Humor and the Presidency


Humor and the Presidency Hardcover – October, 1987
by Gerald R. Ford (Author)

Humor and the Presidency is autobiographical, but it also presents ex-United States President Gerald Ford’s ideas linking together one’s capacity to lead with one’s capacity to laugh at oneself. In a collection of essays, Ford explains how humor has eased his way through the political process and has made him a more popular figure. Ford points out that although he may not generate the humor as comedians do, he serves the important role of being the target of others humorous creativity. Included are political cartoons spanning American history from Thomas Nast to Pat Oliphant; [xii], 162, [2] pages; Signed by Author.

Gerald R. Ford
Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. Ford was the 38th President of the United States, coming to power after the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Ford’s last memoir, A Presidential Legacy and The Warren Commission, gives an outlook of an American president in the years before his death. Ford died on December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California.

Product Details
Hardcover: 162 pages
Publisher: Arbor House Publishing; 1st edition (October 1987)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0877959188
ISBN-13: 978-0877959182
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 0.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,850,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

The Serious Side of Laughter
ByJamal J. Hattabon January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover

I confess to not being too enamored of Gerald Ford while he was president. After the first month of his presidency (the honeymoon period), he pardoned Nixon, & my initial excitement with his self-professed candor was immediately replaced with a lasting cynacism about ALL matters having to do with US politics (I was then 19, and had barely heeded the Watergate hearings, having lived in Britain while they dragged on: today I would be addicted to them). To my teenaged mind, there seemed nothing honest or sincere about the pardon, or the man responsible for it: I only saw the ‘same old, same old’, in sum, the mediocre. I would not find politics exciting again, until my early twenties, but from then on, would all but ignore the Ford era, even in retrospect. More towering/frighenting/exciting figures would follow (& had preceded)–figures whose impact would seem to be more lasting.

Then Ford died.

The press commentary on Ford’s reasons for the pardon (to rebuild the country’s confidence in its institutions, & especially the presidency), and the nicer things said about him upon his passing made me at least reconsider my lack of curiosity about Ford, when I came upon a copy of this book, during a New Year’s sale. The book had not been marked up after Ford’s passing (an oversight for this shop) & was even at 30% off during the sale. I happpend upon a sound & clean hard cover copy, in an untorn dustjacket, that seemed a reasonable buy, at $4. I just can’t resist a bargain, especially if I think it might become an investment.

Then I read the book. The first part discusses humor as a part of the First Amendment process, and its value as a check and balance against the High & Mighty & tyrranny in general. It then deals with how certain presidents could or could not craft humor (and could or could not deal with it) and notes how a good sense of humor (& an ablility to be a good sport when one is the butt of it) seems to accompany presidential competence. A president who takes himself too seriously (who cannot see the humor in his foibles) is often poisioned by arrogance (& paranoia), & less likely to be adaptive, in times of crisis. Humor punctures the bubble around the ruler who receives it well. Unfortunately, this was published before we might have seen how Bush I & Clinton took to some of the humor at their expense (1987), but the current Bush (II) certainly takes poorly to any kind of questioning of his authority. There seems to be no way that the bubble that surrounds him might be punctured by humor, or even by an attempt to explain things to him, however simple the terms one might use (see Woodward’s State of Denial).

The funny topic matter of this book all but masks the insights one gains through how a president reacts to humor directed at himself and how that reaction might predict/evaluate how well such an idividual might rule. This may even explain how/why some comedians/actors have at least seemed to be good leaders: recognition of good timing, in the pleasing of audiences (especially when such timing is improvised), and the use of it to persuade listeners about more complex ideas, may yet transfer to the kind of talent that enables one to creativly & quickwittedly work through and manage the more cosmic political issues and problems. And ones lack of such talents thereof, may also prove to be a negative harbinger.

My first impression of this book (from its cover and while perusing its pages) was that it, like its author (that is my early impressions of him), might be trite: by the time I finished it (introduction included), I was deeply impressed with its wisdom (& saw that some of those positive things written about Ford, upon his passing, indeed proved true: how he wrote this book & evaluated on his own mistakes & accomplishments showed his mind to be subtle after all). His attitude to the humor directed at him, even at a time when it hurt him more, seemed to mostly be along the lines of, “fair enough” which led me to come away from this book with a sense that Ford was himself an honest person, & more importantly, if not absolutely brilliant, at least a quick study. So, I now regard Ford as having (post humously & post humorously) taught me something insightful about humor, just rule, and its positive effects upon the world. I now regard the writer (Ford) as not trite at all–certainly sincere, and, in light of an eventful life, most admirable.

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