Saturday, January 7, 2012

What Pelosi Said About Ford

History is constantly evaluating the individuals of the past; news media and ordinary conversation are constantly evaluating the individuals of the present. The difference is that history can sometime - but not always - make these evaluations in calmer tone.

Current events have cast House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in dim light: removed from her position as Speaker of the House by the voters, her party and her ideologies are rejected by the majority of educated voters, even if her partisans retain a significant degree of damaging control over the American economy.

But history may judge Pelosi in a kinder light. Historians, more than contemporary analysts, are capable of acknowledging that Pelosi may have had benign intentions and an honest desire to help the country, whatever the devastating effects of her incompetence. Further, historians are more careful in their analysis of text than are news media, and more able to appreciate the products of Pelosi's speechwriters. In her speech praising "the character, courage, and civility of a former Member of this House, President Ford," Pelosi gave a serious appraisal to Ford's achievements:

He healed the country when it needed healing. This is another time, another war, and another trial of American will, imagination, and spirit. Let us honor his memory.
Historians will readily agree with Pelosi's estimation of Ford. In perceiving Ford's pivotal role in U.S. history, Pelosi earns agreement. She continued:
I have great respect for the fair and reliable leadership that President Ford displayed throughout his service in the House. He was effective and respected on both sides of the aisle. He recognized that however much we may disagree on political questions, we serve the people of the Nation, the great institution, the House of Representatives.
Pelosi pointed out that the characteristics which made Ford honorable in the Congress also made him honorable in the White House. Indeed, although the word 'honor' is used frequently, a serious meditation on honor is rare, but is likely to include Gerald Ford:
He assumed office during one of the greatest times of challenge for our Nation and provided the American people with the steady leadership and optimism that was his signature.
Almost fifty years after he left office, "President Ford's character, courage, and civility" are still foundational to whatever amount of decency is left in this country.