Radical Kooks

David DePape. (Photo by Michael Short/San Francisco Chronicle/ Getty Images.)

Gerald Ford was the least objectionable kind of politician, and they tried to kill him—twice that we know of. 

Ford, the moderate Republican who did his best to try to quiet things down after Watergate (please let us give up the idolatrous pretense that a president can “heal the nation” or should try to) is mainly remembered for pardoning Richard Nixon and then losing in a kind of public sacrifice to the grim and sanctimonious Jimmy Carter. As in the case of Sarah Palin, the public figure himself has been supplanted in the American consciousness by a Saturday Night Live parody. (No, Palin never said, “I can see Russia from my house,” that was Tina Fey—and Ford, possibly the finest athlete ever to serve as president, was far from Chevy Chase’s klutzy caricature.*) Of course, the median 1970s Midwestern Republican politician looks like Cincinnatus compared to what the Trump-era GOP puts forward. 

The two attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford came only 17 days apart, and both would-be assassins were women. Perhaps we should for that reason consider September of 1975 the apex of American feminism, a fortnight and change in which American women finally proved that they had it in them to be as insane and violent as American men.

The first attempt happened on September 5, 1975, when Squeaky Fromme (given name Lynette), a senior lieutenant in the Charles Manson cult, decided to kill President Ford in retribution for his perceived failure to act on environmental issues. Happily, Squeaky was a well-heeled suburban child of privilege who didn’t know how a semiautomatic handgun works, and so she put a magazine into the .45-caliber M1911 pistol she procured for the assassination but did not rack the slide to chamber a round. “Can you believe it? It didn’t go off!” she said after the failed attempt. 

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