Gerald Ford, Impeachment, and The Difference Between Politics and Law Enforcement

Historians in the News
tags: Gerald Ford, politics, presidential history, impeachment, Nixon, Trump

Michael J. Socolow is a media historian and Associate Professor in the Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Maine. His research centers upon America’s original radio networks in the 1920s and 1930s.

Only two Presidents in American history assumed office in the midst of a Constitutional crisis. The first was Abraham Lincoln. The second was Gerald Ford.

In both cases, America proved lucky.

Both presidents needed to clean up after failed presidencies, steer the government during periods of remarkable antagonism between branches of government, and take extraordinary – and historic – measures to reassemble our national political culture. Lincoln is widely considered the greatest president in our history, but Ford is often forgotten. And yet, with talk of the impeachment of President Donald Trump gathering momentum, Ford’s clear and precise understanding of the difference between politics and law enforcement provides a useful primer for political action.

Gerald Ford was a remarkable political figure. If he’s remembered today, it’s for his doddering way of speaking at press conferences, or what comedians portrayed as his clumsy physicality. No master communicator, Ford could easily be lampooned for his ridiculous slogans (“Whip Inflation Now,” was such a joke that WIN buttons remain a collector’s item) and his seeming dim-wittedness.

But that was not Gerald Ford. 

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