WS 2011/2012                 exam translation (advanced)     (Staatsexamen Herbst 2007)                text #10

Call it the inverse law of US presidential obituaries: the greater the acclaim for the president in his day, the harsher the reappraisals of his record after his death. Ronald Reagan, so popular in office that his supporters discussed repealing the 22nd amendment to the constitution that limits presidents to serving two terms, received a downbeat, critical farewell in June 2004 - the New York Times obituary quoted one historian as saying: “He was too late, too little and too lame when it came to human rights abuses at home and abroad [...] He was not willing to be a leader.”

     Gerald Ford, who died last week aged 93, was widely regarded as a weak, ineffectual president, an accident of history. Yet the US media’s response to his death was to grant him an indulgence
*) it seldom showed during his presidency. To the Washington Post, President Ford “reassured the people about the nature and quality of their government”. A stream of columnists, bloggers and letter writers were quick to re-evaluate Ford’s abrupt decision to pardon his predecessor, Richard Nixon, for wrongdoing over Watergate - the Post saying that it was hard to see “how an indictment and trial would have done the country much good”. The Wall Street Journal also stressed Ford’s personal character, concluding that “history dealt him a weak hand; he played it well”.

    A weak hand is an understatement: few US presidents have come into office overshadowed by the burdens that Ford had to face immediately. He inherited an economy in the mid-1970s that was sliding into recession and suffering from high inflation, as the effects of Middle East oil price increases began to bite sharply. There was the constitutional and political wreckage from Watergate and the Nixon administration to be dealt with. And the embers of Vietnam were also still smouldering. It was on Ford’s watch that the fall of Saigon took place with that ignominious airlift evacuation from the roof of the US embassy

To have presided over any one of those national disasters would have scarred any administration. No wonder that Ford's time in office should, rather like that of John Major in Britain, have passed into the national conscience as hapless. That view was not helped by some of Ford’s televised stumbles***), such as his slip down wet steps when disembarking at Vienna airport, or his poor performance during the 1976 election campaign when he insisted, bizarrely, that Poland was not dominated by the Soviet Union. [...]

     But as the nation’s obituarists were at pains to point out, the received image of Ford as clumsy****) was wide off the mark.

From: Richard Adams: Ford: from dimwit to man of integrity. In: The Guardian Weekly, January 5-11, 2007. (abridged)

*) Ford pardons Nixon a) video: b) text: 

**)"ignominious airlift evacuation from the roof of the American embassy": photo  
***) video: Ford stumbles:
****) HUMOUR: "Dingbat" Ford: X sound: Big Game,Rich Little.mp3  text: Big Game; Rich Little


EXTRA (1): JFK, Inauguration: 

EXTRA (2): "Obama Special": a) video:                                                                         
                                                     b) text: Obama, victory speech      JOKE: "Yes, we can!"

                                                     c) Inauguration: text:

video: (part 1)  (part 2)

[plus: John McCain: a) video:   b) text: McCain, concession speech]


American presidents: a) Ford to Clinton    b) Richard Nixon to George W. Bush

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