In watching the State Funeral of Gerald Ford, I can't help but marvel at watching the Military District carry out its duties to a fallen leader, I can't help but marvel at the spectacle, the pomp and the circumstance.
Unburdened by politics, it is they who, along with that president, determine what kind of ceremony the fallen leader will have. Of course, the president's wishes must be weighed against the office he held. After all, while death is certainly as personal a moment as anyone can have, the truth is the person in that casket was, at one time, the leader of a nation. And therefor, the nation too must be allowed to grieve.
His cortege had no horse drawn caisson to carry Gerald Ford to the Capitol. But his hearse did make a poignant stop at the newly confirmed World War II memorial. The fallen leader who rose to the rank of Lt. Commander during that war, and after, served for 25 years as a member of congress also made his way to the Capitol Rotunda by way of that chamber.
And, as I have said before, it is a testament that we, as a nation, have perhaps the strongest military in the world, and it is a military that has as its Commander In Chief, a civilian. So it was even more poignant that when the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made their way up the Capitol steps, each paid tribute to his wife, by snapping a salute in acknowledgment of her place in history and, perhaps, as an overt tribute to her husband.
When Gerald Ford became president, he told us that our Constitution worked, that we were in fact a nation of laws, not of men, and try as some might, the Constitution and the people who uphold it, are stronger than any one, or small group of people. This thought gives me hope.
We have seen an erosion of congressional oversight under the current president, and an increase in presidential powers over the last six years. Two men who Ford held in high regard; Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld served him faithfully during that president's administration. But it is said, and I wouldn't be surprised, that President Ford was a little disappointed in their new found recalcitrance. That they had evolved into men who were so sure of themselves, that dissension was not allowed.
If those were his thoughts, they mirrored the thoughts of the nation, and it seems that this administration may have finally taken heed.
The day after the mid-term elections, Rumsfeld was told to go. The Vice-President who has wielded so much power and has, for the most part, spent most of his time since September 11, 2001 either in a "secure" location or out of site of the public, now seems to be back at his Washington post.
The best tribute this administration can give to President Ford is to conduct business as he did. In an open and communicative way. And to keep in mind his words which are, perhaps, just as true today as they were when he uttered them some 30 plus years ago.
"We are a nation of laws, not of men."