I have been in something of a media blackout zone for the past five days, but am now home and back under the influence of the American media. I turned the television on this morning when getting the kids ready for school to find it on NBC. I left it there to see the latest local weather report and got a taste of the national coverage as well.
From the coverage of the deaths of Ronald Reagan, and now Gerald Ford, I have learned that there are a few surefire ways for a Republican politician to get good coverage. One way is to disagree with a Republican — extra points if that Republican is George W. Bush. Another way, as we saw with President Reagan, is to die. According to the interview I saw with Bob Woodward this morning, Ford disagreed with George W. Bush before he died. Since the disagreement was over Iraq, it received extra attention. Prior to the Woodward interview with Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw, who was asked by President Ford to speak at his funeral, joined Tim Russert in a discussion of politics. In that discussion, the controversy over Saddam Hussein’s execution preceded and led up to the discussion of the Ford funeral.
It seems somewhat, well, unseemly to me to be discussing current politics when honoring the life of a President who has yet to be buried. He was a politician though, and I suppose politics will be foremost in my mind when President Carter passes away so I guess I should not be overly critical of the media for taking an opportunity to turn the discussion of the life of President Ford to criticism of Bush. I can’t help but point out, though, how unlike the discussion I heard this morning was from the style of President Ford, who was very dignified and who, unlike some other former presidents, did not use his position to score political points after leaving office.
While I won’t be surprised to hear some additional talk of current politics worked into today’s coverage of the former President’s funeral, I hope that it will be kept to a minimum and that the focus will be on the life of Gerald R. Ford. When President Reagan died he was praised for his optimism. The praise for President Ford has included much discussion of his “Midwest values.” There has also been a good bit of focus, as was intended by the arrangements made by President Ford, on his service in the Congress.
The U.S. Capitol departure ceremony is now underway with the family, as well as many friends of President Ford including Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Bob Dole, paying their respects. President Ford’s children are escorting their father’s casket as it leaves the Capitol. May God bless and comfort them.
Update: I loved former President Bush’s eulogy, especially the part about God’s hand of providence in letting Ford survive World War II and two assasination attempts so that he could be in place when he was needed to serve. Bush’s handling of the Chevy Chase impersonation of Ford was well done, as well, pointing to how Ford’s ability to laugh at himself helped him to laugh at his own SNL treatment. His impersonation of Dana Carvey was something I wouldn’t be surprised to see make it into a replayed soundbite.
I missed Henry Kissinger, but caught Tom Brokaw’s analogy of Ford’s football position to his role in politics, which was fitting. President Bush gave a lovely eulogy as well.