Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Great Americans


A couple of years ago, and I think it was about this time of the year, two American icons died a day apart. First was Ronald Reagan. Fox News went freakin' hog wild. If you watched nothing but Fox News at that time (and I fear some people did and still do) you'd believe that Ronald Reagan was the greatest human being who ever graced the earth. Eh. Not my cup of tea. I understand his importance as President of our country. His first term was pretty good, but he spent this country into a great defecit, that his protege, George H.W. Bush continued. But the Soviet empire fell under his watch, unable to keep up with the massive military build up of his presidency.

The next day, we lost Ray Charles. Ray freakin' Charles. He probably didn't have as much world impact as Ronald Wilson Reagan, but we're talkling about Ray Charles here! Ray Charles. We should have had a national day of mourning. He was Ray Charles, a man that meant a a lot more to me personally than a mere President of the United States ever could. I feel somewhat vindicated that a movie aboout the life of Ray Charles was a box office sensation, a similar movie about Ronald Reagan would probably get great ratings on Fox News, but probabl nowhere else.

A similar thing happened this year. On Christmas day we lost James Brown, the man who taught me that Papa did in fact have a brand new bag, who implored me (well, probably not me) to get on the scene with the sex machine. Oh, I could make these little James Brown lyric jokes all day. The Godfather of Soul. James had some legal troubles, seemed to like his PCP, but he was undeniably a musical genius.

Yesterday we lost Gerald Ford. While I regretted the loss of Ray Charles (musician) more than the loss of Ronald Reagan (US President) more, the opposite is true this time. Yes, I regret the loss of James Brown, but I think Gerald Ford is a terribly underrated figure in American politics, and not just because he was Michigan Football MVP in '34.

Gerald Ford became President of our country under horrible circumstances, circumstances that he could just as easily have stayed out of. He didn't have to accept the Vice Presidency under Richard Nixon, if he hadn't he wouldn't have become President when Nixon resigned. And he probably would have continued on with his promising political career.

But this country needed a man like Gerald Ford when Gerald Ford became President. A man of great integrity, a man who cared greatly for this country, more than he cared for his own politiclal aspirations. A man who ended a war in Vietnam, a man who realized the need to pardon a disgraced President to aid in the healing of his country. Yes, I think Nixon should have been made to pay for what he'd done, but I certainly understand that the country needed to leave all of that behind. It pains me to say it, it took me decades to realize it, but Ford made the correct decision.

I once put Gerald Ford on my All-Presidential Basketball team as my sixth man, a man who was able to come off the bench unexpectedly and perform admirably. That's the way I think of Gerald Ford, the right man at the right time.

One more thing about Gerald Ford. Ford was on the Warren Comission investigating the assassination of John Kennedy. The Warren Comission found the Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Gerald Ford confirmed that decision may times later in his life. If Gerald Ford says that Oswald acted alone, that's good enough for me. Get over it you conspiracy nuts!


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