Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Remembering My Commander-In-Chief

I remember President Gerald Ford as the first Commander-in-Chief under whom I served while active in the Air Force. He came into office by a series of circumstances which included scandels forcing the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon, and which did not include election to the office of President. The administration he took over, and the Nation over which he came into leadership was in recovery from the long and hard war in Viet Nam, Watergate, and other political acandels. The tasks he faced as CIC were quite daunting--he had to restore America's faith in the military and the government, while trying to restore the world's faith in American foreign policy.
Although he wasn't elected as President, he was respected, having been elected to Congress sixteen times by his constituents in the state of Michigan. He treated the people with respect, and respect was returned to him, for the most part.
President Ford's administration did have some failures. He attempted to block the genocide of millions of Viet Namese and Cambodians by the hand of North Viet Nam and its agents, but his proposal to aid the miltia in South Viet Nam was refused funding by Congress, and 8 million Viet Namese and Cambodians died as North Viet Nam's military swept unopposed into the south and concluded the reunification of that country. He did, however, begin the long process of normalization with the new country, one that is still being continued today.
Another failure was his attempt to socialize the American economy with his "Whip Inflation Now" (WIN) policy, which included a voluntary wage/price freeze. Still, there was some long-term success for that policy in that we learned that socialism, even when voluntarily imposed, does not work in the American economy.
His pardoning of President Nixon for his Watergate related crimes was never popular, but he successfully defended his position that, without the pardon, America could not put behind the scandals of the Nixon Administration and move forward. His defense of his position was not enough to get him elected, and became the major reason many voters turned to Jimmy Carter.
President Ford's successes were far greater than his failures. The all-volunteer military came into being under his administration, and despite predictions that such a military would never work, he began building it into the force it is today--well trained, efficient, and intelligent. He brought respect back to the members of the military while improving military life with pay raises, benefits, and upgraded living conditions. Never again, would military personnel be greeted in America with the hatred they received upon return from Southeast Asia. They were, after all, only doing the job they were required to do--no war is the fault of those who have to fight it.
Finally, President Ford brought back respect for the government and the office of the President, showing kindness and concern for the American people. He was a man of integrity who would do his best whether he was elected to the job or not. He showed us that the President, no matter who he or she is, deserves the respect of the people. He had a tough job, but he did it the best he could, and his legacy continues to this day.