"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Mind of Gerald Ford

In our comments area, a reader suggested that former president Gerald Ford was a stupid man.

Tha notion that Gerald Ford was a poor intellect is utterly false. Ford graduated from Yale Law School in the 1930s, and did not gain entry because of family connections but entirely through merit. He managed to get a law degree while paying his way by working as an assistant coach on the Yale football team.

During his undergrad years, Ford was a member of the academic honor society at the University of Michigan while working part time waiting tables AND holding down the position of center on the Wolverine football team, on which he was voted MVP during his senior year.

In 1960 Newsweek magazine polled the top 50 Washington correspondents to name the most able men in Congress. They rated Gerald Ford the ablest of the postwar generation. In Congress, Ford was widely respected as being pragmatic, thoughtful, and intelligent, and for this reason won the position of majority leader in 1964.

Behind his humble, homey demeanor, Gerald Ford was a very wise and capable man.

8 comments:

James Elliott said...

And there I just thought we were talking about presidencies. ::Sigh::

Kathy Hutchins said...

If Gerald Ford had remained in the House, he never would have attracted Chevy Chase's attention, and his reputation would be safe today.

Of course, Sam and I have been associated with other politicians who were unfairly labelled dunces in the media and the popular imagination. Once, some wag posted on the Hudson copy room bulletin board a deli container label from the grocery store across the street. It was from a 2 lb. tub of potatoe salad.

James Elliott said...

Was it from Dan "Mister Potatoe Heade" Quayle's "Ye Olde Potatoe Shoppe"?

Hunter Baker said...

I the main problem with Dan Quayle was that he wasn't Jack Kemp. 1988 was Kemp's time. 1996 certainly was not.

I've always liked Ford, but he didn't "get" the values issues at all and still doesn't.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Behind his humble, homey demeanor, Gerald Ford was a very wise and capable man."

Our soundbite modern world confuses glibness with intelligence, and intelligence with wisdom.

By odd contrast, Bill Clinton, who possessed two of the three, has never been accused of being wise, even by his admirers.

Jay D. Homnick said...

I disagree. Bill Clinton is wise; he just very often elects not to heed the counsel of his own wisdom. Oscar Wilde, anyone?

If you want advice about life, about relationships, about career moves and certainly about politics, I suspect you could do much worse than consulting Bill. I would further venture to say that he is light-years wiser than Hillary, although clearly weaker in some areas of willpower.

As to Gerald Ford, Mr. Elliott is right. He was smart and capable in Congress but the Peter Principle caught up with him at the entrance to the White House.

The one President in my lifetime who was entirely devoid and bereft of wisdom was James Earl Carter. Even now he still tries to top his previous highs with periodic forays into elder-statesmanship.

James Elliott said...

My uncle's college roommate was one of Carter's domestic policy advisors. He says he never met someone more willing to consider all sides of an issue and to think seriously about his decisions than President Carter. Apparently the real problems came when Rosalyn weighed in.

Hunter Baker said...

The received wisdom of the leadership literature is that Carter suffered from analysis paralysis and that aides were never quite sure where he'd come down. Result: you had to check in with him a lot. Reagan was the opposite. Very firm in his program and ideas. Subordinates knew just how he'd want to do things.