Max Schulz has a good piece up on NRO on Gerald Ford’s posthumously published potshots at his fellow presidents. I initially didn’t think it was such a big deal when Ford’s 2004 Iraq comments to Bob Woodward came out — the conditions of the interview seemed to me to be a good balance between entering Ford’s views of the war into the historical record and trying not to undermine the sitting president.
But I’ve since become disturbed by the emerging pattern that Schulz has also noticed: Ford often said things in these interviews that contradicted what he was saying publicly. Ford was often quite effusive in his public praise for Ronald Reagan, especially during the final decade of both mens’ lives. It doesn’t surprise me that he also had some negative views — and some bruised feelings about 1976 and the near-universal Republican admiration for the Gipper — but the discrepancy between what he was saying publicly and what he was telling interviewers was striking. Ford didn’t just sound like he was making nice with Reagan when he praised him; he sounded like actually believed the GOP consensus about our 40th president. It’s okay if he didn’t, but why pretend? Even Jimmy Carter can play nice at funerals and library openings while criticizing his fellow chief executives the rest of the time.