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“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers."
— On becoming president, August 1974.

Ford pic

From the Washington Post: "Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., 93, who became the 38th president of the United States as a result of some of the most extraordinary events in U.S. history and sought to restore the nation's confidence in the basic institutions of government, has died..." (read the full obit from the Post here).

From the New York Times: "Former President Gerald R. Ford, who was thrust into the presidency in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal but who lost his own bid for election after pardoning President Richard M. Nixon, has died....

"He was 93, making him the longest living former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004, by just over a month" (the full obit from the NYT here).

The Okie Gardener offered this insightful remembrance of Ford last month, when he eclipsed Ronald Reagan as the longest living former president. The Gardener also included this excellent tribute from Gleaves Whitney courtesy of National Review Online.

My Recollection:

Gerald Ford was the first president to whom I actually paid attention. I was nine years-old when he assumed the position. The media were merciless in their derision of the unelected president who pardoned Richard Nixon. I remember well the Chevy Chase bit on SNL in which the "president" oafishly stumbled around the oval office, speaking nonsense, wearing his football helmet and trying to receive snaps from his stuffed dog, Liberty. I don't think I realized at the time that Ford was the most decorated athlete of the presidents (1934 MVP of the Michigan football Wolverines); he was also a ten battle-star Navy veteran of WWII, and he graduated from Yale Law School with a B average (back when that was an impressive accomplishment).

After falling in love politically with Ronald Reagan during his campaign for the GOP nomination in 1976, I realized that I would be a Republican come hell or high water when Gerald Ford ascended the stage triumphant in Kansas City. Watching from my home in Southern California, on a tiny early-model color TV (at one point my cousin observed: "look the President is green"), I came to understand unequivocally that these were my people.

The Ford presidency was brief but mature. He was honest. He was forgiving. His later rapprochement with Jimmy Carter, who defeated him in 1976, was an example of his character. Like Adams and Jefferson or Bush-41 and Clinton-42, I give the credit for this famous reconciliation to the loser (it is much easier to be gracious in victory); it is the vanquished who must overcome the sense that they were defeated through unprincipled ambition and injurious machinations on the part of their opponent. Ford emerged eventually from 1976 with no public bitterness.

As Henry Kissinger observed: "Providence smiled on Americans when, seemingly by happenstance, it brought forward a president who embodied our nation's deepest and simplest values."

Jerry Ford was unabashedly the quintessential American.

I invite you to post your own thoughts and tributes.
The New York Sun has this story on Sandy "Oops" Berger stealing classified documents. Link from Powerline.

We may never know what materials he destroyed. Good guess--things reflecting unfavorably on Bubba and terrorism. Do we really want the Clintons and company back in the White House?
I am easing my way into Farmer's challenge to articulate a coherent political philosophy by first stating what I am not and why. Earlier I wrote Why I am not a Libertarian.

My Christianity makes Socialism attractive to me. In the Old Testament one sees that the people of Israel were to have a strong sense of community, that greedy individuals who took advantage of others were condemned, and that there were regulations on economic life (e.g. no charging interest to a fellow Israelite, no harvesting the corners of the field and allowing the poor (landless) access to those corners and to glean from the whole field. In the New Testament those who heard Christ's teaching thought that communal living was the natural expression thereof--the first church in Jerusalem practiced community of goods at least to an extent. Early capitalism was opposed to numerous practices of the Church, and even the Puritans were critics of capitalism at least in its laissez-faire form. And, Christian politicians, especially in Europe, have tended toward Socialism.

So, why am I not a Socialist? Human sin. Sin makes us naturally self-centered and self-seeking. Even Christians struggle with sin. Socialism may be a great theory if everyone behaved in an altruistic manner. But, the reality is that relatively few will work for the good of all. We are better motivated by self-interest. And, many will take advantage of a socialist system by not pulling their own weight, allowing others to do their share of production. Socialism as a social/governmental system makes shipwreck on the reef of human sin.

Socialism as practiced in Europe also has tended create an unhealthy dependency upon the state government, to the detriment of individuals, families, and non-governmental organizations.

19/12: New Book

New to my Christmas wish list, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar on Cambridge University Press, 2006. The buzz on this book has me interested. It seems to be revisionist at several points, and interestingly, is a major history of that war (2 volumes planned) by one who did not live through that time. Maybe we are now far enough removed from Vietnam to gain good historical perspective. Anybody out there read this book yet?
Two days ago Real Clear Politics featured Timothy Garton Ash's blistering analysis of where we are in Iraq:

"What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse."

Sobering observations from a voice not unsympathetic to the United States and George Bush. You should read the full essay (linked here).

However, after you read the essay--and have given it serious consideration--come back in off the ledge. Things in Iraq are bad, but with a little luck we will avoid Armageddon. Just as the graveyards are filled with indispensable men, history is littered with impossible situations--but here we are. And we are likely to survive this troubling time as well.

George Bush is no worse off than Harry Truman was in December of 1950. After suffering humiliating losses at the hands of the Republicans in the midterm elections that fall, Truman woke up one morning in late November to the news that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had crossed the Yalu River and completely turned the tide of the Korean War. American forces were in full retreat. The President's commanding general counseled that a wider war was the only option, and he seemed intent on not taking "no" for an answer. On the other hand, the joint chiefs warned that a wider war in Asia was unwinable. The President faced a cataclysmic crisis in which there were no good answers; moreover, the entire post-war strategy of containment and commitment to fighting communist aggression hung in the balance.

Truman did not find a way to win the war in Korea. He could do no better than a bloody two-year stalemate that cost more than 30,000 American lives and a swath of destruction and despair for the residents of the Korean peninsula. In the end, Truman could not even find a path out of Korea (he would leave that to a Republican administration swept into the Oval Office in 1952). More than fifty years later, Korea is still a festering sore.

There are some, undoubtedly, who would say that Truman erred in not following the advice of Douglas MacArthur and taking on the Chinese and Soviets in one final horrific battle between good and evil.

I am of the opinion that Truman did the right thing. He hung tough. He did not panic. He spent the next two years "suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," as well as dealing with the consequences of his own decisions that had turned sour.

Truman played it tough but safe. He did not bet it all. He took the long view, understanding (maybe hoping is more accurate) that the American system, over time, would win the all-important bipolar contest of ideologies.

We must hang tough--but we need not be reckless. We are embarked in an extremely long-term battle of ideologies. The race is not always to the swiftest--but to the one who endures. We must endure.
Copied from the Presbyterian Church (US) Washington Office

Religious and Party Affiliation
Thirteen members of the 109th Senate identified themselves as being Presbyterian (10 were Republicans and 3 were Democrats). Nine members remain after the November elections for the 110th Senate seats (seven are Republicans and two are Democrats). Presbyterians now hold nine percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate down from 13 percent).

Thirty-Eight members of the 109th House identified themselves as Presbyterian (26 were Republicans and 12 were Democrat). There are now just 32 Presbyterians in the 110th Congress, a combination of new and returning members (18 are Republican and 14 are Democrat).

Overall, the 41 Congressional Presbyterians make us the fifth most represented faith group in the Senate and the House. We trail the 126 Catholics, 57 Baptist, 50 Methodist, and 40 Protestant–Unspecified2). Following Presbyterians are 30 Jewish, 26 Episcopalian, 15 Lutheran, ten Mormon, six Unspecified, five Christian Scientist, five Eastern Orthodox, four Pentecostal, three African Methodist Episcopal, three United Church of Christ, two Buddhist, two Christian Reformed Church, two Seventh-Day Adventist, one Christian Church, one Community of Christ, one Disciples of Christ, one Muslim, one Quaker and one Unitarian. For the first time, a member of the Muslim faith has been elected to the House — Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison.
In a previous post, I pointed out the work of CAIR in portraying Muslims as victims of civil rights infringements, and linked to an earlier post with some statistics to refute CAIR claims. In the comments section, Farmer seemed to dismiss CAIR's efforts.

Katherine Kersten, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, presents the reason we should be concerned--legislation to prohibit security personel from paying any more attention to Muslims than to Jehovah's Witnesses. Story here. Link from Little Green Footballs.

Here's a portion of the article:
One piece of legislation in the works is the End Racial Profiling Act. It is an important priority of Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, whose district includes one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. Conyers introduced the bill in 2004 and 2005, but it went nowhere. Now the alignment of forces may be changing. Conyers will probably be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when the new Democratic-controlled Congress convenes next month. Nancy Pelosi, who called herself a "proud" cosponsor of the Profiling Act in 2004, is the incoming House speaker. And in January, Ellison, who represents the district where the imams incident occurred, will take his seat in Congress. The act, although it doesn't as yet impose large penalties, would bar any federal, state or local law enforcement agency from "relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities." That would include questioning, searches and seizures.

One of the act's central features is its definition of illegal profiling. Under it, if airport security personnel question passengers who are disproportionately Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent, this alone would constitute a presumptive violation of the law. Law enforcement agencies would bear the burden of proving that discrimination was not the cause.

Get this? Security personel would be forced to regard Muslims as no more likely to bomb anything than Buddhists would be. I must have forgotten how ecumenical the 9/11 terrorists were, or how many Sikhs have flocked to Al Qaeda, or the growing number of Hindus in Hamas. This is politically-correct b*llsh*t that any 5th grader would be able to see through.

So, what will Pelosi and company do? We know where her heart is. She was a cosponsor of this legislation in 04. But, if she has any political sense, she will listen to her head and prevent this legislation from seeing the light of day. If the Dems are not perceived as strong against terrorism, then 08 could be a problem. I suspect that Hillary will not want to see this legislation making headlines, even if it fails.
In the recent past I have taught US History Survey courses at a community college on the banks of the Bosque. (I still teach for them online, but now only do a course on Christian History and Traditions).

And I think I left out something important. In a two-semester survey course, I covered politics, territorial and economic expansion, arguments over and expansions of the concept and practice of "liberty," foreign relations (especially in the second semester), some cultural history, and probably a few other things. But, I hardly ever lectured on military history. I did hit a few basics for each war, but let the assigned reading (with lists of required People, Places, and Things for each chapter) carry the load. And, I knew full well that most of my students would read the main textbook haphazardly, if at all. They soon figured out that attendance on and attention to the lectures could earn them a B, without reading the main narrative text (with a bit of lucky guesswork, they might even manage an A).

I think I was wrong. (more below)

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Who would have thought that the biggest fool of an ex-president would be James Earl Carter. In 2000 I would have taken big bets with odds that William Jefferson Clinton would have won that title by now. Life is unpredictable.

Now, following Carter's latest book on the Mideast, a former aide and genuine Middle East expert, has distanced himself from Jimmy. Article here from the NYT. Hat tip Dhimmiwatch.

First 3 paragraphs:

ATLANTA, Ga., Dec. 6 — An adviser to former President Jimmy Carter and onetime executive director of the Carter Center has publicly parted ways with his former boss, citing concerns with the accuracy and integrity of Mr. Carter’s latest book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.”

The adviser, Kenneth W. Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern history and political science at Emory University, resigned his position as a fellow with the Carter Center on Tuesday, ending a 23-year association with the institution.

In a two-page letter explaining his action, Mr. Stein called the book “replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments.” Mr. Stein said he had used similar language in a private letter he sent to Mr. Carter, but received no reply.

I have problems with Keith Ellison, but they are unrelated to his plans to take the oath of office on a Quran. See Powerline and look for all the posts in the archives on Ellison and you'll understand my discomfort with him.

A bit of perspective on swearing-in on Bibles from the Pew Forum. According to this article, Ellison will not be the first to forgo a Bible for his swearing-in. John Quincy Adams used a "law volume," and Theodore Roosevelt used no Bible in his first swearing-in.

Swearing on a Bible is a time-honored custom, but I think that reasonable people can have objections.

My bad. I did not reason this issue all the way through. Ellison will become a member of the House. Those folks (see the linked article) do a mass swearing in without any Holy Book. They have an option to stage a "swearing-in" later that is merely a photo-op with the flag, Bible, etc. Ellison will not be sworn in with his hand on the Quran. He'll have his after-the-fact photo-op with a Quran. Sorry, busy busy week.