamned Ford, the presidential shitrag, lingers in the White House to this day. Though he opted to not nominate the odious George H. W. Bush as his vice president, choosing instead Nelson Rockefeller, Ford hired men whose names we're still living with today: Dick Cheney replaced Donald Rumsfeld as chief of staff after Ford named Rumsfeld secretary of defense
In the week since Ford's death, a 2004 interview with Bob Woodward was released—so like a company man he saved his controversial opinions until he couldn't be held responsible for them—in which Gerald Goddamned Ford said negative things about the current administration's war in Iraq. He even acknowledged the monster he'd created, referring to Cheney as more "pugnacious" than the man he'd hired.
Today, the newspapers swoon over how Gerald Goddamned Ford saved America from the "long national nightmare" of Watergate, many of them using Ted Goddamned Kennedy's regrettable 2001 quote: "Time has a way of clarifying past events," Teddy said, "and now we see that President Ford was right."
This, of course, is bullshit. What Gerald Ford saved us from was a nation where Richard Nixon went to jail, a nation where politicians would have to face legal consequences for their actions, a nation where politicians are responsible to people who voted for them. What Gerald Goddamned Ford, who the country never voted for, gave to America, is the wave of cynicism that has dominated politics and ensured wave after wave of ever-worsening Republican presidents, preying on our basest fears.
Our long national nightmare didn't end with Ford. It began with him.