July 2, 2005

"FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD."

The man who penned the ultimate tabloid headline, William J. Brink, has ... well ... dropped dead.
Set in huge bold letters, the headline screamed across Page 1 of the paper on Oct. 30, 1975. In six taut syllables, it brought home its message with the power of a knockout punch: At the height of New York's fiscal crisis, President Gerald R. Ford had declined to bail the city out.

Those six syllables, as Mr. Ford later acknowledged, almost certainly lost him New York State in his 1976 race against Jimmy Carter, and with it, the presidency.
Powerful. The pen is mighty.

The NYT, which had to resist saying Brink "dropped dead," does poke fun at itself:
The corresponding headline in The New York Times that day, FORD, CASTIGATING CITY, ASSERTS HE'D VETO FUND GUARANTEE; OFFERS BANKRUPTCY BILL, remains unsung.

3 comments:

Dave said...

Ford did the correct thing. The government ought not be in the business of bailing out other governments (or businesses: Iacocca, etc.)

gs said...

Though not categorically opposed to bailouts, I agree with dave that the NYC decision was correct. Supposedly Ford could have carried NY anyway by campaigning vigorously upstate (no love for NYC there). NY Republicans complained that he unnecessarily wrote off the state.

Of course, Brink's headline is trumped by another one,"Ford Pardons Nixon." It outraged me at the time, but it was the right decision too. The country needed to focus on its significant problems and look to the future, not wallow for years in Nixon trials.

I view the NY and Nixon decisions as unpopular but statesmanlike. All by themselves they would not have cost Ford reelection.

Reagan's running against Ford divided the Republicans and helped set Ford up for losing, just as Ted Kennedy's candidacy would weaken Jimmy Carter in 1980. (I think Reagan is the most important president since FDR, but his 1976 actions were about Reagan, not about the Republican party.)

The avoidable thing that might have made the difference was the Poland gaffe in the debate. Afaik, a sitting president had never debated his opponent, and Ford made a gutsy move in meeting 'nuclear physicist' Carter head on. However, during the debate Ford said, and iirc declined the opportunity to correct himself, that Poland was not dominated by the Soviet Union (maybe he meant the Polish spirit was unbroken, but what was he thinking??). There wasn't time to recover and Carter won.

"A fly may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still." Mr. Brink, you were good enough at your profession to earn a footnote in history. Rest in peace.

I think well of Gerry Ford. He wasn't fully up to the occasion, but the country could have done far worse. I hope history gives him, like Truman, generous extra credit for doing his best.

Stephen Snell said...

Mister we could use a man like Gerry Ford again. A President who tries to do the right thing even at the expense of special interests and his/her prospects in the next election?

The next great hero in this nation will be the President who sacrifices a second term to make the fiscal changes needed to ensure the survival of the nation.