The Corner

Culture

Remembering President Ford

Today, I have a “Michigan Journal, Part I” — and this first installment focuses on Grand Rapids. Which means some comments on Gerald Ford. I would like to make another one, here in the Corner.

I saw him once. It was a campaign event, 1976. Ford was president, and he was running against Jimmy Carter. I was twelve. Ford spoke in Crisler Arena, the University of Michigan basketball arena.

As he read his speech, a shot rang out. Or something that sounded like a shot. It was apparently a firecracker or something. A prank. Everyone in the arena was spooked — more than normally would have been the case — because Ford had been the target of two assassination attempts at that point.

Ford looked up quickly in the direction of the noise, but never broke his stride. Never stopped speaking. Never departed from his text. He was as cool as a cucumber. There was commotion in the area of the sound — probably the Secret Service, hustling the offender off. Ford was aware of it, but, again, continued on, perfectly calm.

This was one of the greatest instances of sangfroid I have ever witnessed.

P.S. Crisler Arena is named for Fritz Crisler, a legendary football coach at Michigan. I met him once. My grandfather introduced me to him. “Jay, this is Fritz Crisler,” he said. The coach quipped, “Not the violinist.”

He was referring to the great Fritz Kreisler, 1875–1962.

Our Crisler was not born Fritz. He was given that name by his football coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg, at the University of Chicago — who of course had the violinist in mind.

It was a different culture back then, I guess: Football coaches thought of violinists.

P.P.S. Last week, Ramesh Ponnuru had a post on Rand Paul, and his misattribution of a quotation to Jefferson: some version of “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

Ford used to say this all the time. It was a signature line. I don’t remember that he ever attributed it. I think he said “As the saying goes . . . ” or “As a wise man once said . . . ” — something like that.

Some of us on the right have nothing good to say about Ford, who was, after all, the opponent of Our Hero in the 1976 primaries. But, to the Left, Ford was definitely the Right. And he was a hell of a man.

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