President Ford Quotes

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Here are two interesting quotes from the late President Gerald Ford, which I found in this SCOTUSBlog post:

What, then, is an impeachable offense? The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body [the Senate] considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office.

I have to say that this disturbs me a little bit. He's right that the Constitution doesn't specify exactly what counts as an impeachable offense and that it's the House who has the moral obligation to figure that out, with the Senate then having to discern whether the impeachment deserves conviction. But that doesn't mean that the Congress should do whatever it feels like doing. Having the moral obligation to figure something out does not constitute declare whatever you feel like instead of working hard to think through to a good answer to the question.

Rep. Ford said this in 1970 when trying to impeach Supreme Court Justice William Orville Douglas on grounds involving connections with gambling. Whether that's a good reason to pursue impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice or not, I think it's pretty clear that Ford's pronouncement allows for a partisan Congress who manages to get 66% of both houses of the legislative branch to be able to use really silly reasons to impeach someone, and I could never say that such silly reasons would automatically count as "an impeachable offense" just because the House of Representatives could out of real corruption deliver the impeachment and the Senate out of equally corrupt motives could deliver the conviction.

Ford later had the opportunity to replace Justice Douglas (not via impeachment) with Justice John Paul Stevens. Speaking of Justice Stevens:

I am prepared to allow history’s judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination 30 years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I'm not going to question Justice Stevens' brilliant legal mind or his qualifications for being on the Supreme Court, but I think many of Stevens' legal views have helped moved the legal profession in the wrong direction in some pretty serious ways. If that's how President Ford wanted his presidency evaluated, I'd have to say that most conservatives would then be justified in saying that his presidency was a complete failure. Fortunately for his legacy, that isn't the only thing he did, and conservatives ought to see his presidency as at least mixed in accomplishments (and then be glad that Jimmy Carter beat him in 1976, because otherwise we might have ended up with something on the order of a President Ted Kennedy in 1980).

Criticisms have not been the emphasis in the days since the president's death last week, as is usually the case when a president dies, and I try to honor that custom (even though I don't understand dishonesty in the name of recent death). However, these were both interesting enough statements that I'd never heard before that I thought they were worth passing on.

On a much more positive note, see Ben Witherington's thoughts on President Ford from an unusual angle. Apparently the president's oldest son Mike was almost Witherington's roommate in seminary, and he's presents President Ford as if he was an evangelical Christian, something I've never seen any evangelical do. But then I also didn't know that his oldest son went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary to become an evangelical pastor. (If he was an evangelical, why did people make such a big deal about Jimmy Carter? Also, why was he a Freemason, which most evangelicals consider tantamount to being part of a cult?)

1 Comments

Time recently ran a story on Ford's religious beliefs. It portrays the fuss about Jimmy Carter's evangelicalism as the result of a deliberate choice on Ford's part; that is, Ford decided he didn't want to turn his faith into a campaign theme.

As for Freemasonry ... in my native habitat, I'm told that there tends to be a fair amount of overlap in the membership of the Masons and the older evangelical churches. I think it comes from a sort of civic tradition more than anything else.

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