Betty Ford's Civility
Betty Ford was laid to rest this week but not before giving instructions to have her eulogizers take one last back-handed slap at the rabble that is now the Republican Party. In personally selecting Rosalynn Carter and NPR Commentator Cokie Roberts to chastise today's politicos for their hard-edged partisanship, the former first lady went out with a final twist of irony.
"Mrs. Ford wanted me to remind everyone of the way things used to be in Washington," said Roberts, daughter of former Democrat House Leader Hal Boggs. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if she timed her death to make sure she could convey the message of comity during this week when it seems so badly needed."
Roberts has reflected fondly upon her many youthful memories of attending dance lessons with the daughters of Republican luminaries, reveling together at the many lovely soirées in the Congressional Club and modeling the latest Parisian offering at Capitol Hill fashion shows. In order words, this was a time when D.C. was civilized and an era of good will prevailed.
"She (Ford) wanted me to talk about being friends across the aisle, and how it made it easier to govern," Roberts said of the lady who long ago established her bona fides with the inside-the-beltway elite through her whole-hearted endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion, marijuana use, pre-marital sex and so much more.
"Political wives were absolutely essential... They had the men over to sit down and have a drink and have dinner with each other and behave. The women got them to be civil."
Ah, civility. There, it again raises its lovely coiffured head. But did Mrs. Ford's husband and Mrs. Robert's dad cast rose petals in the path of the other as they led their competing House delegations? Well, maybe not.
For example, Rep. Boggs took to the House floor in 1971 to eviscerate the FBI, condemning it for adopting "the tactics of the Soviet Union and Hitler's Gestapo." An angry President Nixon, himself the recipient of much Democrat love, called Mr. Ford to complain. "What's the matter with your opposite number?"
"He's nuts," Ford said of his dear friend. "He's either drinking too much or he's taking some pills that are upsetting him mentally...When we were getting the program for this week, he was mumbling, he was almost incoherent. It was very embarrassing...I hate to say this but we've got to be very careful what we tell him...everything that is classified."
Rosalynn's hubby Jimmy is even more nasty. Long ago he cast aside the longstanding gentlemen's agreement observed by all of his predecessors to avoid criticism of Presidents who follow them. In a quixotic campaign to vindicate his failed administration, he has interfered mightily in the business of every subsequent chief executive. Not satisfied to condemn the George W. Bush's administration as the worst in history, he also lashed out at British Prime Minister Tony Blair as being "abominable" for supporting U.S. foreign policy. For this display of chivalry, you get a "Peace Prize"?
Even liberal historian Douglas Brinkley found Carter's behavior "unprecedented." "When you call someone the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."
Cokie also took off after members of the press who, unlike her employer, are not subsidized by our befuddled taxpayers. "We give our microphones to the shrillest voices, and the most outlandish things to say are valued as opposed to people coming together and trying to get along," she said.
Come together? Get along? Such as when she said those who disagree with President Obama's policies don't like him because he's black? Or when she wrote that Conservative Commentator Glenn Beck is a terrorist, "a traitor to the American values he professes to so loudly defend." Or comparing the effort to overturn Obamacare to "the first step toward the Civil War." Or her sexist assertion that women are better than men.
The incalculable examples of hate speech that have passed the lips of liberal pundits and politicos is more than enough proof that this "let's play nice" mumbo-jumbo is vacuous. Apparently, the only way conservatives can demonstrate thoughtful open-mindedness is to rubber-stamp the Democrat agenda.
We would think Republicans might recall the President's previous insistence on friendly bipartisanship when he welcomed them aboard the ship of state. "We don't mind the Republicans joining us," he said. "They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back."
Republican members of Congress are now locked in one last struggle to pull this economy back from the brink. Even though a remarkably low 21 percent of Americans support yet another increase in the national debt ceiling proposed by the President, it is not a sure thing the GOP leadership is all that Grand. Even as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's knees are wobbling about uncontrollably, we can only hope the younger members of the congressional delegation who have greater resolve will hold fast.