Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Passing Of A President

The club of former Presidents just got a little smaller. As you have heard by now, President Gerald Ford passed away at 93 yesterday. The man who was given a new name as a child and who was never elected to the Vice Presidency or the Presidency actually became the longest living President. It should be noted that he also survived two assassination attempts. Despite his lengthy list of accomplishments from WWII service to head of the Warren Commission to his thirty years as an active former president, his career kinda sounds like a comedy movie. It’s the story of an unassuming, likable and lucky guy who keeps getting promoted through no activity of his own until he lands the highest office in the land. Did I mention he survived two assassination attempts within the span of about a month? I guess it does pay more to be lucky than it does to be good.

Actually, come to think of it, it also sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch, which brings me to the poorly thought out reason behind this post. As I stayed up late last night listening to all of our nation’s political pundits eulogize President Ford through the warm glow of 30 years worth of the passage of time, I could not help but think of Chevy Chase ( who will no doubt hear his name a lot over the next few days). If you aren’t connecting the dots, let me do that for you. Chevy Chase got a lot of SNL airtime in the mid-70s impersonating President Ford as a bumbling and clumsy person. He would fall over desks and fall through scenes as the President. I can also recall him playing President Ford at a desk petting his stuffed dog while thinking the dog was alive. I want to say that the dog’s name was liberty, but I could be mistaken.

For many, Chase’s antics as President Ford shaped their view of him. It just shows how far reaching comedy and parody is in our country that our perception of a President is somewhat formed by the individual mocking and satirizing him. For a long time, our view of the elder George Bush was that of a bumbling and goofy guy as portrayed by Dana Carvey. We can all remember Dan Akroyd as a grumpy Richard Nixon and Will Ferrell’s playing of the younger President Bush as a not so bright Texan. One of my most lasting impressions of President Clinton was not by President Clinton at all. It was Phil Hartman in a McDonalds as Clinton explaining about warlords in Somalia while stealing customers’ Big Macs to make his point. The neat thing about all of the parodies is that some of our former Presidents, like President Ford and Bush 41 spent time after their presidencies with their mockers. I saw video last night of Chevy Chase on stage with President Ford saying something to the effect of ‘if you’ll pardon me for a moment…’ Yes, it did get a big laugh.

I have read that President Ford could have gone into the NFL but ended up in a life of politics instead. He fell in public maybe twice and was parodied long after as a klutz (I guess it could have been much worse when President Bush vomited in China). As the eulogies for President Ford pour in over the next week or so, it will be interesting as a fan of history to learn the real story about him. Only in America could one’s name be changed and they eventually end up as President without ever running for the office and manage to survive two attempts on his life to become the longest living president.

You know, it all really sounds so extraordinary and unbelievable that maybe it should become a movie. I just wish Don Knotts were still around. It could be the follow up to the ‘Reluctant Astronaut’ and called the ‘The Not So Reluctant and Very Lucky President’ or ‘Who, Me?’ Now who could we get to play the amicable but aloof common man who lands the Presidency? Maybe Chevy Chase has some free time…he did pioneer the role.


mist1 said...

I am so out of touch with the world, that I noticed a flag at half mast today and asked Dad who died.

I miss my internet.

Josie said...

Michael, one of the Munchkins asked me last night, "Who was Dan Quayle"?

Do you remember him? Omigosh, these folks were fodder for the comedians, weren't they?


Le Nightowl said...

My deep thought on this:

"It just shows how far reaching comedy and parody is in our country that our perception of a President is somewhat formed by the individual mocking and satirizing him"
We (sadly) have the same problem in France with
les Guignols de l'Info featuring (along with personalities from various backgrounds) our prominent political figures.

This can go as far as people identifying so well the "puppet" with the real person (who can be a puppet too) actually vote for the puppet rather than the real person.
Not sure this is so funny :)

Odat said...

Hey, Ford got to be president without trying....but look who you guys actually "elected" for governor!!!!! ;-)

(was a nice tribute tho).

Skittles said...

I tried to find a video of Chase doing the pratfalls and couldn't.

To do Thursday Thirteen.. just go grab the code for their page (it's listed on my sidebar under Blogger Blogs. Make up your list & post it. Go back to the TT page and click where it says Participants - Join In on the top comment box :)

abbagirl74 said...

Yeah, the whole governor thing was pretty funny.

SGT DUB said...

Ford was the first President I can recall as a kid. I remember the assination attempts and the media was showing drawings and ideas kids had sent in to help keep the President safe. A fellow soldier yesterday also commented that during a President's career and after, he is only critisized, and when he dies, he is only praised.

Aisby said...

It is sad that I sometimes forget what was real and what was a skit on SNL. When I think of Al Gore, all I can think of is "LOCK BOX" I know it was an SNL skit, but was it real, too?? It has shaped my image of him.

I was born when Ford was President, so I don't remember him as President. I think he was given some extremely difficult circumstances and dealth with them in the best way he knew how. He often chose what was "right" over what was good for himself...I can admire a man like that.