- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

‘Equal education’

The article “A state of emergency II” (Editorial, Dec. 11) points out a problem not only facing the public schools in Washington, but all public schools. Are students with special education needs, whose behavior is criminal, who are just being a disruption in class, a problem student or otherwise not a motivated student, entitled under the U.S. Constitution to an equal education or simply the opportunity for an equal education? There is a significant difference in getting an equal education and having the opportunity for an equal education and therein lies the overriding problem with public school education. Are the public schools to be for those who cannot afford private school education and whose who need a public institution to cater to their special needs?

The schools have lost their way. There is no such thing as an equal education, you can only be educated based on your ability and motivation to learn.

DONALD B. W. MESSENGER

Beltsville, Md.

In remembrance

I cast my first vote for president for Gerald R. Ford. Granted, I was a 10-year-old 4th grader attending the Edward Walton Elementary School in Springfield, N.J. at the time, but my first vote nonetheless. I even have the picture to prove it — there I am with a traditional conventioneer’s hat and shirt that said “vote,” as I cast my ballot — photographed for the Springfield Leader — a local newspaper not unlike one I worked for years later. (I guess I was a hat man even then.)

President Ford, an Omaha, Neb. native, had a calming presence in the White House presiding over a number of challenging issues — the end of Vietnam and restoring dignity to the presidency at the very pinnacle of his administration (“President Ford,” Editorial, Thursday).

At a very young age, thanks to my parents, I learned the presidents forward and backward and was even carted out like a circus monkey at parties to demonstrate such precocious talents. Thus, began my love affair with all things political that continues to this day.

Mr. Ford died on December 26, ironically on the anniversary of the death of President Harry S Truman (1972), also one of my favorite presidents. How is it, people have asked, that, having served fewer than 900 days, Mr. Ford could be one of my favorite presidents?

Mr. Ford was an every-man who rose up from humble beginnings and graduated from a state school — the University of Michigan, where he played football for the Wolverines and was even named team MVP his senior year. As a Yale law student, Mr. Ford worked as an assistant football coach to help pay his way.

After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mr. Ford returned to Michigan, was elected to Congress in 1948 and won 12 subsequent reelections from his western Michigan district. Mr. Ford rose to the rank of House Minority Leader prior to being tabbed as Vice President by President Richard M. Nixon upon the resignation of Spiro T. Agnew.

“Our long national nightmare is over,” said the newly sworn in Mr. Ford regarding Watergate. Mr. Ford humbly pushed forward with the daunting task of leading a nation that, for the most part, lacked trust in its leadership. Mr. Ford had the wisdom and a sense of clarity to understand the necessity that his presidency required of him to restore dignity to the office he held and to bridge the chasm left in the wake of the Nixon resignation and the next national election.

Mr. Ford had the courage to issue the pardon of his predecessor that sealed his own fate. This was an unnecessary pardon, yet one issued out of necessity as Mr. Ford stood on the precipice of both past and future.

I do not believe the Ford pardon of Mr. Nixon was required as the 37th president had not been convicted of anything. I also do not believe, as many do, that said pardon spoiled Mr. Ford’s chance of election in 1976. No, no, no — Mr. Ford was politically doomed on August 9, 1974 upon taking the oath of office making him the 38th president of the United States.

Simply by being a Republican, Mr. Ford’s days were numbered. Trailing by 30-plus points following the GOP convention in 1976 after a tumultuous primary campaign against Ronald Reagan, Mr. Ford began the long march back that very nearly resulted in his defeating Jimmy Carter. But Mr. Carter won not because he was a better candidate, not because he was a better campaigner, but because he wasn’t a Republican.

The modern conservative movement should be thankful for Mr. Ford. Mr. Reagan could have been the GOP nominee in 1976, lost to Mr. Carter and fallen into political obscurity.

History will serve well the man who called his presidency, “my stewardship” — words said by Mr. Ford during his January 12, 1977 State of the Union address, along with “our Constitution works,” and it is the “bedrock of our freedom.”

Mr. Ford did, in fact, restore dignity to the American presidency. How he would fare as a moderate in today’s Republican Party is not terribly discernable, but in that final address before the nation, Mr. Ford called for “peace with honor.” “We can remain first in peace only if we are never second in defense.”

To paraphrase American Indian philosophy, Mr. Ford left the presidency better than he found it.

SANFORD D. HORN

Alexandria

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Since the day of President Ford’s death many have praised his decision to pardon President Nixon, saying that Mr. Ford “put Watergate to rest, returned the nation’s eye to the future and restored tradition, honor and dignity to the nation’s highest office.” (“President Ford,” Editorial, Thursday). I am not one of those who share that opinion. Mr. Nixon broke the law. He abused his power as president for his own personal gain. By pardoning Mr. Nixon, Mr. Ford cheated America out of justice and a chance to show the world that the even the president isn’t above the law. Instead America is left with a legacy that high ranking officials who break the law will be pardoned “for the good of the nation.”

I wonder if we would be Iraq today and our current elected officials would flaunt the law the way they do if Mr. Nixon had faced justice. We will never know if Mr. Ford was chosen because he made a promise to pardon Mr. Nixon if he was given the job. I believe that it was wrong for an unelected president to pardon the person who appointed him. Elected officials who break the law should face justice and I hope that we don’t see justice cheated again by presidential pardons.

MARC PERKEL

San Bruno, Calif.

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I was astounded to see that the death of President Ford was not considered “the” headline story in Wednesday’s edition of The Washington Times, but was printed off to the side on the front page (“Gerald Ford dies at 93,” Page 1).

When any of our former presidents pass away — whatever their political affiliation, performance while in office or length of time served as president — the news deserves pride of place on the front page of every U.S. newspaper. This is especially true in the case of Mr. Ford, who took office under the most extraordinary set of circumstances in our country’s political history.

While your coverage on Wednesday was fairly extensive, surely it would have been a sign of respect to headline his passing as the most important event of the day.

SUSAN COLLINS

Riverdale, Md.

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When President Gerald Ford issued a presidential pardon to the cowards who had fled to Canada rather than serve in Vietnam as members of the U.S. military, he shamed the office of the president. I served in Vietnam for a year in the early 1970s as a Red Cross hospital worker and saw first-hand the extraordinary honor of the often teenage troops who served there and were willing to lay down their lives for the nation they so loved (“President Ford,” Editorial, Thursday).

I believe that the presidential pardon sent the message to those who served so honorably in combat that they were fools for having done so when they, too, could have sat our the war in the safety of Canada.

JOAN M. MAIMAN

Chicago

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