Dick Cheney (left) and Donald Rumsfeld (right) posed with their former boss, President Jerry Ford, in 2004, three confident and courageous leaders underappreciated in their time. President Ford, in the hour of his death last Tuesday, began to be transformed by the commentariat into The Great Healer, the right man at the right time, admirable by virtue of contrast -- real or imagined -- between his presidential style and substance and those of GW Bush. An appreciation of VP Cheney and former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will come in the fullness of time. "There is a time for every purpose," as Mr. Cheney referenced Ecclesiastes in his eulogy last night. (David Hume Kennerly photo)
"Even then, amid troubles not of his own making, President Ford proved as worthy of that office as any who had ever come before," said Vice President Cheney last night in a most eloquent eulogy to his long-time mentor and friend, who lay in state nearby in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building:
He was modest and manful; there was confidence and courage in his bearing. In judgment, he was sober and serious, unafraid of decisions, calm and steady by nature, always the still point in the turning wheel. He assumed power without assuming airs; he knew how to treat people. He answered courtesy with courtesy; he answered discourtesy with courtesy.
As we listened to the poetry of the words -- with ironic echoes of Shakespeare's soaring "What a piece of work is man!" -- mesmerized by Dick Cheney's modest and manful delivery, we couldn't help but think the very same could be said of the speaker himself, keeping his head when all about him are losing theirs and blaming it on him. A few more exerpts:
This President's hardest decision was also among his first. And in September of 1974, Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon. The consensus holds that this decision cost him an election. That is very likely so. The criticism was fierce. But President Ford had larger concerns at heart. And it is far from the worst fate that a man should be remembered for his capacity to forgive.
In politics it can take a generation or more for a matter to settle, for tempers to cool. The distance of time has clarified many things about President Gerald Ford. And now death has done its part to reveal this man and the President for what he was.
"President Ford meets with Chief of Staff Don Rumsfeld and Deputy Chief of Staff Dick Cheney in the Oval Office" goes the caption for this Ford Library photograph dated April 28, 1975. Missing Rummy at the eulogies last night, we later learned he had planned to participate but was unable to be there due to weather delays. The hand of God? we wondered. Don't get us wrong. We totally admire the Secretary, and used to especially enjoy the bumpy rides afforded by his combative press-conference style, but when it comes to eulogies, the VPOTUS has the smooth and soothing manner called for by the occasion.
The Vice President's words resonate for Gerald Ford, for Dick Cheney and for all confident and courageous leaders -- we include President Bush and, of course, Donald Rumsfeld in that company -- whose larger concerns for the nation's well-being remain indecipherable to contemporaries and will come into focus only through the clarifying lens of the hindsight of history.