President Ford strove to be a uniter, not a divider |

President Ford strove to be a uniter, not a divider

Rev. Jack Van Ens

On Aug. 31, our nation will recognize two pivotal national leaders. Stamp collectors like myself, along with hundreds of admirers of our former president, anticipate the release of the Gerald R. Ford memorial stamp Aug. 31. In my hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., philatelists will witness the first day of issue ceremonies for the 41-cent commemorative stamp at the Presidential Museum next to Ford’s burial plot. Similar ceremonies will be held at Palm Desert’s McCallum Theater and near Ford’s home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.Aug. 31 also marks the last day Karl Rove is on the White House staff. President George W. Bush called him “the architect” after the 2004 election night. Rove masterminded Bush’s victory, most believe. He built a tight-knit web of voters who identified themselves as conservative Christians. These evangelicals cast their ballots for Bush en masse. Few broke ranks, so Bush scored wins in successive national elections.Both Ford and Rove will be saluted on Aug. 31. Huge differences mark these leaders. Ford temperamentally and by action worked toward uniting factions for our national good. Rove won at all costs by dividing the nation and demonizing enemies in order to keep happy his conservative base.I’m biased toward my former Michigan 5th District congressman, Gerald Ford. In my boyhood home, we prayed before and after each meal to the Triune God. My dad paid almost as much homage to a trinity of Republican statesmen: Gerald Ford, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Michigan’s senior senator, Arthur H. Vandenberg. Dad supported Ford’s congressional campaigns, served as a private in World War II with Eisenhower, who briefly interviewed him before D-Day, and he applauded Vandenberg, who changed from an isolationist before the war to an ardent post-war supporter of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe.Dad often reminded others that his three political heroes were centrist Republicans. That is, they worked to unify rather than drive their convictions to the extremes, alienating opponents and building a long list of enemies. These three statesmen exhibited attributes of a figure a proverbs-coiner personified. A biblical writer pictured wisdom as a woman who sounded like a uniter. She announced, “I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior and twisted speech. Advice and priceless wisdom are mine,” Proverbs 8:13-14.Living proofFord reflected such biblical wisdom. He learned how our constitutional government runs best. Tension, clashes of opinion and striving for balance form the core of our Republic’s governance. It’s a self-balancing system that distributes power, a way of governing that doesn’t magically manage itself. Ford knew how important the character of leaders running the government is. They show capacity to rise above partisan cheap shots. They strive for the common good. They aren’t power mongers who skirt constitutional limits.In Congress, Ford worked as a uniter. He mastered negotiating skills. He cinched deals rather than initiating legislation that was aimed at riling those across the congressional aisle. He didn’t write a single bill during his tenure in the House from 1949-1973, but colleagues depended on him to get their bills through the legislative process. Karl Rove didn’t learn the civics lesson Ford aced. Ford acquired insights from James Madison’s defense of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers. Rove achieved victory, even if it cost deep national debate and hate. He majored in dividing our nation.Usually a strong supporter of the Bush Administration, The Wall Street Journal (in an Aug. 14 article) exposed Rove’s fatal weakness. “If Mr. Rove was Mr. Bush’s political ‘architect,’ as the president called him, his design was a strategy that came to seem better aimed for winning elections than for governing and winning big agenda items. Those items, notably the doomed second term priority of over-hauling Social Security, required a broad political consensus and compromise, which would aggravate the political base and wasn’t the Bush-Rove style.”

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