Washington -- Many people of widely-varied political and ideological persuasions have already reproached the President for his inappropriate remarks at both the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford in Virginia and at the annual Boy Scout jamboree in West Virginia. His asides at the Boy Scout gathering were downright indecent.
I cannot improve on the condemnations, but with regard to the ship's commissioning I can offer the perspective of a veteran who is familiar with what is, and what is not, appropriate at a such an event.
It should go without saying that in front of assembled dignitaries, no remarks should be offered that would be improper in the ship's wardroom; that is, religion and politics are off limits. Yet the president openly invited and even instructed the ship's company to contact Congress in support of his political agenda. In any wardroom of which I was a member (USS Rainier, USS Arlington) this kind of talk would result in a stern admonition from the ship's executive officer.
In April, 1963, I was invited to the commissioning of the USS Platte, named after Nebraska's Platte River, as staff to Nebraska Senator J. James Exon, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I drafted his remarks for the occasion, if memory serves. Admiral William Crowe, CINCUSNAVEUR, attended; he was soon to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and ambassador to the Court of St. James under President Clinton. I cannot fathom Admiral Crowe's reaction, had he been in attendance at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford.
The commissioning of this new aircraft carrier reminds us of the qualities of President Ford. He stood for a respectable conservatism that cared about balanced budgets, cautious monetary policy, free trade, and strong international alliances. He was a decent man, above everything. The country misses you, Gerald Ford.