My first memory of Gerald Ford was one of annoyance; this jerk was on my TV when my TV show was supposed to be on! And he was on all my TV stations! Logic tells me that I should be equally annoyed with Jimmy Carter, who would have been his debate partner and thus equally culpable of hogging space on my TV, but I have no memory of him at all, just Gerald Ford, stolid and refusing to get out of the way of, oh, Happy Days or Good Times or whatever it was I was wanting to watch. If I could have, I would have voted against Ford just for that. My excuse for such a vengeful, uninformed vote would have been that I was seven at the time.
Indeed, while I was alive when Ford was President, his entire administration occurred well before I had any knowledge of or interest in politics of any sort, so I note his passing with at most a sense of detachment. My memories of Ford are mostly of him being parodied as clumsy for falling down stairs and appearing on an ad for the Boy Scouts, and then, some time later, being the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit in which Dana Carvey, playing a Tom Brokaw trying to get ahead on his canned stories, declares that Gerald Ford had been consumed by wolves, and that he was delicious. Upon discovering that Ford had died, my first impulse was to check Fark.com to make sure its note of Ford’s passing included a shout-out to that skit. I was not disappointed. I suppose it may be telling that my entire cultural legacy of Ford consists of him being mocked and/or fitting himself into an Eagle Scout uniform, but whether it’s telling more about me or him is something I’ll leave untouched for now.
I wish I had something more substantive to say about the man. Which is to say I know I could speak more substantively about him — my grasp of recent American history and the implications of his presidency are pretty firm — but I lack any compelling emotional or intellectual impetus to do so. I don’t really remember him as anything but a reasonably genial ex-president, of the old school of ex-presidentery, the one that says you spend your sunset years playing golf, doing charitable work, and generally staying well out of the way. He did that well enough that I don’t really miss him. I wonder what he’d think about that.