Two important deaths close out 2006. But I think Gerald Ford's is the more significant.
While Hussein was the ostensible reason for a war that has killed 3000 Americans,his execution seems a dull afterthought. Like Joe Pesci's rubout in Goodfellas, you can just hear Ray Liotta say, "It's an Iraqi thing." From the moment Hussein was captured and held in US custody, you knew they (US or Iraq) would kill him one way or another. Oddly enough, I think Hussein could have done us more good alive than dead.
In the case of Ford, it is the end of an era. The last man without a streak of self-importance as wide as the Beltway that held the office of the Presidency is dead. And we may never see his likes again. All men, and women for that matter, who seek the office spend every waking moment convincing the American public, the press and the world how smart they are. How cool under fire they are. How experienced, empathetic and tough they are. Understandably so, as the job becomes more out of touch with reality with every election cycle. We often elect Presidents, Democrat or Republican, without any real understanding of who they are as people. Without ever knowing what makes them tick and whether they are up to the job until it is too late and they are already sworn in.
Ford never sought the office initially. When he did run, he lost. But Ford was the last President who never seemed the self-conscious, overbearing, word-of-God, self-seeking politico that we are treated to nearly exclusively now. He was a real person, a career Congressman. A public servant in the greatest tradition. An American in the best tradition. Differ with him on policy, and you weren't treated to the sociopathology of a Cheney, for example. And when he pardoned Nixon, well....what did you expect him to do?
Ford paid for that decision, but he helped the country move forward in the process. Gerald Ford, the last man who remained true to who he was as an individual WHILE IN OFFICE to become US President.