The imperial presidency of Richard Nixon was indeed a “long, national nightmare,” in the words of Gerald Ford, a president who was not Nixon’s equal when it came to grand, political vision, but was his superior in humility and patriotic respect for America and the constitutional institutions that make us exceptional.
I clearly remember the national embarrassment of the Senate Watergate hearings, with the daily parade of witnesses before North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin’s investigative committee and the slow dribble of revelations about unaccounted money, illegal actions, deceptions, and the unbridled lust for power that was the Nixon administration.
When Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford assumed the presidency, it was like a fresh breeze had blown through Washington, D.C.
Nixon thought of Ford as a lightweight. Initially resistant to the notion of nominating him for the vice presidency, he came to view Ford as a hedge against having to leave the presidency in disgrace. He simply couldn’t imagine anyone seriously wanting to see Gerald Ford become President.
But in this as on many things, Nixon was wrong. When, after taking the oath of office on August 9, 1974, Ford announced that our long national nightmare was over, we all heaved a sigh of relief. Gerald Ford was our generation’s Harry Truman, a plain-spoken man who loved his country, did his best, and let the chips fall where they might. We needed that after Vietnam and Watergate. — Mark Daniels
Pastor and arm-chair historian Mark Daniels thinks that Gerald Ford’s presidency is a good illustration of what makes American government work: liberty is joined in the constitution to the rule of law; Americans believe in freedom wedded to responsibility.