Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Alec Baldwin on Gerald Ford

A generous appreciation of the thirty-eighth President...and a critique of all, Democrats and Republicans, bitten by the Presidential Bug.

(MID-POST UPDATE: Charlie Lehardy points out that Baldwin may paint with too broad a stroke. Charlie's probably right. But I do think that our presidential politics has taken an onerous road ever since the 1988 campaign, when Lee Atwater advised George H.W. Bush. Atwater later publicly repented for his savagery. But legions of political functionaries, from both parties, have mimicked him ever since. Often, good, public spirited candidates acquiesce to such gutter tactics, especially in federal and statewide elections. None of us is perfect, of course. But in the intervening years, too few have emulated the two gentlemen who vied for the presidency in 1976, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, who of course, became dear friends. At least at the presidential level in recent decades, ambition has seldom given way to decency or civility. It's a shame!)

Baldwin can be strident and over-the-top in some of his political comments. But several of his Huffington Post posts have been generous and fair. See Democrat Baldwin's take on campaign criticisms of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger last fall.


Charlie said...

I don't know, Mark. He seems to be saying that Ford was a great president because he didn't want the job, and anyone who wants the job must be a megalomaniac. Which is just the cynical point of view one hears these days about politicians.

And, yes, it is true of some. But not all. Ford was indeed a great man because he was in public service to serve the country that he loved. I think there are plenty of others like him, and I would count Bush, Sr., Jimmy Carter, and Bush, Jr. among the living presidents with a strong love of public service, driven more by a sense of duty to country than by a desire to create a historical legacy for themselves.

And as you know from your own experience, there are many, many more such servant-minded people in every level of government.

Baldwin is right about Ford, but I don't agree that Ford represents the end of an era. That's Baldwin's bitterness talking -- I'm more optimistic.

Mark Daniels said...

Interesting. I was drawn more to the positive dimensions of what Baldwin was saying about Ford than the judgments he rendered of the others.

The fact is that evil and good resides within us all, of course. But it seems to me that our politics has leaned pretty heavily on the destruction of opponents' reputations, at least at the federal and statewide levels, since George H.W. Bush allowed himself to be advised by Lee Atwater. That has been a sad and savage bipartisan reality ever since.

My take is that since Ford and Carter, good people have often allowed their ambitions to check their goodness. This probably only makes them human; it also makes Ford pretty remarkable.


Charlie said...

Good points, as usual. You are right about the coarsening of political technique and discourse, something we all agree is bad for the country and appeals to our worst human instincts.

As for Alec Baldwin, I have held a grudge ever since he was given the role of Ryan in The Hunt for Red October -- a role that rightfully belonged to Harrison Ford. Maybe it's time for me to let go of that disappointment.

The Dustinator said...

There are some who think revisionism is happening with Ford's presidency, such as Christopher Hitchens Our Short National Nightmare

Mark Daniels said...


I'll read the Hitchens piece. But, without knowing what he may mean in speaking of revisionism regarding Ford's presidency, I will tell you that I have a decided bias against Hitchens' writing and thinking. He's brilliant, without doubt. He's also a professional contrarian who specializes in lofting intellectual hand grenades, lofted with egotism and disdain, into any celebration.

Ford's presidency was far from perfect. His conduct of it was exemplary.