The Good, the Bad and the Horny: Part II

(This is the second part of a 3-part series that grapples with the question: Do faithful men make better presidents? Part III will be posted on Monday, December 5. Not for readers offended by light-hearted irreverence)

LBJ In the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as our 36th president on Air Force One. The wheeler-dealer former Senate majority leader had a style that was the antithesis of Kennedy’s: earthy, crude but usually very effective. If you voted his way, you could expect a “thank-you” quid-pro-quo. Johnson’s homespun horse-trading political style was very effective on the home front, as he pushed through the entire Kennedy agenda, and then some. Among the major accomplishments of his Great Society were the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Medicare, Medicaid, the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty.

Sadly, LBJ’s domestic accomplishments were entirely overshadowed by the USA’s deepening involvement in Vietnam. As public support for the war waned, Johnson’s popularity plummeted and on March 31, 1968, he announced he would not run for re-election. LBJ has reliably been reported as a grabber and a groper, not caring much whether the object of his affection was a Harvard University White House intern, a maid or a foreign diplomat. He resented even being compared to Kennedy, bragging “I’ve had more women by accident than he (Kennedy) has had on purpose.”

NIXON Richard M. Nixon was as inept socially as you likely imagine him to have been. He felt awkward around women and also felt it important to keep his wedding vows. So, unless some 18 minutes of heretofore missing tape unexpectedly shows up and reveals another side to "Tricky Dick," let's drop ol' Milhouse in the "faithful" category. As a president, though, he is a lot harder to classify. I put him in the "mixed" category. Internationally, he was flexible, surprising and effective. Guided by Henry Kissinger, it was Nixon's initiative and the adoption of "ping-pong diplomacy" that led to the US and China re-establishing relations after three decades of enmity, and it was Nixon who put into motion the events that led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Finally, of course, there was "Watergate," a byword today for political corruption. When it became clear that Nixon had lied about knowing about the break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate and, in fact, the entire "plumbers'" operation was run from the White House, he was impeached by the Senate and resigned in disgrace, the only president ever to have resigned the office.

FORD In the event that the President and the Vice President both die, resign or are removed from office, the next in the line of succession, the Speaker of the VHouse of Representatives becomes president. So says the Constitution. And so, on that hot August day in 1974, for the first time in US history, such was the state of affairs. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew had already bitten the bullet. Pres. Nixon, hoping to avoid a prison sentence, proclaimed "I am not a crook," and then stepped down. All of a sudden, Gerald R. Ford, a congenial Michigan congressman, former University of Michigan football player and Speaker of the House, was president. No one had voted for him, but he was now the Most Powerful Man in the Galaxy. Ford was a decent, down-to-earth sort of guy, faithful to wife Betty and having no apparent personal ambitions. Just the sort of president we needed as we tried to catch our collective breath. Still, he was lampooned mercilessly and portrayed as physically uncoordinated and slow of mind, to put it nicely. LBJ's comment in 1968 that then House Minority Leader Ford was "so dumb, he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time" made the rounds on the late-night comedy circuit. At the time, I happened to be taking a seminar from the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who said he was present when LBJ made that remark and that he had been misquoted. "What Johnson really said," Galbraith told us, is that "Gerry Ford is so dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time." Personally, I don't think Ford was dumb at all and was fully capable of walking, talking and farting at the same time.

Posted by Phillip W at December 1, 2011 11:17 AM
Comment #332582

Nixon was never impeached.

Ford was never Speaker of the House.

Posted by: Warped Reality at December 1, 2011 8:20 PM
Comment #332583

W.R. Your right Nixon wasn’t impeached because he resigned before congress did impeach him. Dito on Ford but he was minority leader for 8 years and dreamed of becomming Speaker, but became V.P. and then President and probably would have been re elected except for the fact he pardoned Nixon.

Posted by: KAP at December 1, 2011 8:47 PM
Comment #332584

Had Nixon not picked Ford, the Presidency would have automatically fallen to the Democrats, who controlled the House.

Posted by: Mike at December 1, 2011 10:43 PM
Comment #332594


“Had Nixon not picked Ford, the Presidency would have automatically fallen to the Democrats, who controlled the House.”

Nixon didn’t pick Ford, He nominated him as per the 25th Amendment.
Ford was approved by the Senate 92 to 3, and in the House 387 to 35.
Nelson Rockefeller went through the same procedure to become VP when Nixon resigned. It should be noted that conservative Republicans Goldwater, and Lott voted against approval of Rockefeller, because OMG, he was a liberal.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 2, 2011 8:42 AM
Comment #332597

Hah, excellent research R.M.

Posted by: Kaitlyn H. at December 2, 2011 11:12 AM
Comment #332616

RM, thank you for that informative info; I know he had to be approved by the Congress, but perhaps you could explain the difference between Nixon “picking”, or “choosing to nominate”, it was still Nixon’s choice, wasn’t it?

Posted by: Mike at December 2, 2011 6:24 PM
Comment #332648


“…but perhaps you could explain the difference between Nixon “picking”, or “choosing to nominate”, it was still Nixon’s choice, wasn’t it?”

Theoretically, yes. However, because of the Watergate investigation, Nixon had fallen out of favor even within his own party. When Nixon went to Congressional leaders for suggestions to replace Agnew, they pretty much gave him no choice other than Ford.

Actually I was more curious about this part of your statement;

“…the Presidency would have automatically fallen to the Democrats, who controlled the House.”

Perhaps before 1967, when the 25th Amendment was ratified, this might have been the possible. However, Ford’s nomination and approval for the VP slot came nearly a year before Nixon’s resignation.
Because of the 25th Amendment, there wasn’t any way that Carl Albert, who was then Speaker of the House and third in line, would have become President under the circumstances.


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