Bill Bennett: Ford's comments about Bush administration indecent
Since "decency" seems to be the watchword of the day and the consensus modifier for Jerry Ford (a view with which I generally concur), may I nevertheless be permitted to ask this: just how decent, how courageous, is what Jerry Ford did with Bob Woodward? He slams Bush & Cheney to Woodward in 2004, but asks Woodward not to print the interview until he's dead. If he felt so strongly about his words having a derogatory affect, how about telling Woodward not to run the interview until after Bush & Cheney are out of office? The effect of what Ford did is to protect himself, ensuring he can't be asked by others about his critiques, ensuring that there can be no dialogue. The way Ford does it with Woodward, he doesn't have to defend himself...he simply drops it into Bob Woodward's tape recorder and let's the bomb go off when fully out of range, himself. This is not courage, this is not decent. The manly or more decent options are these: 1. Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around, or 2. Far more decently, say nothing critical of Bush will be on the record until his presidency is over. There's a 3. Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all.Note that the options Bennett provides seem designed not to transmit the opinion that Ford clearly wanted to get out, but to protect the Bushies from criticism. Had I the opportunity, I think I would ask Bennett whether he thinks it's decent to call a dead man a chickenshit rather than use one or more of his numerous oppportunities to appear in the media to argue with Ford's opinion that the U.S. shouldn't attempt to "go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security" or that caving to the right and dumping Nelson Rockefeller from his presidential ticket "was an act of cowardice."
I have a problem with an embargo of this type, but I don't think this is an issue of Ford's cowardice. Rather, this simply raises once again the question of Bob Woodward's ethics. While listed in the byline of the piece Bennett describes as a "Washington Post Staff Writer," Woodward is, in fact, an assistant managing editor at the newspaper. If Woodward agreed to keep something from his paper for the purposes of a future book, then what good is he to the Post any longer? Shouldn't the paper use his salary to hire three young go-getters to find the next Watergate scandal and let Woodward write his books full time? What else might Woodward, who's said he's "in the habit of keeping secrets," be squirreling away for future release? Why trust a paper whose reporters put statements--made in an election year, I should point out--up on a shelf for long-term storage?