Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Shoot Gerald Ford?

Writing yesterday about the 36th anniversary of Sara Jane Moore's attempt to assassinate then President Gerald Ford in 1975, just 17 days after Squeaky Fromme's more famous attempt, got me wondering what their motives were.  Why try to kill Gerald Ford?  I was a very young child during his presidency, but my memory is that, other than pardoning Richard Nixon, he was a non-controversial,  amiable guy who liked to golf.

So I did some searching this morning and was interested to find that their respective motives are never really explained precisely anywhere.  Instead, they are variously described (or dismissed?) as "confused" or "crazed." Sometimes Squeaky Fromme is described as a follower of Charles Manson, as if that is a sufficient explanation by itself. (Weren't their Tate/LaBianca murders intended to set off a race war?  Would shooting Gerald Ford have sparked a race war?)

Shoddy reporting, I thought. But the more I dug, the more I came to believe that they may not have had clear motives, as unbelievable as that sounds.  Here's the only quote from Squeaky Fromme I could find about her motivation. "She said she knew Ford was in town and near her, 'and I said, 'I gotta go and talk to him,' and then I thought, 'That's foolish. He's not going to stop and talk to you.' People have already shown you can lay blood in front of them and they're not, you know, they don't think anything of it. I said, 'Maybe I'll take the gun,' and I thought, 'I have to do this. This is the time.' "   .... Huh?

In a TV clip from 1975, Sara Jane Moore says bizarrely, "In order to simply survive, I thought it was the only option I had at that point." .... Huh?   But in 2009, a 79 year-old Sara Jane Moore sat for an interview on the Today Show, on the occasion of her release from prison. When addressing her motive, she began with a rambling discourse. "I have no idea what was going through my mind at that moment.... We thought San Francisco was the world."  .... Huh?   But then, after several minutes, she finally addresses her motivation directly and and concisely, "I thought it would trigger a Revolution."

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