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Ford’s Legacy Lives On


In mourning the loss of former President Gerald R. Ford, the obituary writers are, of course, gravitating to the heart-warming story of how the humble Congressman from Michigan healed the nation after the Watergate scandal and restored our confidence in government. But in the longer course of history President Ford should be remembered not just for what he did in office but for the legacy he forged while there, a legacy that’s part of the current White House.

President Ford’s brief tenure in office was by and large unremarkable. But those he brought in to work on his team have changed the course of history. That’s not a trivial accomplishment. When George W. Bush first sought the Presidency in 2000, he attempted to quell fears that he may not be qualified or intelligent enough for the job by comparing himself to Ronald Reagan as a manager. A good manager, Bush said, would find the best people, surround himself with them, and let them do their jobs.

Ford – who cultivated the careers of many of America’s great statesmen – might have been a better model to cite. The people he brought in to his Administration to replace President Nixon’s staff have defined American politics for the last three decades – and continue to do so today.

The list of Ford administration alumni looks like a Republican all-star team. Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, is now Vice President. His CIA Director, George W. Bush, went on to serve as Vice President himself before being elected to the Oval Office. His 1976 running-mate, former Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, was the party’s standard-bearer twenty years later and his wife Elizabeth now serves in the United States Senate.

Ford also elevated Alan Greenspan to work on his team, shortly after President Nixon had taken the U.S. off the Gold Standard and the country faced soaring inflation and economic stagnation. As Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan would show us the importance of monetary policy and demonstrate that economic growth without inflation was possible.

Ford also brought us Donald Rumsfeld – at first as Chief of Staff, then as Secretary of Defense, the job he would hold a quarter-century later. O.K. Well, we all make mistakes.

Rumsfeld notwithstanding, while President Ford is currently remembered for how he assumed office rather than what he did there, the alumni of his Administration have assured that his legacy will live much longer.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 9:29 AM | Permalink

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