It was such an important lesson on display here in Washington today: We live in a great country, where an ordinary man can rise to the highest office in the land, and when he dies he is remembered by the very best in our nation. We were on the air for close to four hours this morning, and I was happy to have my old friend Michael Beschloss at my side throughout. The death of Gerald R. Ford has had such an interesting effect on our country, and on our leaders. I believe Vice President Cheney's speech on Ford in the Rotunda Saturday evening might have been the very best of his life. Tom Brokaw delivered a beautiful eulogy today, as did both Presidents Bush and Henry Kissinger. (Editor's note: You can watch the complete eulogies here: Bush Sr., Kissinger, Brokaw, President Bush.)
The American people have been forced, in a way, into looking back -- at a man who was President for only 896 days, at another time in our history. And just now, as I write this, what a tender moment on the windswept tarmac at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids as Jimmy Carter kissed Betty Ford. I firmly believe that just as we ultimately respect and venerate our presidents, we enjoy the moments that bring our leaders together... those moments when we can cast aside the politics that are so often corrosive and destructive. Our U.S. military Honor Guards and cannon squads have never looked more impressive. It puts a lump in your throat when you look at the chest decorations worn by a young Marine carrying the casket of the former President -- and see a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star -- and realize he is just back from Iraq or Afghanistan. And what a sad version of the Wolverine's fight song they played this afternoon as the casket arrived in Grand Rapids. President Ford's friendships with many in the media (this reporter included to a small extent in his later years) has meant for a blending of roles these past few days: Tom said today he was delivering his eulogy "on behalf" of the White House press corps, and later admitted just how incredibly likable President Ford was. Andrea Mitchell, who got to know President Ford largely by dint of her marriage to Alan Greenspan, told a wonderful story on MSNBC this afternoon about arriving at the Ford's home as house guests -- and having to wrestle the former President for her suitcase, as he insisted on carrying it from the car indoors. So many major media figures have similar stories, feelings and memories.
Tonight David Gregory will take us through this long day of remembrance, while Bob Faw will look at the people who came to say goodbye.
We will also check in on the other news around the world tonight, including Iraq, and the aftermath of the release of crude (in both quality and content) video of the Saddam execution in the Arab world. We'll update the story we brought you last night from New Orleans, and the weather in Colorado.
The media world seems consumed with the "new" Wall Street Journal, which made its debut today -- a friend of mine called it a "pamphlet" -- and I must say the front page, above the fold, isn't much larger than the size of my outstretched hand. I've yet to dive into it, but will examine the content of it on the flight back to New York tonight. The New York/Washington corridor of the media world was also consumed today with the portrayal of the role of General Casey in today's New York Times. It generated a lot of chatter here in Washington today. Let the first draft of the history of the Iraq war begin... or at least various views of it.
We hope you will join us for tonight's broadcast, originating from Washington.