John Kerry’s Iraq Photos, And What George Bush Would Have Done

There are plenty of theories going around about this photo being posted on many right wing blogs to claim that the troops were avoiding John Kerry during his recent trip to Iraq:

Some say it is Photoshopped, questioning if this was even taken in Iraq when looking at the flags in the background. TPMmuckraker notes that the picture’s embedded data shows a date of January 9. 2006, but perhaps the camera’s date was set incorrectly. Shaun at Upper Left raises further questions upon lightening up the picture.

There have been comments that this was taken at the embassy where few soldiers were even present, and someone saying he was there reported that Kerry didn’t enter the room until near the end of breakfast when few people were left. Besides, how many soldiers are going to just walk up and sit down next to a Senator who is busy talking to someone else?

It’s not really necessary to worry about which explanation is correct since, as I reported earlier, photos taken when Kerry was in Iraq did show him with the troops:

All in all, this was a pretty desperate smear, but it is typical of the conservatives who typically resort to this nonsense but never show the guts to discuss Kerry’s actual statements and positions. Afterall, these are pretty much the same people who have been twisting Kerry’s recent joke about George Bush getting us stuck in Iraq to be a smear on the troops. It’s much easier to distort things than to respond. If we wanted to resort to this type of attack I imagine it would be possible to find a picture of Bush with only a couple of people and claim other were ostracizing him.

Actually the Bush people are much better at propaganda and would never get caught in a mess such as this. For example, when there weren’t enough soldiers at a Bush rally for a 2004 campaign ad, they just Photoshopped them in:


My take on this at the Unofficial Kerry Blog in October 2004 is reposted under the fold.


Gerald Ford and the Pardon of Richard Nixon

The pardon of Richard Nixon was the most controversial action by Gerald Ford, even raising conspiracy theories that Nixon offered the position to Ford in return for promises of a pardon. Ford has stated he made the decision to pardon Nixon after a news conference in which well over half the questions were about Nixon and not about Ford’s policies. Ford feared that the country would never get over Watergate if a Nixon trial was the major news for the next several years. While it is by definition not possible to know whether a secret conspiracy occurred, I tend to believe Ford’s explanation as opposed to the theories that Ford was picked by Nixon as part of a deal. Besides trusting Ford on this, I doubt that Nixon was realistic enough about the danger he was in at the time of Agnew’s resignation to cut such a deal. The reasons for picking Ford were pretty clear at the time. It would have been far more suspicious if Nixon had chosen an unknown, or a crony of his, as opposed to someone like Jerry Ford who was considered to be a man of honesty and decency by those in both parties.

The question of whether pardoning Nixon would help the country get over Watergate depends upon the time frame. In the immediate weeks afterwards the act did the reverse as many were outraged by the act. As one small, but amusing example, I recall cards in the form of Monopoly “Get Out of Jail Free” cards being distributed at the University of Michigan (our shared alma mater) granting the bearer a “full, free, and absolute pardon.” Ford’s popularity fell and he never recovered, ultimately being beaten by Jimmy Carter. While the nation needed to get over Watergate, the country also needed to have trust in its leaders restored. By pardoning Nixon, Ford violated that trust in the eyes of many people, including his own press secretary, Jerald terHorst who resigned in protest.


Walter Shapiro: The Man Who Ended Our Nixon Nightmare

Walter Shapiro observed the Ford administration from the vantage point of working for the Carter campaign. He found that Ford was often ineffective as President, but also acknowledges that the 1970’s were a difficult time for any American President (including Jimmy Carter), and that Ford was the right person to become President following Watergate:

With three decades of hindsight, however, it is hard to see how Ford could have been a successful president, even without the pardon. Ford, whose Midwestern conservatism was built around balanced budgets and Chamber of Commerce verities, was a transitional figure in the history of the Republican Party, destined to be swept aside by the ideological certainties of the Reagan right. Nothing better symbolized Ford’s fecklessness than his selection of Republican liberal hawk Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president, only to publicly dump Rocky from the 1976 GOP ticket when he was challenged by Reagan. Still, Ford’s most enduring gift to liberals was his appointment of still-serving Justice John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court in 1975.

In fairness to Ford (and Carter), the 1970s would have been a miserable decade for any occupant of the Oval Office. As president, Ford had to endure the most humiliating defeat in modern American history — the 1975 fall of Saigon, complete with the desperate helicopter evacuation from the American Embassy. The Soviet Union was still seen as a formidable military adversary, not the fast-deteriorating nuclear power of the late 1980s. Inflation was spiraling out of control, and Ford’s WIN buttons (the initials stood for “Whip Inflation Now”) were a poor excuse for a coherent economic policy.

Modesty is not a characteristic of great leaders. It is hard to imagine another future president saying anything analogous to this self-summation when he succeeded Agnew, “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.” But Ford, for all his limitations, was the right person to step into the presidency in 1974 after the most wrenching constitutional crisis in more than a century. Ford’s blaze of glory may have been fleeting, but its brightness more than counterbalanced its brevity. Not a bad career capstone for a man who in 1973 seemed poised to join the roster of nearly forgotten congressional leaders who never wielded real power.

Bob Herbert: Lessons Never Learned

Bob Herbert looks back at the Ford years and writes about the Lessons Never Learned:

It would be foolish to suggest that the United States as a whole hasn’t made tremendous progress since the 1960s and ’70s. But it’s impossible to reflect on the presidency of Gerald Ford, who formally ended U.S. participation in the war in Vietnam, and fail to notice that his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and chief of staff, Dick Cheney, were among the chief architects of the current calamity in Iraq. There were lessons galore to be learned from Vietnam. But Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney, like frat boys skipping an important lecture, managed to ignore them.

The trauma of the 1973 oil embargo actually spooked the country into action on the energy front. Fuel economy standards for automobiles were ratcheted up and improvements were made in the energy efficiency of refrigerators, air-conditioners and other household appliances. But those successful early efforts, instead of being strengthened, were undermined by the conservative political tide of the past several years.

Now we’re confronted with the dire threat of global warming, and as usual there is no plan.

If history tells us anything, it’s that we never learn from history. We could have stepped back from the war in Iraq, and stepped up to the challenge of global warming. We could have learned something when James Brown was on the charts and Gerald Ford was in the White House.

Maybe next time.

Gerald Ford Opposed Iraq War

Gerald Ford would not speak out against another President while alive, especially a Repubilcan President, but now that he has died an embargoed interview from July 2004 reveals that Gerald Ford opposed Bush’s decision to go to war. Bob Woodward reports:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. “I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford’s own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford “very strongly” disagreed with the current president’s justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney — Ford’s White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”

Later Woodward reports on how Bush would have handled Saddam:

Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. “I don’t think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly,” he said, “I don’t think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.”