Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Some old (and hard) lessons and a new-found respect

This from Sweetness and Light:

… Mr. Ford, on Oct. 29, 1975, gave a speech denying federal assistance to spare New York from bankruptcy. The front page of The Daily News the next day read: “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.”
Mr. Ford never explicitly said “drop dead.” Yet those two words, arguably the essence of his remarks as encapsulated in the immortal headline, would, as he later acknowledged, cost him the presidency the following year, after Jimmy Carter, nominated by the Democrats in New York, narrowly carried the state.

In the speech, the president said: “The people of this country will not be stampeded. They will not panic when a few desperate New York officials and bankers try to scare New York’s mortgage payments out of them.”

Though he did later approve a federal loan to the city which was repaid with interest, the speech had a tremendous impact:

Howard J. Rubenstein, the public relations executive who was an adviser to Mayor Abraham D. Beame, recalled that the speech “galvanized New York like I’ve never seen before.” Mr. Rubenstein still has a framed copy of the headline on his office wall.
With 30 years’ hindsight, some of the players say that if Mr. Ford had acquiesced to the city’s appeals months or even weeks earlier, New York might never have recovered.

All this from a President whom the American Experience notes somewhat disapprovingly, “The president was reduced to governing by veto: sixty-six times he exercised his veto power.”

Like this is a bad thing?

And lastly, this prescient quote from the Nebraskan by birth and Michigander by choice:

“You know, the President of the United States is not a magician who can wave a wand or sign a paper that will instantly end a war, cure a recession or make a bureaucracy disappear.”

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