Sunday, July 10, 2011


Per my father's maxim that you have to be at least slightly insane to want to be President of the United States of America, Gerald Ford may be the rare case of a "not insane" President. Maybe not considered the smartest and certainly not the most successful and actually getting elected, he was essentially appointed President-in-waiting by Richard Nixon, on the verge of impeachment and, ultimately, resignation. One of the finest characteristics of President Ford was, of course, his wife Betty Ford, my kind of Republican, which is to say, smart and sensible and not insane. She passed away a little over a day ago at age 93.

There are three reasons I admired Ms. Ford in particular, two of which are fairly well known. One is how she opened up regarding the breast cancer she suffered while First Lady, the radical mastectomy and chemotherapy, the first time I can recall a public figure sharing such a common condition with the public. This led to a huge influx in women going to get tested themselves.

Second, she revealed her own alcoholism and pill addiction, leading to founding the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs. Again, her own private battle, after having gone public, led to a de-stigmatization of what had historically been something hidden, secret, shameful.

Lastly, or perhaps first, there was the Ford's White House bed. It was a something of a deal at the time that this was a Presidential couple that actually slept together, rather than the twin beds (separate bedrooms?) of Richard and Pat Nixon, possibly going back further than that as well. The Fords had a lot of kids, who were smart and sometimes a little too outspoken themselves, but they sure looked like they were still in love. That queen-sized bed they brought into the White House was noted by my parents, and while I don't think they voted for Gerald Ford in the ensuing election (his pardon of Richard Nixon sealed his own fate), they approved. Nobody really hated Jerry Ford.

And everybody admired Betty.

1 comment:

Rico said...

I remember feeling titillated at ten, when Betty Ford made it ok for everybody to say "breast."

A pro-choice, pro-ERA, divorced Republican -- she took her job seriously, was a woman for the times and a great First Lady.

RIP, Betty.