Former president Gerald Ford has not even been buried yet and already the media can’t resist glomming on to Bob Woodward’s exclusive interview with Ford, done in 2004, where Ford essentially said he opposed the Iraq war:
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. “I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford’s own administration.
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford “very strongly” disagreed with the current president’s justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney — Ford’s White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”
In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.
“Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,” Ford said, referring to Bush’s assertion that the United States has a “duty to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what’s in our national interest.” He added: “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
The Ford interview — and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 — took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.
You know what? I can understand if Woodward and the WaPo would have wanted to publish this story in a few weeks after everyone’s had a chance to pay their respects to President Ford, but to publish it two days after the man’s death is, in my opinion, a lowdown way to cash in on that death by generating controversy over what Ford said about the Iraq war when what we should be talking about and remembering are Ford’s accomplishments and debating about things he should have done as president that maybe he didn’t and vice versa as well as his place in history. Not only that, but any criticism of Ford’s opinion on the Iraq war right now will be portrayed as “insensitive at this time” thus implying that it’s wrong to question the opinions of a departed former president who was well-liked by many. Can you say “Creating absolute moral authority”?
Update I – 5:32 PM: Speaking of absolute moral authority, Allah posted earlier today about the NYT’s love affair with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in which they give him absolute moral authority as a Republican critic of the Iraq war in part due to a speech he made three weeks ago. This is the price the GOP is paying for throwing their weight behind Specter rather than Pat Toomey two years ago.