If Gerald Ford was trying to live down his image as a bumbler, he made a curious choice of dying right after Christmas when most of the half-way decent reporters must be on vacation. On a good day, the New York Times annoys the crap out of me, but a couple of doozies slipped in that have really driven me nuts.
In a television column that itself comments on how substitutes are reporting the news of Ford’s death, reporter Alessandra Stanley notes:
On “Today” the NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell mentioned that she last spoke to Mr. Ford in California last February, “when he came over to see me, and we had lunch.” (It is hard to imagine a former president in his 90s going out of his way to meet a television reporter, so it was hard not to suspect that Mr. Ford was going out of his way not to invite Ms. Mitchell over to his house.)
How clever? What a fucking idiot! Either she doesn’t know that Andrea Mitchell is married to the then-Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, or else she was intentionally obscuring how cozy journalists and official Washington can get. Either way, it’s outrageous.
More outrageous is Sam Roberts’ attempt to exonerate Ford for his role in New York City’s fiscal crisis. Yes, it’s technically true that, just as Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake,” Ford never told New York to “Drop Dead,” but their actions and policies made clear the contempt that was summed up in the better copy that the journalists of their day (far better than this sorry lot) screamed in headlines. His defenders may insist that he “liked New York,” but insisting that the city raise the subway fare (part of the completely separate and solvent MTA budget), raise CUNY tuition, end rent control and hack away at public hospitals, museums and social services showed real – I’ll say it again – contempt for what New York stood for politically and for its heroic effort to be more than a playground for the rich and famous.
Roberts finds a number of people to praise Ford’s neoliberal hatchet job, mostly the politicians who subsequently turned New York into a playground for the rich and famous, but makes no attempt for balance. There is no questioning the wisdom of drastic cuts in public spending, nor the dubious “fact” that the crisis was the product of “inevitable hemorrhaging inflicted by bankrupt liberalism” (rather than a conspiracy of a handful of big banks that encouraged the city’s debt and then without warning demanded their money back).
The only voice of dissent slips in, almost by accident, from 30 years ago in DC37 chief Victor Gotbaum’s witty complaint that the Ford administration aimed to shrink government down to just police and fire protection, “and he’s not sure about fire.”