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Leslie King was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on 14th July, 1913. His parents divorced when he was an infant and his mother remarried a paint salesman in Michigan. Leslie's name was changed to that of his stepfather, Gerald Rudolph Ford.
An outstanding sportsman he won a football scholarship to the University of Michigan, before studying law at Yale University. Ford graduated in 1941 and after being admitted to the bar began work in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
During the Second World War Ford served in the United States Navy and saw action in Okinawa, Wake Island, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Gilbert Islands. By the time he was discharged in 1946 had reached the rank as lieutenant commander.
A member of the Republican Party, Ford was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946. He was re-elected to the next eleven Congresses. He soon developed a reputation as a right-wing politician. As Harold Jackson pointed out: "He built up an impressive record of flat-earth conservatism. He voted against federal aid for education and housing, repeatedly resisted increases in the minimum wage, tried to block the introduction of medical care for the elderly, and consistently fought any measures to combat pollution. At the same time he supported virtually all increases in defence spending."
On the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963 his deputy, Lyndon B. Johnson, was appointed president. He immediately set up a commission to "ascertain, evaluate and report upon the facts relating to the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy." Gerald Ford was invited to join the commission under the chairmanship of Earl Warren. Other members of the commission included Richard B. Russell, Thomas Hale Boggs, Allen W. Dulles, John J. McCloy and John S. Cooper.
One possible reason Johnson selected Ford was that he was under the control of J. Edgar Hoover. According to Bobby Baker (Wheeling and Dealing), who was himself under investigation for his corrupt relationship with politicians, businessmen and call-girls, Ford had been secretly taped by the FBI when he had attended meetings with Fred Black at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington.
J. Lee Rankin became chief counsel for the Warren Commission. He then appointed Norman Redlich as his special assistant. Redlich began investigating the relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. He was especially interested in why Oswald appeared to be heading towards Ruby's apartment after the assassination.
According to William C. Sullivan (The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover's FBI) Gerald Ford provided J. Edgar Hoover with information about the activities of staff members of the commission. "Hoover was delighted when Gerald Ford was named to the Warren Commission. The director wrote in one of his internal memos that the bureau could expect Ford to 'look after FBI interests,' and he did, keeping us fully advised of what was going on behind closed doors. He was our man, our informant, on the Warren Commission."
Hoover ordered that the FBI should carry out an investigation of Norman Redlich. He discovered that Redlich was on the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, an organization considered by Hoover to have been set-up to "defend the cases of Communist lawbreakers". Redlich had also been critical of the activities of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
This information was leaked to a group of right-wing politicians. On 5th May, 1964, Ralph F. Beermann, a Republican Party congressman, made a speech claiming that Redlich was associated with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Beermann called for Redlich to be removed as a staff member of the Warren Commission. He was supported by Karl E. Mundt who said: "We want a report from the Commission which Americans will accept as factual, which will put to rest all the ugly rumors now in circulation and which the world will believe. Who but the most gullible would believe any report if it were written in part by persons with Communist connections?"
Gerald Ford joined in the attack and at one closed-door session of the Warren Commission he called for Norman Redlich to be dismissed. However, Rankin and Earl Warren both supported him and he retained his job. However, after this, Redlich posed no threat to the theory that Oswald was the lone gunman.
The original first draft of the Warren Commission Report stated that a bullet had entered Kennedy's "back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine." Ford realized that this provided a serious problem for the single bullet theory. As Michael L. Kurtz has pointed out (The JFK Assassination Debates): "If a bullet fired from the sixth-floor window of the Depository building nearly sixty feet higher than the limousine entered the president's back, with the president sitting in an upright position, it could hardly have exited from his throat at a point just above the Adam's apple, then abruptly change course and drive downward into Governor Connally's back."
In 1997 the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) released a document that revealed that Ford had altered the first draft of the report to read: "A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine." Ford had elevated the location of the wound from its true location in the back to the neck to support the single bullet theory.
The Republican Party surprisingly nominated the extreme conservative, Barry Goldwater, in the 1964 presidential election. During the election campaign Goldwater called for an escalation of the war against North Vietnam. In comparison to Goldwater, Lyndon B. Johnson was seen as the 'peace' candidate. People feared that Goldwater would send troops to fight in Vietnam. Johnson, on the other hand, argued that he was not willing: "to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."
In the 1964 presidential election. Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been a popular leader during his year in office, easily defeated Barry Goldwater by 42,328,350 votes to 26,640,178. Johnson gained 61 per cent of the popular vote, giving him the largest majority ever achieved by an American president.
Another consequence of the election was that the House of Representatives had the largest Democratic majority since 1936. Gerald Ford was elected as minority leader by the slim margin of 73 to 67. During the Tet Offensive Ford called on Johnson to "Americanise the war". At that time, the US already had 500,000 troops fighting in the country. Johnson later described Ford as "so dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time."
By 1968, the popularity of the Democratic Party was in decline. Johnson decided not to stand and was replaced by Hubert Humphrey as the party's presidential candidate. With progressive forces in the country unhappy with Humphrey's support of the Vietnam War, and with George Wallace collecting over 9 million votes in the South, it was no surprise when Richard Nixon won the election. Nixon received 31,770,237 votes against 31,270,533 for Humphrey.
Ford worked closely with Nixon's new administration. Alexander Butterfield later claimed that Nixon always had the minority leader totally under his thumb. He added: "He was a tool of the Nixon administration, like a puppy dog. They used him when they had to - wind him up and he'd go."
In 1970 two of Nixon's conservative nominees to the Supreme Court (Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell) failed their Senate confirmation hearings. Ford joined forces with Richard Nixon and Attorney General John N. Mitchell in an effort to get liberal justice, William O. Douglas, to resign. Stories were spread that Douglas was in the pay of the Parvin Foundation. In April 1970 Ford moved to impeach Douglas, the first major modern era attempt to impeach a member of the Supreme Court. Ford gained very little support for his actions and the hearings were brought to a close and no public vote on the matter was taken.
In 1973, Nixon's vice-president, Spiro Agnew was investigated for extortion, bribery and income-tax violations while governor of Maryland. On 10th October, 1973 resigned as vice-president. Nixon attempted to appoint John Connally as Agnew's replacement. However, Nixon was warned that his appointment would not be confirmed by Congress. Nixon therefore selected Ford instead.
Gerald Ford became president when Richard Nixon was also forced to resign over the Watergate Scandal in August, 1974. Ford therefore became the first man in history to become the president of the United States without having been elected as either president or vice president. Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. During his confirmation hearings it was revealed that over the years he had made large gifts of money to government officials such as Henry Kissinger.
On 8th September, 1974, Ford controversially granted Richard Nixon a full pardon "for all offences against the United States" that might have been committed while in office. The pardon brought an end all criminal prosecutions that Nixon might have had to face concerning the Watergate Scandal.
On October 17, 1974, Ford vetoed the bill that would significantly strengthen the Freedom Of Information Act, calling it “unconstitutional and unworkable.” However, in November the House of Representatives and the Senate overrode President Ford’s veto.
In December, 1974, Seymour Hersh of the New York Times, published a series of articles claiming that the Central Intelligence Agency had been guilty of illegal activities. In his memoirs, Ford said that he feared a congressional investigation would result in "unnecessary disclosures" that could "cripple" the CIA. He and his aides quickly decided that he needed to prevent an independent congressional investigation. He therefore appointed Nelson Rockefeller to head his own investigation into these allegations.
Other members of the Rockefeller Commission included C. Douglas Dillon, Ronald Reagan, John T. Connor, Edgar F. Shannon, Lyman L. Lemmitzer, and Erwin N. Griswold. Executive Director of the task-force was David W. Belin, the former counsel to the Warren Commission and leading supporter of the magic bullet theory. In 1973 Berlin had published his book, November 22, 1963: You are the Jury, in which he defended the Warren Report as an historic, "unshakeable" document.
In her book, Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI, Kathryn S. Olmsted, wrote: "His choice for chairman, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, had served as a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which monitored the CIA. Members Erwin Griswold, Lane Kirkland, Douglas Dillon, and Ronald Reagan had all been privy to CIA secrets in the past or noted for their strong support of governmental secrecy."
The journalist, Joseph Kraft, argued that he feared that the Rockefeller report would not end "the terrible doubts which continue to eat away at the nation." This was reflected in public opinion polls taken at the time. Only 33% had confidence in the Rockefeller Commission and 43% believed that the commission would turn into "another cover-up".
At a meeting with some senior figures at the New York Times, including Arthur O. Sulzberger and A. M. Rosenthal, President Gerald Ford let slip the information that the CIA had been involved in conspiracies to assassinate political leaders. He immediately told them that this information was off the record. This story was leaked to the journalist Daniel Schorr who reported the story on CBS News. As Schorr argued in his autobiography, Staying Tuned: " President Ford moved swiftly to head off a searching congressional investigation by extending the term of the Rockefeller commission and adding the assassination issue to its agenda."
Rockefeller's report was published in 1975. It included information on some CIA abuses. As David Corn pointed out in Blond Ghost: "the President's panel revealed that the CIA had tested LSD on unsuspecting subjects, spied on American dissidents, physically abused a defector, burgled and bugged without court orders, intercepted mail illegally, and engaged in plainly unlawful conduct". The report also produced details about MKULTRA, a CIA mind control project.
Rockefeller also included an 18-page section on the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Allegations Concerning the Assassination of John F. Kennedy). A large part of the report was taken up with examining the cases of E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis. This was as a result of both men being involved in the Watergate Scandal. The report argued that a search of agency records showed that Sturgis had never been a CIA agent, informant or operative. The commission also accepted the word of both men that they were not in Dallas on the day of the assassination.
The Rockefeller Commission also looked at the possibility that John F. Kennedy had been fired at by more than one gunman. After a brief summary of the Warren Commission (1964) and the Ramsay Clark Panel (1968) investigations, Rockefeller concluded: "On the basis of the investigation conducted by its staff, the Commission believes that there is no evidence to support the claim that President Kennedy was struck by a bullet fired from either the grassy knoll or any other position to his front, right front or right side, and that the motions of the President's head and body, following the shot that struck him in the head, are fully consistent with that shot having come from a point to his rear, above him and slightly to his right."
Nelson Rockefeller also looked at the possible connections between E. Howard Hunt, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and the CIA. He claimed that there was no "credible evidence" that Oswald or Ruby were CIA agents or informants. Nor did Hunt ever have contact with Oswald. The report argues: "Hunt's employment record with the CIA indicated that he had no duties involving contacts with Cuban exile elements or organizations inside or outside the United States after the early months of 1961... Hunt and Sturgis categorically denied that they had ever met or known Oswald or Ruby. They further denied that they ever had any connections whatever with either Oswald or Ruby."
This section of the report reached the following conclusions: "Numerous allegations have been made that the CIA participated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Commission staff investigated these allegations. On the basis of the staff's investigation, the Commission concluded there was no credible evidence of any CIA involvement."
The report was condemned as a cover-up. Dr. Cyril H. Wecht accused the Rockefeller Commission of "deliberately distorting and suppressing" part of his testimony as to the nature of Kennedy's head and neck wounds. Wecht demanded that a full transcript of his testimony be released. Rockefeller refused on the grounds that the commission proceedings were confidential.
Dissatisfaction with the report resulted in other investigations into the CIA taking place. This included those led by Frank Church, Richard Schweiker, Louis Stokes, Lucien Nedzi and Otis Pike.
Ford's ability to govern was handicapped by the way he had obtained power and the fact that he had to deal with a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party. On over fifty occasions Congress vetoed his proposed legislation. Ford also struggled with rampant inflation and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
At the Republican National Convention in August, 1976, Ford defeated Ronald Reagan and won the party's nomination. His presidential campaign did not go well. In one of his televised debates with Jimmy Carter he stated "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe". Ford, was also handicapped by his association with Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal, and was defeated by Carter by 40,276,040 to votes to 38,532,360.
After his defeat in 1976 Gerald Ford retired to his home in Palm Springs, California. In 1980, Ronald Reagan gave serious consideration to Ford as a potential vice-presidential running mate. Negotiations between the Reagan and Ford camps took place at the Republican National Convention in Detroit. According to an article by Richard V. Allen (New York Times Magazine, July 30, 2000). Ford conditioned his acceptance on Reagan's agreement to an unprecedented "co-presidency", giving Ford the power to control key executive branch appointments (such as Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State and Alan Greenspan as Treasury Secretary). After rejecting these terms, Reagan offered the vice-presidential nomination to George H. W. Bush.
In January 2006, Ford was treated for pneumonia. In August of that year it was reported that he had been fitted with a pacemaker. Gerald Ford died on 26th December, 2006.
Hoover was delighted when Gerald Ford was named to the Warren Commission. The director wrote in one of his internal memos that the bureau could expect Ford to "look after FBI interests," and he did, keeping us fully advised of what was going on behind closed doors. He was our man, our informant, on the Warren Commission.
Ford's relationship with Hoover went back to Ford's first congressional campaign in Michigan. Our agents out in the field kept a watchful eye on local congressional races and advised Hoover whether the winners were friends or enemies. Hoover had a complete file developed on each incoming congressman. He knew their family backgrounds, where they had gone to school, whether or not they played football, and any other tidbits he could weave into a subsequent conversation.
Gerald Ford was a friend of Hoover's, and he first proved it when he made a speech not long after he came to Congress recommending a pay raise for J. Edgar Hoover, the great director of the FBI. He proved it again when he tried to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, a Hoover enemy.
Edward Bennett Williams said, "Bobby, you can never figure what a jury will do. It's a roll of the dice. Think about it. Bill Bittman's tough. Bobby Kennedy put him on the Jimmy Hoffa case because he's like a bulldog, and he put Hoffa in Jail. There's a lot of press hysteria connected with your case and the political implications are grave."
I thought about it while Williams silently drove the car and then said, "Ed, absolutely under no circumstances do you have authority to tell Bittman I'll plead guilty to one damn thing. If I do, the press will play it that I got my wrists slapped, that I copped out, that a fix was in. The assumption of total guilt will be with me the rest of my life."
"Well," he said, "it will be with you if a jury finds you guilty, too."
"Maybe they can kill me," I said, "but they can't eat me. I'll go to trial."
"I concur with your decision," Williams said. "I didn't want to influence you, because if something goes wrong then you're the guy who will have to pay the piper."
I knew that William O. Bittman was a tough nut. He had hard, cold eyes and by his own admission was humorless. A bulky former line-backer for Marquette University, lie wore his hair in a crewcut and reminded me of a man the nation Would later get to know - H. R. Halderman of the Nixon staff. I knew from his wiretapping, electronic buggings, and the pressure he'd applied to potential witnesses that Bittman would play hardball all the way (I learned that when the FBI bugged Fred Black's Sheraton-Carlton Suite for six months, one of the periodic visitors there was a congressman named Jerry Ford. He was friendly with Black, but I don't know what he used the suite for). Yet, I could not bear the thought of being labeled as a guy who'd stolen from his best friend. I wanted to get my relationship with Senator Kerr on the record and was willing to run risks in order to do that. Edward Bennett Williams had been preparing my case for almost two years; I had confidence in his ability to get my story across.
Max Frankel : I'm sorry, could I just follow - did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a Communist zone, whereas on our side of the line the Italians and the French are still flirting with the possibility of Communism?
Gerald Ford: I don't believe, Mr. Frankel that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Rumanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of those countries is independent, autonomous; it has its own territorial integrity. And the United States does not concede that those countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, I visited Poland, Yugoslavia and Rumania to make certain that the people of those countries understood that the President of the United States and the people of the United States are dedicated to their independence, their autonomy and their freedom.
Thirty-three years ago, Gerald R. Ford took pen in hand and changed - ever so slightly - the Warren Commission's key sentence on the place where a bullet entered John F. Kennedy's body when he was killed in Dallas.
The effect of Ford's change was to strengthen the commission's conclusion that a single bullet passed through Kennedy and severely wounded Texas Gov. John Connally - a crucial element in its finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole gunman.
A small change, said Ford on Wednesday when it came to light, one intended to clarify meaning, not alter history.
''My changes had nothing to do with a conspiracy theory,'' he said in a telephone interview from Beaver Creek, Colo. ''My changes were only an attempt to be more precise.''
But still, his editing was seized upon by members of the conspiracy community, which rejects the commission's conclusion that Oswald acted alone.
''This is the most significant lie in the whole Warren Commission report,'' said Robert D. Morningstar, a computer systems specialist in New York City who said he has studied the assassination since it occurred and written an Internet book about it.
The effect of Ford's editing, Morningstar said, was to suggest that a bullet struck Kennedy in the neck, ''raising the wound two or three inches. Without that alteration, they could never have hoodwinked the public as to the true number of assassins.''
If the bullet had hit Kennedy in the back, it could not have struck Connolly in the way the commission said it did, he said.
The Warren Commission concluded in 1964 that a single bullet - fired by a ''discontented'' Oswald - passed through Kennedy's body and wounded his fellow motorcade passenger, Connally, and that a second, fatal bullet, fired from the same place, tore through Kennedy's head.
The assassination of the president occurred Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas; Oswald was arrested that day but was shot and killed two days later as he was being transferred from the city jail to the county jail.
Conspiracy theorists reject the idea that a single bullet could have hit both Kennedy and Connally and done such damage. Thus they argue that a second gunman must have been involved.
Ford's changes tend to support the single-bullet theory by making a specific point that the bullet entered Kennedy's body ''at the back of his neck'' rather than in his uppermost back, as the commission staff originally wrote.
Ford's handwritten notes were contained in 40,000 pages of records kept by J. Lee Rankin, chief counsel of the Warren Commission.
They were made public Wednesday by the Assassination Record Review Board, an agency created by Congress to amass all relevant evidence in the case. The documents will be available to the public in the National Archives.
The staff of the commission had written: ''A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine.''
Ford suggested changing that to read: ''A bullet had entered the back of his neck at a point slightly to the right of the spine.''
The final report said: ''A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.''
Ford, then House Republican leader and later elevated to the presidency with the 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon, is the sole surviving member of the seven-member commission chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Virtually every serious Kennedy assassination researcher believes that the Warren Commission's single bullet theory is essential to its conclusion that only one man fired shots at President Kennedy and Governor Connally. The awkwardness of the Mannlicher-Carcano's bolt action mechanism, which forced FBI experts to fire two shots in a minimum of 2.25 seconds, even without aiming, coupled with the average time of 18.3 film frames per second as measured on Abraham Zapruder's camera, constitute a timing constraint that compels the conclusion either that Kennedy and Connally were struck by the same bullet, or that two separate gunmen fired two separate shots at the two men. Although a handful of researchers contend that the first shot struck Kennedy at frame Z162 or Z189, thereby allowing sufficient time for Oswald to fire a separate shot with the Carcano and strike Connally at frame Z237, the vast majority of assassination scholars maintain one of two scenarios. First, both Kennedy and Connally were struck by the same bullet at frame Z223 or Z224, evidenced by the quick flip of the lapel on Connally's suit jacket as the bullet passed through his chest. Second, the first bullet struck Kennedy somewhere between frames Z210 and Z224, and the second bullet struck Connally between frames Z236 and Z238, evidenced by the visual signs on the film of Connally reacting to being struck.
The evidence clearly establishes, however, that Kennedy and Connally were struck by separate bullets. The location of the bullet wound in Kennedy's back has given rise to considerable controversy. Originally, the Warren Commission staff draft of the relevant section of the Warren Report stated that "a bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine." The problem lay in the course of the bullet through Kennedy's body. If a bullet fired from the sixth-floor window of the Depository building nearly sixty feet higher than the limousine entered the president's back, with the president sitting in an upright position, it could hardly have exited from his throat at a point just above the Adam's apple, then abruptly change course and drive downward into Governor Connally's back. Therefore, Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford deliberately changed the draft to read: "A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine." Suppressed for more than three decades, Ford's deliberate distortion was released to the public only through the actions of the ARRB. When this alteration first surfaced in 1997, Ford explained that he made the change for the sake of "clarity." In reality, Ford had elevated the location of the wound from its true location in the back to the neck to ensure that the single bullet theory would remain inviolate. The actual evidence demonstrates the accuracy of the initial draft. Bullet holes in Kennedy's shirt and suit jacket, situated almost six inches below the top of the collar, place the wound squarely in the back. Because JFK sat upright at the time, and because photographs and films show that neither the shirt nor the suit jacket rode up over his collar, the location of the bullet holes in the garments prove that the shot struck him in the back. Kennedy's death certificate places the wound at the level of the third thoracic vertebra. Autopsy photographs of the back place the wound in the back two to three inches below the base of the neck.
The CIA would spend the next two decades fighting the release of documents to citizens who requested them under the FOIA. For CIA officials, whose lives were dedicated to secrecy, the logic behind the checks and balances of the three-branch system of government may have been incomprehensible. The idea that federal judges not trained in espionage could inspect CIA files and even order their release was enough to curdle the blood of secret operatives like Richard Ober. CIA officers felt that neither Congress nor the courts could comprehend the perils that faced secret agents. Their instinctive reaction, therefore, was to find any avenue by which they could avoid judicial or journalistic scrutiny.
A month after Congress enacted the new FOIA amendments, someone at the CIA leaked the news of MHCHAOS to Seymour Hersh at the New York limes. Hersh's article appeared on the front page of the December 22, r974, issue under the headline "Huge C.I.A. Operation Reported in U.S. against Antiwar Forces, Other Dissidents in Nixon Years." Although sparse in detail, the article revealed that the CIA had spied on U.S. citizens in a massive domestic operation, keeping 10,000 dossiers on individuals and groups and violating the 1947 National Security Act. Hersh reported that intelligence officials were claiming the domestic operations began as legitimate spying to investigate overseas connections to dissenters.
Gerald Ford, who only four and a half months earlier had assumed the presidency in the wake of Nixon's resignation, took the public position that the CIA would be ordered to cease and desist. William Colby, who had replaced James Schlesinger as CIA director, was told to issue a report on MHCHAOS to Henry Kissinger.
Apparently Ford was not informed that Kissinger was well aware of the operation. A few days later, after Helms categorically denied that the CIA had conducted "illegal" spying, Ford named Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to head a commission that would be charged with making a more comprehensive report. Ford's choice of Rockefeller to head the probe was most fortunate for Ober. Rockefeller was closely allied with Kissinger, who had been a central figure in the former New York governor's 1968 presidential primary campaign. Although Rockefeller was well regarded in media and political circles for his streak of independence, it was all but certain from the beginning that his report would amount to a cover-up.
In fact, Colby ran into trouble because he was willing to be more forthcoming about MHCHAOS than Rockefeller and Kissinger desired. After Colby's second or third appearance before the commission investigators, Rockefeller drew Colby aside and said, "Bill, do you really have to present all this material to us? We realize there are secrets that you fellows need to keep, and so nobody here is going to take it amiss if you feel there are some questions you can't answer quite as fully as you seem to feel you have to."
Because of MHCHAOS and Watergate, Congress began to investigate the CIA. On September 16, 1975, Senators Frank Church and John Tower called Colby to testify at a hearing about CIA assassinations. Colby showed up carrying a CIA poison-dart gun, and Church waved the gun before the television cameras. It looked like an automatic pistol with a telescopic sight mounted on the barrel. Producers of the evening newscasts recognized this as sensational footage, and just as surely Colby recognized that his days as director were numbered. He had not guarded the CIA secrets well enough.
Colby was fired on November 2, 1975. His successor was George Herbert Walker Bush, who had been serving as chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing. Bush's job would be delicate, perhaps impossible, and probably thankless; but as the former chairman of the Republican Party, he had already been in a similar position, guiding the party through the worst days of the Watergate scandal. He had supported Nixon as long as it was politically feasible, then finally had joined those who insisted on Nixon's departure.
The disclosure that the CIA, in its domestic surveillance program code-named Operation Chaos, tapped wires and conducted break-ins caused a public stir that intervention in far-off Chile had not. Over the Christmas holiday in Vail, Colorado, President Ford, it would later emerge, had finally gotten to read the CIA inspector general's report, informally dubbed the Family Jewels.
It detailed a stunning list of 693 items of CIA malfeasance ranging from behavior-altering drug experiments on unsuspecting subjects, one of whom plunged to his death from a hotel window; to assassination plots against leftist third world leaders.
Anxious to keep congressional committees, already gearing up for investigations, from laying bare the worst of these, President Ford, on January 5, 1975, announced the appointment of a "blue-ribbon" commission to inquire into improper domestic operations. The panel was headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and included such stalwarts as Gov. Ronald Reagan of California, retired general Lyman Lemnitzer, and former treasury secretary Douglas Dillon.
A few days later President Ford held a long-scheduled luncheon for New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger and several of his editors. Toward the end the subject of the newly named Rockefeller commission came up. Executive Editor A. Rosenthal observed that, dominated by establishment figures, the panel might not have much credibility with critics of the CIA. Ford nodded and explained that he had to he cautious in his choices because, with complete access to files, the commission might learn of matters, under presidents dating back to Truman, far more serious than the domestic surveillance they had been instructed to look into.
The ensuing hush was broken by Rosenthal. "Like what?"
"Like assassinations," the president shot back.
Prompted by an alarmed news secretary Ron Nessen, the president asked that his remark about assassinations be kept off the record.
The Times group returned to their bureau for a spirited argument about whether they could pass up a story potentially so explosive. Managing Editor E. C. Daniel called the White House in the hope of getting Nessen to ease the restriction from "off-the-record" to "deep background." Nessen was more adamant than ever that the national interest dictated that the president's unfortunate slip be forgotten. Finally, Sulzberger cut short the debate, saying that, as the publisher, he would decide, and he had decided against the use of the incendiary information.
This left several of the editors feeling quite frustrated, with the inevitable result that word of the episode began to get around, eventually reaching me. Under no off-the-record restriction myself, I enlisted CBS colleagues in figuring out how to pursue the story. Since Ford had used the word assassinations, we assumed we were looking for persons who had been murdered - possibly persons who had died under suspicious circumstances. We developed a hypothesis, but no facts.
On February 27, 1975, my long-standing request for another meeting with Director Colby came through. Over coffee we discussed Watergate and Operation Chaos, the domestic surveillance operation.
As casually as I could, I then asked, "Are you people involved in assassinations?"
"Not any more," Colby said. He explained that all planning for assassinations had been banned since the 1973 inspector general's report on the subject.
I asked, without expecting an answer, who had been the targets before 1973.
"I can't talk about it," Colby replied.
"Hammarskjold?" I ventured. (The UN. secretary-general killed in an airplane crash in Africa.)
"Of course not."
"Lumumba?" (The left-wing leader in the Belgian Congo who had been killed in 1961, supposedly by his Katanga rivals.)
"I can't go down a list with you. Sorry."
I returned to my office, my head swimming with names of dead foreign leaders who may have offended the American government. It was frustrating to be this close to one of the major stories of my career and not be able to get my hands on it. After a few days I decided I knew enough to go on the air even without the identity of corpses.
Because of President Ford's imprecision, I didn't realize that he was not referring to actual assassinations, but assassination conspiracies. All I knew was that assassination had been a weapon in the CIA arsenal until banned in a post-Watergate cleanup and that the president feared that investigation might expose the dark secret. l sat down at my typewriter and wrote, "President Ford has reportedly warned associates that if current investigations go too far they could uncover several assassinations of foreign officials involving the CIA..."
The two-minute "tell" story ran on the Evening News on February 28. While I had been mistaken in suggesting actual murders, my report opened up one of the darkest secrets in the CIA's history.
President Ford moved swiftly to head off a searching congressional investigation by extending the term of the Rockefeller commission and adding the assassination issue to its agenda. The commission hastily scheduled a new series of secret hearings in the vice president's suite in the White House annex. Richard Helms, who had already testified once, was called home again from his ambassador's post in Tehran for two days of questioning by the commission's staff and four hours before the commission on April 28.
I waited with colleagues and staked-out cameras outside the hearing room, the practice being to ask witnesses to make remarks on leaving. As Helms emerged, I extended my hand in greeting, with a jocular "Welcome back'." I was forgetting that I was the proximate reason for his being back.
His face ashen from fatigue and strain, he turned livid.
"You son of a bitch," he raged. "You killer, you cocksucker Killer Schorr - that's what they ought to call you!"
He then strode before the cameras and gave a toned-down version of his tirade. "I must say, Mr. Schorr, I didn't like what you had to say in some of your broadcasts on this subject. As far as I know, the CIA was never responsible for assassinating any foreign leader."
"Were there discussions of possible assassinations?" I asked.
Helms began losing his temper again. "I don't know when I stopped beating my wife, or you stopped beating your wife. Talk about discussions in government? There are always discussions about practically everything under the sun!"
I pursued Helms down the corridor and explained to him the presidential indiscretion that had led me to report "assassinations."
Calmer now, he apologized for his outburst and we shook hands. But because other reporters had been present, the story of his tirade was in the papers the next day.
Beyond his ideological reasons for opposing a CIA investigation, Ford was also influenced by partisan and institutional considerations. Hersh's initial stories had accused Richard Nixon's CIA of domestic spying - not Lyndon Johnson's CIA or John Kennedy's CIA. If, indeed, the improprieties took place on the Republicans' watch, then too much attention to these charges could hasten the GOP's post-Watergate slide and boost the careers of crusading Democrats. Ford also opposed wide-ranging investigations because he felt responsible for protecting the presidency. "I was absolutely dedicated to doing whatever I could to restore the rightful prerogatives of the presidency under the constitutional system," he recalls. His aides list Ford's renewal of presidential power after Watergate as one of the greatest achievements of his administration. This lifelong conservative believed that he had a duty to control the congressional investigators and restore the honor of his new office.
Within days of Hersh's first story, Ford's aides recommended that he set up an executive branch investigative commission to avoid "finding ourselves whipsawed by prolonged Congressional hearings." In a draft memo to the president written on 27 December, Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Cheney explained that the president had several reasons to establish such a commission: to avoid being put on the defensive, to minimize "damage" to the CIA, to head off "Congressional efforts to further encroach on the executive branch," to demonstrate presidential leadership, and to reestablish Americans' faith in their government.
Ford's aides cautioned that this commission, formally called the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States, must not appear to be "a 'kept' body designed to whitewash the problem." But Ford apparently did not follow this advice. His choice for chairman, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, had served as a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which monitored the CIA. Members Erwin Griswold, Lane Kirkland, Douglas Dillon, and Ronald Reagan had all been privy to CIA secrets in the past or noted for their strong support of governmental secrecy.
In a revealing move, the president also appointed General Lyman Lemnitzer, the same chairman of the Joint Chiefs whose office in 1962 had been charged by Congressman Jerry Ford with a "totalitarian" attempt to suppress information. In short, Ford's commissioners did not seem likely to conduct an aggressive investigation. Of the "true-blue ribbon" panel's eight members, only John Connor, a commerce secretary under Lyndon Johnson, and Edgar Shannon, a former president of the University of Virginia, brought open minds to the inquiry, according to critics.
Many congressmen, including GOP senators Howard Baker and Lowell Weicker, found the commission inadequate. Some supporters of the CIA, such as columnist Joseph Kraft, worried that many Americans would view the commission as part of a White House cover-up. Although Kraft personally admired the commissioners, he feared that their findings would not be credible and therefore would not reduce "the terrible doubts which continue to eat away at the nation." A public opinion poll confirmed these reservations. Forty-nine percent of the people surveyed by Louis Harris believed that an executive commission would be too influenced by the White House, compared with 35 percent who supported Ford's action. A clear plurality - 43 percent - believed that the commission would turn into "another cover-up," while 33 percent had confidence in the commission and 24 percent were unsure. The New York Times editorial board, also suspicious of the panel, urged congressmen not to allow the commission to "become a pretext to delay or circumscribe their own independent investigation." A week later, the Times again reminded Congress of its duty to conduct a "long, detailed" examination of the intelligence community: "Three decades is too long for any public institution to function without a fundamental reappraisal
of its role."
On the basis of the investigation conducted by its staff, the Commission believes that there is no evidence to support the claim that President Kennedy was struck by a bullet fired from either the grassy knoll or any other position to his front, right front or right side, and that the motions of the President's head and body, following the shot that struck him in the head, are fully consistent with that shot having come from a point to his rear, above him and slightly to his right...
Hunt's employment record with the CIA indicated that he had no duties involving contacts with Cuban exile elements or organizations inside or outside the United States after the early months of 1961... They further denied that they ever had any connections whatever with either Oswald or Ruby...
Numerous allegations have been made that the CIA participated in the assassination of President John F. On the basis of the staff's investigation, the Commission concluded there was no credible evidence of any CIA involvement.
What I remember most about entering Ronald Reagan’s suite early on the third evening of the 1980 Republican convention, the night of his nomination, was the silence. It’s not that there weren’t plenty of people around. William J. Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager; Richard Wirthlin, his pollster; and his advisers Peter Hannaford, Michael Deaver, and Edwin Meese were all there in the candidate’s elegantly appointed rooms on the sixty-ninth floor of the Detroit Plaza Hotel. So, too, was Reagan, dressed in a casual shirt and tan slacks. The entire group was seated on a large U-shaped couch, hushed, as if they were watching some spellbinding movie on TV.
The silence in the room was in marked contrast to the steadily rising noise at the Joe Louis Arena. There, word was spreading that Reagan was going to choose Gerald Ford, the former president and his bitter adversary in the 1976 primaries, to be his running mate.
As Reagan’s foreign policy adviser, I didn’t have much business getting involved in the selection of a vice president. But as someone who signed on with Reagan because I admired his principled criticism of the foreign policy of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, I couldn’t help venturing to the suite to see what was going on. And so, at 5:30 in the evening, before I was to head over to the convention, I walked up the single flight of stairs that separated Reagan’s floor from mine. It didn’t take long for my suspicions to be confirmed. As I stepped into the hallway, there, coming out of Reagan’s rooms and flanked by his Secret Service detail, was a tanned and fit Gerald Ford.
Once the former president and I had exchanged pleasantries, I made my way past security to Reagan’s suite. Alone among those gathered on the couch, the nominee looked up and greeted me. I asked if he needed anything before I left for the arena. “Oh, no,” he replied, “but thanks.”
As I turned to leave, he asked, “What do you think of the Ford deal?”
“What deal?” I responded, genuinely surprised that the two parties were already working out details. In addition to the vice-presidential slot, Reagan said, “Ford wants Kissinger as secretary of state and Greenspan at treasury.” My instant response was, “That is the craziest deal I have ever heard of.” And it was.
This election year, both major presidential candidates conducted highly structured searches for their running mates. Though it was only 20 years ago, the process in 1980 could not have been more different from the one today. It is hard to imagine an unexpected vice-presidential pick at the last minute, like John Kennedy’s selection of Lyndon Johnson in 1960, Richard Nixon’s choice of Spiro Agnew in 1968, or even George Bush Sr.’s elevation of Dan Quayle in 1988 - all of which caught the candidates’ advisers by surprise.
But it was Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Governor Bush’s father that bears special telling. Reagan’s selection of Bush in Detroit represented a turnabout within six hours; it came only when the negotiations with Ford, having taken on a life of their own, appeared to have reached an impasse. Had the talks succeeded and had Ford been selected, the Reagan campaign, crippled by infighting, might well have lost to the Carter-Mondale ticket in the fall. Had Reagan and Ford managed to win the election, it’s very likely that their administration would have been hobbled by an unworkable power-sharing arrangement. It’s also possible that the Republicans might have a different candidate today.
There are many plausible versions of how and why Reagan chose George Bush as his running mate, but most are wide of the mark. One conventional view is that Reagan, about to be nominated, recognized that he "needed a moderate" like Bush to balance the ticket; another version has it that Reagan, supposedly unschooled in foreign affairs, saw the wisdom of naming someone with extensive experience in the field to offset his own shortcomings. Yet another explanation holds that Reagan, a Californian, needed “geographic balance” and got that in Bush, with his Connecticut and Texas lineage.
These explanations are wrong. George Bush was picked at the very last moment and largely by a combination of chance and some behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Many Reagan advisers have claimed a deal was never close. The postconvention media commentary has largely reflected this view. In fact, Meese and Deaver have gone so far as to declare that Bush was their first choice all along. I take exception to their account. I saw a very different story unfold and saw it from a privileged vantage point. From the moment I walked into that suite until the moment Bush was finally selected, I was the only person to remain in Reagan’s presence throughout the adventure. With detailed notes to back up my memory, this is what I saw at the dawn of the Reagan revolution on that long night in Detroit.
There has been endless speculation whether this pardon was part of a deal to persuade Nixon to abandon his rearguard fight against impeachment. Certainly there were well-attested, if tangential, discussions on the subject between Vice-President Ford and the White House chief of staff, Alexander Haig. But the consensus is that, even as his tenure crumbled, Nixon remained confident that his longstanding influence over Ford would stop him facing trial.
Ford had, in fact, not been Nixon's first choice as vice-president when Spiro Agnew was forced out of office in 1973 for corruption. The president wanted one of his closest political allies, former governor of Texas John Connolly, to take over, but he was warned of insuperable opposition in Congress where, under the unusual terms of the recently adopted 25th amendment, any nominee required confirmation by a majority in both houses.
So, after a review of a wide variety of candidates ranging from Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York on the Republican left to Senator Barry Goldwater on the party's right, Nixon settled for the minority leader in the House of Representatives.
He did so to ensure an easy confirmation - which he got. But, according to the former White House chief of staff HR Haldeman, Nixon also calculated that a House familiar with Ford's inadequacies would never risk presidential impeachment, since that would put Ford into the Oval Office. Henry Kissinger acknowledged in his memoirs that he made a similar judgment at the time.
Nixon and Ford had been politically associated since both were young congressmen in 1948. Alexander Butterfield - Haldeman's White House deputy who revealed to a startled Senate committee Nixon's habit of taping his conversations reminisced in 1983 that the president had always had the minority leader totally under his thumb. "He was a tool of the Nixon administration, like a puppy dog. They used him when they had to - wind him up and he'd go 'arf 'arf."
Gerald Ford is gone, but he lives on in two of his key appointees: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Their impact on America today is greater than Ford's, who died Tuesday at 93.
Ford appointed Rumsfeld his chief of staff when he took office after Nixon's resignation in 1974. The next year, when he made the 42-year-old Rumsfeld the youngest secretary of defense in the nation's history, he named 34-year-old Dick Cheney his chief of staff, also the youngest ever.
Those two Ford appointees worked together ever since. The Bush White House assertion of unchecked presidential power stems from the lessons they drew from their experience of working for the weakest president in recent American history. "For Dick and Don," Harold Meyerson wrote in The American Prospect last July, "the frustrations of the Ford years have been compensated for by the abuses of the Bush years."
Ford also named a new head of the CIA - a former Texas congressman named George H. Bush. Thus you could also credit also Ford with launching the Bush dynasty.
It was during Ford's presidency that the last Americans left Vietnam - that photo of them struggling to get into that chopper on the roof of the Saigon embassy remains our most powerful image of American defeat, and it shadows our current debate about how to get out of Iraq.
Ford did leave one positive legacy, as Meyerson reminds us: his supreme court appointee, John Paul Stevens. Few remember it today, but when the Court majority appointed Bush president in December, 2000, Stevens wrote a blistering dissent, damning the other Republican appointees for their blatant partisanship. And this year Stevens wrote the majority opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld declaring that the military tribunals at Guantanamo violated the Geneva Convention.
But we wouldn't need Stevens if we didn't have Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush - that's the legacy of Gerald Ford.
It is true that you can't ignore coincidences, but there are many reasons those coincidences occur. Conspiracies may or may not have existed or occurred somewhere, such as the government-sanctioned plot to kill Castro, but considering the meticulousness of our investigation, we were confident that we would have uncovered links from those to Oswald and to Kennedy's assassination had there been any. I have become increasingly adamant that we were correct as more and more experts have questioned and then verified our conclusions...
The echoes of the assassin's shots had hardly died out before everyone began speculating 'whodunit.' The trouble was, given the kind of turbulence going on in the world at the time (not to mention covertly in the U.S.), there were plenty of groups with plausible motives to assassinate President Kennedy, which helped to encourage speculation. Notwithstanding that, our Commission's findings were that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin and that he worked alone -- there was no evidence of a conspiracy. The same went for Jack Ruby....
I have been accused of changing some wording on the Warren Commission Report to favor the lone-assassin conclusion. That is absurd. Here is what the draft said: 'A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine.' To any reasonable person, 'above the shoulder and to the right' sounds very high and way off the side -- and that's what it sounded like to me. That would have given the totally wrong impression. Technically, from a medical perspective, the bullet entered just to the right at the base of the neck, so my recommendation to the other members was to change it to say, 'A bullet had entered the back of his neck, slightly to the right of the spine.' After further investigation, we then unanimously agreed that it should read, 'A bullet had entered the base of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.'
The reason some things appeared to be suspicious was possibly because there were people who apparently did have things to hide. It came out later there was a government-sanctioned plot to kill Fidel Castro. There seemed to also have been a scramble to cover that up which did interfere marginally with our investigation, as I testified to the HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations). It was really more of a problem for the CIA. JFK's assassination and our investigation into it put certain classified and potentially embarrassing operations in danger of being exposed. Their reaction was to hide or destroy some information, which can easily be misinterpreted as collusion in JFK's assassination.
Confidential FBI files released this week to The Washington Post detail the inner workings of a secret back channel that Gerald R. Ford opened in 1963 between J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and the Warren Commission's independent investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The existence of the private conduit has long been known, first disclosed in documents released 30 years ago. Now, newly obtained, previously classified records detail one visit Ford made to one of Hoover's deputies in December 1963 -- three weeks after being named to the commission.
Declassified FBI memos on Ford's interactions with the bureau are among scores of documents in the FBI's previously confidential file on the former president, who died in December 2006. At the request of The Post, the FBI this week released 500 pages of the bureau's voluminous file.
A December 1963 memo recounts that Ford, then a Republican congressman from Michigan, told FBI Assistant Director Cartha D. "Deke" DeLoach that two members of the seven-person commission remained unconvinced that Kennedy had been shot from the sixth-floor window of the Texas Book Depository. In addition, three commission members "failed to understand" the trajectory of the slugs, Ford said.
Ford told DeLoach that commission discussions would continue and reassured him that those minority points of view on the commission "of course would represent no problem," one internal FBI memo shows. The memo does not name the members involved and does not elaborate on what Ford meant by "no problem."
Ford also told DeLoach that Chief Justice Earl Warren, who headed the commission, had told its members that "they should strive to have their hearings completed and the findings made public prior to July, 1964, when the Presidential campaigns will begin to get hot. He stated it would be unfair to present the findings after July." They missed their deadline, concluding in a report issued Sept. 24, 1964, that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination. Much of the material in the FBI file concerns intelligence about Ford's political adversaries when he was president, especially organizations that the bureau thought might disrupt Ford's appearances around the country. But the file also sheds light on the investigation into Kennedy's assassination and the FBI's relationship with Ford, and it shows how the bureau strove to curry favor with powerful politicians.
Another memo in the file, previously released with Warren Commission materials in 1978, details how Ford approached DeLoach in 1963 and offered to secretly inform the bureau about the inner workings of the then-ongoing Warren Commission investigation.
"Ford indicated he would keep me thoroughly advised as to the activities of the Commission," DeLoach wrote. "He stated this would have to be done on a confidential basis, however he thought it should be done."
Gerald R. Ford Biography
Gerald Rudolph Ford, the 38th President of the United States, was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., the son of Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer Gardner King, on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. His parents separated two weeks after his birth and his mother took him to Grand Rapids, Michigan to live with her parents. On February 1, 1916, approximately two years after her divorce was final, Dorothy King married Gerald R. Ford, a Grand Rapids paint salesman. The Fords began calling her son Gerald R. Ford, Jr., although his name was not legally changed until December 3, 1935. He had known since he was thirteen years old that Gerald Ford, Sr. was not his biological father, but it was not until 1930 when Leslie King made an unexpected stop in Grand Rapids that he had a chance meeting with this biological father. The future president grew up in a close-knit family which included three younger half-brothers, Thomas, Richard, and James.
Ford attended South High School in Grand Rapids, where he excelled scholastically and athletically, being named to the honor society and the "All-City" and "All-State" football teams. He was also active in scouting, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in November 1927. He earned spending money by working in the family paint business and at a local restaurant.
Gerald Ford at the University of Michigan, with fellow football players Russell Fuog, Chuck Bernard, Herman Everhardus, and Stan Fay, 1934.
From 1931 to 1935 Ford attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he majored in economics and political science. He graduated with a B.A. degree in June 1935. He financed his education with part-time jobs, a small scholarship from his high school, and modest family assistance. A gifted athlete, Ford played on the University's national championship football teams in 1932 and 1933. He was voted the Wolverine's most valuable player in 1934 and on January 1, 1935, played in the annual East-West College All-Star game in San Francisco, for the benefit of the Shrine Crippled Children's Hospital. In August 1935 he played in the Chicago Tribune College All-Star football game at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.
He received offers from two professional football teams, the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but chose instead to take a position as boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach at Yale hoping to attend law school there. Among those he coached were future U.S. Senators Robert Taft, Jr. and William Proxmire. Yale officials initially denied him admission to the law school, because of his full-time coaching responsibilities, but admitted him in the spring of 1938. Ford earned his LL.B. degree in 1941, graduating in the top 25 percent of his class in spite of the time he had to devote to his coaching duties. His introduction to politics came in the summer of 1940 when he worked in Wendell Willkie's presidential campaign.
After returning to Michigan and passing his bar exam, Ford and a University of Michigan fraternity brother, Philip A. Buchen (who later served on Ford's White House staff as Counsel to the President), set up a law partnership in Grand Rapids. He also taught a course in business law at the University of Grand Rapids and served as line coach for the school's football team. He had just become active in a group of reform-minded Republicans in Grand Rapids, calling themselves the Home Front, who were interested in challenging the hold of local political boss Frank McKay, when the United States entered World War II.
In April 1942 Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserve receiving a commission as an ensign. After an orientation program at Annapolis, he became a physical fitness instructor at a pre-flight school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In the spring of 1943 he began service on the light aircraft carrier USS MONTEREY. He was first assigned as athletic director and gunnery division officer, then as assistant navigator with the MONTEREY which took part in most of the major operations in the South Pacific, including Truk, Saipan, and the Philippines. His closest call with death came not as a result of enemy fire, however, but during a vicious typhoon in the Philippine Sea in December 1944. He came within inches of being swept overboard while the storm raged. The ship, which was severely damaged by the storm and the resulting fire, had to be taken out of service. Ford spent the remainder of the war ashore and was discharged as a lieutenant commander in February 1946.
Gerald Ford campaigning with farmers, 1948
When he returned to Grand Rapids Ford became a partner in the locally prestigious law firm of Butterfield, Keeney, and Amberg. A self-proclaimed compulsive "joiner," Ford was well-known throughout the community. Ford has stated that his experiences in World War II caused him to reject his previous isolationist leanings and adopt an internationalist outlook. With the encouragement of his stepfather, who was county Republican chairman, the Home Front, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Ford decided to challenge the isolationist incumbent Bartel Jonkman for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1948 election. He won the nomination by a wide margin and was elected to Congress on November 2, receiving 61 percent of the vote in the general election.
During the height of the campaign Gerald Ford married Elizabeth Anne Bloomer Warren, a department store fashion consultant. They were to have four children: Michael Gerald, born March 14, 1950 John Gardner, born March 16, 1952 Steven Meigs, born May 19, 1956 and Susan Elizabeth, born July 6, 1957.
Gerald Ford served in the House of Representatives from January 3, 1949 to December 6, 1973, being reelected twelve times, each time with more than 60% of the vote. He became a member of the House Appropriations Committee in 1951, and rose to prominence on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, becoming its ranking minority member in 1961. He once described himself as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy."
As his reputation as a legislator grew, Ford declined offers to run for both the Senate and the Michigan governorship in the early 1950s. His ambition was to become Speaker of the House. In 1960 he was mentioned as a possible running mate for Richard Nixon in the presidential election. In 1961, in a revolt of the "Young Turks," a group of younger, more progressive House Republicans who felt that the older leadership was stagnating, Ford defeated sixty-seven year old Charles Hoeven of Iowa for Chairman of the House Republican Conference, the number three leadership position in the party.
In 1963 President Johnson appointed Ford to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1965 Ford co-authored, with John R. Stiles, a book about the findings of the Commission, Portrait of an Assassin.
The battle for the 1964 Republican nomination for president was drawn on ideological lines, but Ford avoided having to choose between Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater by standing behind Michigan's favorite son George Romney.
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and other members of the Chowder and Marching Club at a meeting celebrating Mr. Ford's becoming minority leader, February 24, 1965.
In 1965 Ford was chosen by the Young Turks as their best hope to challenge Charles Halleck for the position of minority leader of the House. He won by a small margin and took over the position early in 1965, holding it for eight years.
Ford led Republican opposition to many of President Johnson's programs, favoring more conservative alternatives to his social welfare legislation and opposing Johnson's policy of gradual escalation in Vietnam. As minority leader Ford made more than 200 speeches a year all across the country, a circumstance which made him nationally known.
In both the 1968 and 1972 elections Ford was a loyal supporter of Richard Nixon, who had been a friend for many years. In 1968 Ford was again considered as a vice presidential candidate. Ford backed the president's economic and foreign policies and remained on good terms with both the conservative and liberal wings of the Republican party.
Because the Republicans did not attain a majority in the House, Ford was unable to reach his ultimate political goal--to be Speaker of the House. Ironically, he did become president of the Senate. When Spiro Agnew resigned the office of Vice President of the United States late in 1973, after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion, President Nixon was empowered by the 25th Amendment to appoint a new vice president. Presumably, he needed someone who could work with Congress, survive close scrutiny of his political career and private life, and be confirmed quickly. He chose Gerald R. Ford. Following the most thorough background investigation in the history of the FBI, Ford was confirmed and sworn in on December 6, 1973.
Gerald R. Ford is sworn in as the 38th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger as Mrs. Ford looks on, August 9, 1974.
The specter of the Watergate scandal, the break-in at Democratic headquarters during the 1972 campaign and the ensuing cover-up by Nixon administration officials, hung over Ford's nine-month tenure as vice president. When it became apparent that evidence, public opinion, and the mood in Congress were all pointing toward impeachment, Nixon became the first president in U.S. history to resign from that office.
Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office as President of the United States on August 9, 1974, stating that ". our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works."
Within the month Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller for vice president. On December 19, 1974, Rockefeller was confirmed by Congress, over the opposition of many conservatives, and the country had a full complement of leaders again.
One of the most difficult decisions of Ford's presidency was made just a month after he took office. Believing that protracted legal proceedings would keep the country mired in Watergate and unable to address the other problems facing it, Ford decided to grant a pardon to Richard Nixon prior to the filing of any formal criminal charges. Public reaction was mostly negative Ford was even suspected of having made a "deal" with the former president to pardon him if he would resign. The decision may have cost him the election in 1976, but President Ford always maintained that it was the right thing to do for the good of the country.
President Ford inherited an administration plagued by a divisive war in Southeast Asia, rising inflation, and fears of energy shortages. He faced many difficult decisions including replacing Nixon's staff with his own, restoring the credibility of the presidency, and dealing with a Congress increasingly assertive of its rights and powers.
In domestic policy, President Ford felt that through modest tax and spending cuts, deregulating industries, and decontrolling energy prices to stimulate production, he could contain both inflation and unemployment. This would also reduce the size and role of the federal government and help overcome the energy shortage. His philosophy was best summarized by one of his favorite speech lines, "A government big enough to give us everything we want is a government big enough to take from us everything we have." The heavily Democratic Congress often disagreed with Ford, leading to numerous confrontations and his frequent use of the veto to control government spending. Through compromise, bills involving energy decontrol, tax cuts, deregulation of the railroad and securities industries, and antitrust law reform were approved.
President Ford and Soviet General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev sign a Joint Communique following talks on the limitation of strategic offensive arms in the conference hall of the Okeansky Sanitarium, Vladivostok, USSR, November 24, 1974.
In foreign policy, Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger continued the policy of detente with the Soviet Union and "shuttle diplomacy" in the Middle East. U.S.-Soviet relations were marked by on-going arms negotiations, the Helsinki agreements on human rights principles and East European national boundaries, trade negotiations, and the symbolic Apollo-Soyuz joint manned space flight. Ford's personal diplomacy was highlighted by trips to Japan and China, a 10-day European tour, and co-sponsorship of the first international economic summit meeting, as well as the reception of numerous foreign heads of state, many of whom came in observance of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.
With the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 as background, Congress and the president struggled repeatedly over presidential war powers, oversight of the CIA and covert operations, military aid appropriations, and the stationing of military personnel.
On May 14, 1975, in a dramatic move, Ford ordered U.S. forces to retake the S.S. MAYAGUEZ, an American merchant ship seized by Cambodian gunboats two days earlier in international waters. The vessel was recovered and all 39 crewmen saved. In the preparation and execution of the rescue, however, 41 Americans lost their lives.
On two separate trips to California in September 1975 Ford was the target of assassination attempts. Both of the assailants were women -- Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore.
During the 1976 campaign, Ford fought off a strong challenge by Ronald Reagan to gain the Republican nomination. He chose Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as his running mate and succeeded in narrowing Democrat Jimmy Carter's large lead in the polls, but finally lost one of the closest elections in history. Three televised candidate debates were focal points of the campaign.
Upon returning to private life, President and Mrs. Ford moved to California where they built a new house in Rancho Mirage. President Ford's memoir, A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford, was published in 1979.
After leaving office, President Ford continued to actively participate in the political process and to speak out on important political issues. He lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities on such issues as Congressional/White House relations, federal budget policies, and domestic and foreign policy issues. He attended the annual Public Policy Week Conferences of the American Enterprise Institute, and in 1982 established the AEI World Forum, which he hosted for many years in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado. This was an international gathering of former and current world leaders and business executives to discuss political and business policies impacting current issues.
In 1981, the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were dedicated. President Ford participated in conferences at either site dealing with such subjects as the Congress, the presidency and foreign policy Soviet-American relations German reunification, the Atlantic Alliance, and the future of American foreign policy national security requirements for the ‘90s humor and the presidency and the role of first ladies.
The former president was the recipient of numerous awards and honors by many civic organizations. He was also the recipient of many honorary Doctor of Law degrees from various public and private colleges and universities.
President Ford died on December 26, 2006, at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. After ceremonies in California, Washington, and Grand Rapids, he was interred on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum is part of the Presidential Libraries System administered by
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Gerald Ford - History
The Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the lead ship of its class of U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and is named after the 38th President of the United States Gerald R. Ford, Jr., (1913-2006), whose World War II naval service included combat duty aboard the light aircraft carrier Monterey (CVL 26) in the Pacific Theater. Construction began on August 11, 2005, when Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding held a ceremonial steel cut for a 15-ton plate, at the shipyards new heavy-plate bay facility, that will form part of a side shell unit of the carrier The ship is named on January 16, 2007.
Compared with the Nimitz-class, the Gerald R. Ford possess a new nuclear power plant (A1B), Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) instead of steam catapults, a redesigned and relocated island (It is shorter in length but stands 20 feet taller), three (instead of four) faster and more powerful elevators, an Advanced Aircraft Recovery System (AARS), new combat system, increased electrical power generation capacity and allowance for future technologies and reduced manning. Also the sortie rate is increased by 25% thanks to an enhanced flight deck layout, with improved weapons movement and "pit stops" to fuel and arm aircraft.
September 10, 2008 A Northrop Grumman Corporation was awarded a $5.1 billion, 7-year cost plus incentive fee contract, for detail design and construction of the Gerald R. Ford nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
November 14, 2009 The keel laying and authentication ceremony for the CVN 78 was held at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.
May 12, 2010 A Northrop Grumman Corporation was awarded a $186.6 million cost plus fixed fee contract to continue the engineering and design effort for the Gerald R. Ford A $189.2 million contract was awarded on November 10.
July 29, 2011 The Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) was awarded a $504 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract extension to continue engineering work associated with construction of the CVN 78.
May 24, 2012 Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding reached a construction milestone by lowering the final keel section, 680-metric-ton lower bow, of the Gerald R. Ford. The aircraft carrier is being built using modular construction, a process where smaller sections of the ship are welded together to form large structural units, outfitting is installed, and the large unit is lifted into the dry-dock. Of the nearly 500 total structural lifts needed to complete the ship, 390 have been accomplished.
October 4, HII Newport News Shipbuilding reached a construction milestone by placing the 1,026-metric ton gallery deck onto the CVN 78. This is the heaviest unit to be moved during the ship's construction and the largest lift that has ever made at Newport News shipyard.
January 26, 2013 HII Newport News Shipbuilding completed a significant milestone with the installation of the 555-metric ton island.
May 7, The forward end of the Catapult #3 was placed on the flight deck, completing the last of 162 super lift evolutions scheduled during the construction of the Gerald R. Ford at Huntington Iningalls Industries shipyard in Newport News, Va.
July 8, Capt. John F. Meier assumed command of the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford.
November 9, PCU Gerald R. Ford was christened during an 11 a.m. EST ceremony at HII Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. Miss. Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford, served as sponsor of the ship.
November 17, The Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford was launched for the first time from Dry Dock #12 and moved "dead-stick" to Pier 3 at Newport News shipyard.
June 5, 2015 The Gerald R. Ford successfully conducted its first "dead-load" test of the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) at Newport News shipyard. The 15,500-pound sled was launched into the James River where it was recovered for additional test launches over the next several weeks.
August 3, More than 1,600 Sailors enjoyed their first meal prepared in the galley after moved aboard the PCU Gerald R. Ford.
April 8, 2016 Capt. Richard C. McCormack relieved Capt. John F. Meier as CO of the CVN 78 during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship at Newport News shipyard.
June 11, The Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford completed a major milestone by conducting a Turn Ship evolution at Pier 3. The new (port side) position will allow the ship and shipyard team to complete the remaining pierside testing required before upcoming sea trials.
April 8, 2017 CVN 78 departed Newport News shipyard for the first time to conduct Builder's (Alpha) sea trials off the coast of Virginia Moored at Pier 11N in Naval Station Norfolk on April 14 Underway for acceptance trials with the INSURV from May 24-26.
May 31, Huntington Ingalls Industries delivered the PCU Gerald R. Ford to the U.S. Navy during a short ceremony at Newport News, Va.
July 22, USS Gerald R. Ford was commissioned during a 10 a.m. EDT ceremony in the ship's hangar bay at Pier 11, Naval Station Norfolk.
July 28, USS Gerald R. Ford reached another milestone when an F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 and piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Jamie R. Struck, became the first aircraft to conduct a successful arrested landing at 3.10 p.m. EDT. The same aircraft was catapulted from the ship's flight deck, for the first time, at 4.37 p.m.
July 29, The Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a one-day underway off the coast of Virginia Underway for testing and evaluation operations from Aug. 2-16 and Sept. 29- Oct. 8.
October 19, Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley relieved Rear Adm. Bruce H. Lindsey as Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the Ford.
October 21, USS Gerald R. Ford held an "Open House" in conjunction with the Fleet Fest 2017 and Naval Station Norfolk Centennial celebration, while moored at Pier 11.
November 9, The Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a nine-day underway for Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE) #3, with the elements from CVW-3 and CVW-7 Underway again on Dec. 3.
December 4, USS Gerald R. Ford conducted its first ever underway replenishment (UNREP), with the USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12), while underway off the coast of Virginia Conducted its first-ever structural test fire on the Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) on Dec. 15 Returned home on Dec. 17.
January 26, 2018 CVN 78 moored at Pier 11N after a 16-day underway for Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE) #5, off the coast of Virginia, with the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8.
March 30, Huntington Ingalls Inc. was awarded a $55,8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-2110) for material and labor supporting planning and the preliminary accomplishment of the Post Shakedown Availability/Selected Restricted Availability (PSA/SRA) on USS Gerald R. Ford. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $66,6 million. Work is expected to be completed by June 2019.
April 18, Huntington Ingalls Inc. was awarded a $10,8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-2110) for the Gerald R. Ford's PSA/SRA Another $61,3 million modification was awarded on April 30.
May 19, USS Gerald R. Ford departed homeport for Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE) #6, off the coast of Virginia Moored at Pier 11N for emergent repairs to its propulsion system on May 22 Underway again from May 31- June 7 Moved "dead-stick" to Pier 3, Newport News Shipyard on July 15.
July 27, Huntington Ingalls Inc. was awarded a $9,8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-2110) for additional material in support of component shock testing for USS Gerald R. Ford.
August 10, Capt. John J. Cummings relieved Capt. Richard C. McCormack, as the 3rd commanding officer of Gerald R. Ford, during a ceremony at Vista Point Club on Naval Station Norfolk.
June 12, 2019 Huntington Ingalls Inc. was awarded a $687,1 million contract for early service life period work on USS Gerald R. Ford. The purpose of this contract is to support ship repair and modernization during continuous incremental availabilities, planned incremental availabilities, full-ship shock trials and continuous maintenance and emergent maintenance during the ship's early service life period. This contract includes five ordering periods and is expected to be completed by June 2024.
October 25, USS Gerald R. Ford departed Newport News Shipyard for sea trials, following a 15-month availability Moored at Pier 11S in Naval Station Norfolk on Oct. 30.
November 25, The Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a 19-day underway for Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE) #7, in the Virginia Capes, Jacksonville and Charleston Op. Areas Underway for ISE #8, off the coast of Virginia, from Dec. 4-11.
January 31, 2020 USS Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a 15-day underway for Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT), with the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 and 23, in the Virginia Capes and Cherry Point Op. Areas Underway for ISE #9, in the Virginia Capes and Jacksonville Op. Areas, from Feb. 3-11 Underway for ISE #10 on March 11.
From March 19-24, the Gerald R. Ford conducted flight deck certification and carrier qualifications with the CVW-8, off the coast of Virginia Moored at Pier 11N on March 25 Underway for Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) CQ, in the Virginia Capes Op. Area, on March 26 Arrived in the Charleston Op. Area on April 2 Arrived in the Jacksonville Op. Area on April 3.
From April 5-6, USS Gerald R. Ford conducted Combat Systems Ship's Qualification Trials (CSSQT) Conducted CQ for the Naval Air Training Command (TRACOM) from April 7-10 Returned home on April 12 Underway for FRS-CQ on May 9.
May 15, CVN 78 conducted a replenishment-at-sea with the USNS Patuxent (T-AO 201), while underway approximately 75 n.m. off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina Conducted TRACOM-CQ, in the Jacksonville Op. Area, from May 17-20 Arrived in the Virginia Capes Op. Area on May 22 Returned home on May 25.
June 4, USS Gerald R. Ford participated in a photo exercise (PHOTOEX) with the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), while underway east of Cape Hatteras, N.C., marking the first time a Ford-class and a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier operated together at sea.
June 7, The Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a 10-day underway for integrated operations with the CVW-8, in the Virginia Capes Op. Area Underway for FRS-CQ, in the Virginia Capes Op. Area, from July 25- Aug. 5 Underway again on Sept. 1 Arrived in the Jacksonville Op. Area on Sept. 9.
From September 10-13, the Gerald R. Ford conducted Carrier Qualifications (CQ) with the Training Air Wing (TW) 1 and 2 Arrived off the coast of Virginia on Sept. 17 Transited southbound, approximately 20 n.m. east of Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, just after midnight on Sept. 20.
From September 20-30, the Gerald R. Ford conducted acoustic trials at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) range, off the east coast of Andros Island, Bahamas Transited northbound, east of Great Abaco Island, just after midnight on Oct. 1 Returned home on Oct. 2.
November 3, USS Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a week-long underway for FRS-CQ, in the Virginia Capes Op. Area Underway for CQ, with the elements from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and 8, and first-ever integrated Carrier Strike Group (CSG) operations from Nov. 5-20 Underway for FRS-CQ on Dec. 5.
From December 9-12, the Gerald R. Ford conducted TRACOM-CQ in the Jacksonville Op. Area Conducted training in the Charleston Op. Area from Dec. 12-13 Returned home on Dec. 14.
January 28, 2021 USS Gerald R. Ford departed Naval Station Norfolk for FRS-CQ in the Virginia Capes Op. Area Conducted TRACOM-CQ, in the Key West Op. Area, from Feb. 3-6 Transited northbound, off the southeast coast of Florida, on Saturday evening Returned home on Feb. 10.
February 12, Capt. Paul J. Lanzilotta relieved Capt. John J. Cummings as CO of the Gerald R. Ford during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship.
March 7, USS Gerald R. Ford departed Naval Station Norfolk for FRS-CQ in the Virginia Capes Op. Area Arrived in the Jacksonville Op. Area on March 12 Conducted TRACOM-CQ from March 14-17 Participated in a photo exercise (PHOTOEX) with the ITS Cavour (CVH 550), while underway off the coast of Virginia, on March 20 Returned home on March 21.
April 30, The Gerald R. Ford moored at Pier 11N on Naval Station Norfolk after a 16-day underway, in the Virginia Capes Op. Area, for Combat Systems Ship's Qualification Trials (CSSQT) 2C and integrated Carrier Strike Group (CSG) operations with the CVW-8 Underway again June 7.
June 18, USS Gerlad R. Ford successfully completed explosive event #1, as part of full-ship shock trials (FSST), while underway in the Jacksonville Op. Area Arrived off the coast of Virginia on June 20 Returned home on June 22 Underway again on June 27.
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Wounded Warrior Dogs Project & K9 War Stories
Canine Warriors was designed by Ohio master craftsman James Mellick to not only bring attention to the service and heroism of military working dogs, but to be symbolic of the courageous sacrifices and wounds suffered during battle by their human companions and to raise awareness about their needs. This exhibit won the ArtPrize Public vote in 2016.
The Continual Struggle: The American Freedom Movement and the Seeds of Social Change
The Continual Struggle depicts the pain, sacrifice and emotion of those who fought for freedom during the civil rights movement. This selection of 23 works by artist Brian Washington offers a stark glimpse of those tumultuous times. Celebrate Black History Month at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum through his powerful and moving art. Exhibit sponsors: Fifth Third Bank and The Frey Foundation.
Upcoming Events at the Museum
We are busy planning our Fall Programs!
Check back to see updates.
Click the link above to step inside the Ford Museum and take a virtual tour with the Museum's Curator Don Holloway. Walk through the Core Exhibits, learn about Gerald R. Ford&rsquos childhood and early years in Grand Rapids. Continue the tour as Mr. Holloway explains how Ford&rsquos time as a student at the University of Michigan helped shape the man who becomes a Congressman, Vice President and eventually, President. The tour concludes with the final gallery honoring the funeral services of both President and Mrs. Ford.
Bonus tours include an inside look at the Cabinet Room and Oval Office displays.
Lynette Fromme, who was nicknamed "Squeaky" by George Spahn,  was a follower of cultist Charles Manson, leader of the group convicted of murdering actress Sharon Tate and eight others in Los Angeles, California, in 1969.  Fromme was one of the earliest followers of Manson, and had a reputation as being one of the most devoted.  Through the years, Fromme assumed a leadership role in keeping Manson cult members in communication with each other after most of them had been imprisoned. 
Events leading towards the assassination attempt Edit
In July 1975, California's relatively new governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, refused to commit to speak at the 49th annual Sacramento "Host Breakfast", an annual gathering of wealthy California business leaders to be held in the Sacramento Convention Center on the morning of September 5, 1975.  To teach Brown a political lesson, for what he would describe more than 30 years later as a "dilatory response" to the invitation,  the politically powerful group invited U.S. President Ford, a Republican, to make the September 5, 1975, morning speech instead.  Ford saw California's electoral votes as critical to his success in the 1976 United States presidential election and accepted the invitation to speak at the Host Breakfast. 
In early August 1975, The New York Times reported that the United States Environmental Protection Agency had released a study entitled "A Spectroscopic Study of California Smog,"  showing that smog was widespread in rural areas.  The New York Times article also noted how President Ford had just asked the United States Congress to relax provisions of the 1963 Clean Air Act beyond the 1970 Clean Air Act amendments and provided details on Ford's upcoming September trip to California.  After learning of Ford's upcoming visit, ex-convict Thomas Elbert was arrested on August 18 in response to Elbert phoning the United States Secret Service and threatening to kill Ford when he visited Sacramento. 
At about the same time, Fromme came to believe that California's giant coastal redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, were in danger of falling because of automobile smog reaching their rural location.  Feeling personally responsible for the fate of the redwoods, Fromme traveled to San Francisco to meet with a San Francisco government official to save the trees from pollution.  After returning from San Francisco, Fromme watched a news report from her P Street apartment and learned some details of Ford's plans to visit Sacramento.  The hotel Ford would be staying at, the Senator Hotel, was located a little more than one-half mile (0.80 km)—about fifteen minutes walking distance—from Fromme's Sacramento apartment.   At this point, Fromme decided to bring attention to the trees by putting fear into the government through killing its symbol, President Ford.  Fromme said that her decision was rooted in her desire "to get life. Not just my life but clean air, healthy water and respect for creatures and creation. 
On the day Fromme decided to see Ford during his September trip to Sacramento, Fromme already had a Colt .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol in her apartment.  The M1911 pistol, produced 64 years earlier in 1911 by Colt Firearms,  was manufactured the same year that Colt's M1911 pistol became the standard-issue side arm for the United States armed forces.  [ failed verification ] After its manufacture in 1911, Fromme's pistol was sent to Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois  and has a serial number of 94854.  The pistol was used in the U.S. Army and later sold as Government surplus in 1913.  At the time of the assassination attempt, the Colt .45 was not considered a common crime gun because "it's rather large, and not easily concealed." 
Harold E. "Zeke"/"Manny" Boro,  born 1909, was a retired federal government engineering draftsman who, at ages 65 to 66, hung around the Manson family and supplied them with money as a "sugar daddy".  Boro met Fromme in the spring of 1974 while in a Sacramento park.  Fromme would visit Boro at his apartment in Sacramento.  In return for her friendship, Boro loaned his Cadillac to Fromme and later bought a red 1973 Volkswagen for her after she wrecked his Cadillac.  On July 12, 1975, Boro moved from Sacramento to Jackson, California, at the end of Laughton Lane.  While at his apartment in Jackson, Fromme asked Boro for a gun. Fromme told Boro that she needed one in her apartment house where she lived, with two roommates, for protection from Manson's enemies.   Boro had the pistol along with a half a box of ammunition, containing 25 rounds, and showed Fromme how to pull the hammer back and fire the pistol.  Boro also had a pistol catalog in his apartment and allowed Fromme to look through it to select a different pistol for Boro to buy for Fromme.  After that, Fromme walked out with the Colt .45, ammunition, and magazine, despite Boro's protest that she not take the pistol and other items.   
Ford's activities the day before the assassination attempt Edit
On September 4, 1975, the day before Fromme's assassination attempt in Sacramento, Ford was in Washington D.C.  In the morning, he met with National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger – a meeting that still was under national security restriction as of 2012.  After the meeting, Ford flew the "Spirit of '76" from Andrews Air Force Base to Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, to attend a Republican Party fund raising convention, tour the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and attend a conference on domestic and economic affairs.  At about 5:00 pm, Ford then flew to Portland, Oregon, where he attended a Republican fundraising event, attended the Portland Youth Bicentennial Rally with about 13,000 children, and received an Oregon blanket gift.  At 9:30 pm, Ford flew to McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California, and went to his suite at 11:30 p.m. at the Senator Hotel. 
Assassination attempt Edit
Ford had moved about 150 feet (46 m) from Lincoln Street along a Capitol Park paved walkway, saw "a woman in a brightly colored dress", and stopped approximately halfway to the state Capitol.    People on either side of Ford wanted to shake hands with him and Ford assumed that the woman in red wanted to shake hands or talk.  Twenty-six-year-old Fromme was positioned two feet (0.61 m) from Ford, behind the first row of the crowd, and reached into her flowing red robe, drawing the Colt .45 pistol from her leg holster.     Fromme raised her right arm towards Ford, through the front row of people, and pointed the gun at a height between Ford's knees and his waist.    From Ford's perspective, he noted, ". as I stopped, I saw a hand come through the crowd in the first row, and that was the first active gesture that I saw, but in the hand there was a gun". 
The pistol contained ammunition stored in a detachable magazine in the pistol's grip, but the gun did not include a round in the gun's chamber.  At the time, Fromme was not aware that she needed to pull back the gun slide to insert a cartridge into the pistol's chamber.  Five years later in 1980, from Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, Fromme claimed that she purposely ejected the top round from the pistol's magazine onto the floor of her P Street apartment, because she "was not determined to kill the guy". 
While Fromme pointed the gun at Ford, several people heard a "metallic click" sound.  As the red-robed Fromme shouted, "It wouldn't go off",  Secret Service agent Larry Buendorf grabbed the gun, forced it from Fromme's hand, and brought her to the ground.  On the ground, Fromme said, "It didn't go off. Can you believe it? It didn't go off".  One of the Secret Service agents shouted "get down, let's go".  Secret Service agents then half-dragged Ford away from Fromme towards the east entrance of the Capitol,  until Ford yelled in protest, "Put me down! Put me down!"  Ford continued his walk to the California state house, entered, and then met with California governor Jerry Brown at 10:06 a.m. for 30 minutes without mentioning the assassination attempt until they were through talking business.  Ford, who later indicated that he was not scared,  concluded, "I thought I'd better get on with my day's schedule".  
Following the attempt, the Secret Service would not allow reporters or photographers near the president during his next trip to California.  On September 20, 1975, United States federal judge Thomas J. MacBride set November 4, 1975, for the start of the trial against Fromme for attempting to assassinate a U.S. president.  Three days before the trial began, President Ford gave a videotape testimony from the White House as a defense witness in the trial of Fromme.  The testimony was the first time a U.S. president testified at a criminal trial. 
On November 4, the prosecutors were ready to present about 1,000 items of evidence seized from Fromme's car and apartment just after the assassination attempt, including .45-caliber ammunition in the box she took from Boro and the book, The Modern Handgun.   During the trial, Fromme refused to cooperate, going so far as to throw an apple at prosecuting U.S. attorney Dwayne Keyes after he urged that Fromme's punishment be severe because she had shown herself to be "full of hate and violence". 
The trial ended on November 19, 1975, with Fromme being convicted of attempting to assassinate President Ford.  Fromme received a life sentence.  During her imprisonment, Fromme escaped from prison and, as a result, received extra time to her sentence after her capture two days later, on December 26, 1987.  
Betty Ford revealed in a 2004 interview on Larry King Live that following the attempt on her husband's life by Fromme, each time he left the White House she would pray for his safety on one of the White House's balconies.  The Sacramento assassination attempt was the first assassination attempt against Ford during his presidency.   On September 22, 1975, 17 days after Fromme attempted to kill Ford in Sacramento, Sara Jane Moore, a political radical  attempted to kill Ford in San Francisco. This second assassination attempt also failed and, two days later, California governor Jerry Brown responded to both assassination attempts on Ford's life in California by signing into law bills imposing mandatory sentences for persons convicted of using guns in committing serious crimes and requiring purchasers of guns to wait 15 days for delivery.  Ford went on to complete his 1974–77 presidency without further assassination attempts. 
In 1981, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum was dedicated in Ford's hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  On August 23, 1989, the Office of the United States Attorney in Sacramento donated Squeaky Fromme's pistol to the museum.   Ford died of natural causes on December 26, 2006. 
Fromme was released from prison on August 14, 2009, two years and eight months after Ford's death. She moved to Marcy, New York, to live in a house that "looks like an old metal Quonset hut from the World War II era" with Robert Valdner, who was released from prison in 1992 after killing his brother-in-law.  
The Republican ticket of President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew won a landslide victory in the 1972 presidential election. Nixon's second term was dominated by the Watergate scandal, which stemmed from a Nixon campaign group's attempted burglary of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters and the subsequent cover-up by the Nixon administration.  Due to a scandal unrelated to Watergate, Vice President Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973. Under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, Nixon nominated Ford as Agnew's replacement. Nixon selected Ford, then the House Minority Leader, largely because he was advised that Ford would be the most easily confirmed of the prominent Republican leaders.  Ford was confirmed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, and he took office as vice president in December 1973. 
In the months after his confirmation as vice president, Ford continued to support Nixon's innocence with regards to Watergate, even as evidence mounted that the Nixon administration had ordered the break-in and subsequently sought to cover it up. In July 1974, after the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over recordings of certain meetings he had held as president, the House Judiciary Committee voted to begin impeachment proceedings against Nixon. After the tapes became public and clearly showed that Nixon had taken part in the cover-up, Nixon summoned Ford to the Oval Office on August 8, where Nixon informed Ford that he would resign. Nixon formally resigned on August 9, making Ford the first President of the United States who had not been elected as either president or vice president. 
Immediately after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, Ford spoke to the assembled audience in a speech broadcast live to the nation.  Ford noted the peculiarity of his position: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers."  He went on to state:
I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people. 
|The Ford Cabinet|
|Secretary of State||Henry Kissinger||1974–1977|
|Secretary of the Treasury||William E. Simon||1974–1977|
|Secretary of Defense||James R. Schlesinger||1974–1975|
|Attorney General||William B. Saxbe||1974–1975|
|Edward H. Levi||1975–1977|
|Secretary of the Interior||Rogers Morton||1974–1975|
|Stanley K. Hathaway||1975|
|Thomas S. Kleppe||1975–1977|
|Secretary of Agriculture||Earl Butz||1974–1976|
|John Albert Knebel||1976–1977|
|Secretary of Commerce||Frederick B. Dent||1974–1975|
|Secretary of Labor||Peter J. Brennan||1974–1975|
|John Thomas Dunlop||1975–1976|
|William Usery Jr.||1976–1977|
|Secretary of Health,|
Education, and Welfare
|F. David Mathews||1975–1977|
|Secretary of Housing and|
|James Thomas Lynn||1974–1975|
|Carla Anderson Hills||1975–1977|
|Secretary of Transportation||Claude Brinegar||1974–1975|
|William Thaddeus Coleman Jr.||1975–1977|
|Director of the Office of|
Management and Budget
|James Thomas Lynn||1975–1977|
|United States Trade Representative||William Denman Eberle||1974|
|Frederick B. Dent||1975–1977|
|Ambassador to the United Nations||John A. Scali||1974–1975|
|Daniel Patrick Moynihan||1975–1976|
|Chief of Staff||Alexander Haig||1974|
|Counselor to the President||Anne Armstrong||1974|
|Robert T. Hartmann||1974–1977|
|John Otho Marsh Jr.||1974–1977|
|White House Counsel||Philip W. Buchen||1974–1977|
Upon assuming office, Ford inherited Nixon's cabinet, although Ford quickly replaced Chief of Staff Alexander Haig with Donald Rumsfeld, who had served as a Counselor to the President under Nixon. Rumsfeld and Deputy Chief of Staff Dick Cheney rapidly became among the most influential people in the Ford administration.  Ford also appointed Edward H. Levi as Attorney General, charging Levi with cleaning up a Justice Department that had been politicized to unprecedented levels during the Nixon administration.  Ford brought in Philip W. Buchen, Robert T. Hartmann, L. William Seidman, and John O. Marsh as senior advisers with cabinet rank.  Ford placed a far greater value in his cabinet officials than Nixon had, though cabinet members did not regain the degree of influence they had held prior to World War II. Levi, Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon, and Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger all emerged as influential cabinet officials early in Ford's tenure. 
Most of the Nixon holdovers in cabinet stayed in place until Ford's dramatic reorganization in the fall of 1975, an action referred to by political commentators as the "Halloween Massacre".  Ford appointed George H.W. Bush as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,  while Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense and Cheney replaced Rumsfeld as Chief of Staff, becoming the youngest individual to hold that position.  The moves were intended to fortify Ford's right flank against a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan.  Though Kissinger remained as Secretary of State, Brent Scowcroft replaced Kissinger as National Security Advisor. 
Vice presidency Edit
Ford's accession to the presidency left the office of vice president vacant. On August 20, 1974, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller, the leader of the party's liberal wing, for the vice presidency.  Rockefeller and former Congressman George H. W. Bush of Texas were the two finalists for vice presidential nomination, and Ford chose Rockefeller in part due to a Newsweek report that revealed that Bush had accepted money from a Nixon slush fund during his 1970 Senate campaign.  Rockefeller underwent extended hearings before Congress, which caused embarrassment when it was revealed he made large gifts to senior aides, including Kissinger. Although conservative Republicans were not pleased that Rockefeller was picked, most of them voted for his confirmation, and his nomination passed both the House and Senate.  He was sworn in as the nation's 41st vice president on December 19, 1974.  Prior to Rockefeller's confirmation, Speaker of the House Carl Albert was next in line to the presidency. Ford promised to give Rockefeller a major role in shaping the domestic policy of the administration, but Rockefeller was quickly sidelined by Rumsfeld and other administration officials. 
Executive Privilege Edit
In the wake of Nixon's heavy use of executive privilege to block investigations of his actions, Ford was scrupulous in minimizing its usage. However, that complicated his efforts to keep congressional investigations under control. Political scientist Mark J. Rozell concludes that Ford's:
failure to enunciate a formal executive privilege policy made it more difficult to explain his position to Congress. He concludes that Ford's actions were prudent they likely salvaged executive privilege from the graveyard of eroded presidential entitlements because of his recognition that the Congress was likely to challenge any presidential use of that unpopular perquisite. 
Ford made one appointment to the Supreme Court while in office, appointing John Paul Stevens to succeed Associate Justice William O. Douglas. Upon learning of Douglas's impending retirement, Ford asked Attorney General Levi to submit a short list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and Levi suggested Stevens, Solicitor General Robert Bork, and federal judge Arlin Adams. Ford chose Stevens, an uncontroversial federal appellate judge, largely because he was likely to face the least opposition in the Senate.  Early in his tenure on the Court, Stevens had a relatively moderate voting record, but in the 1990s he emerged as a leader of the Court's liberal bloc.  In 2005 Ford wrote, "I am prepared to allow history's judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination 30 years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court".  Ford also appointed 11 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 50 judges to the United States district courts.
Nixon pardon Edit
Along with the experience of the Vietnam War and other issues, Watergate contributed to a decline in the faith that Americans placed in political institutions. Low public confidence added to Ford's already formidable challenge of establishing his own administration without a presidential transition period or the popular mandate of a presidential election.  Though Ford became widely popular during his first month in office, he faced a difficult situation regarding the fate of former President Nixon, whose status threatened to undermine the Ford administration.  In the final days of Nixon's presidency, Haig had floated the possibility of Ford pardoning Nixon, but no deal had been struck between Nixon and Ford before Nixon's resignation.  Nonetheless, when Ford took office, most of the Nixon holdovers in the executive branch, including Haig and Kissinger, pressed for a pardon.  Through his first month in office, Ford publicly kept his options open regarding a pardon, but he came to believe that ongoing legal proceedings against Nixon would prevent his administration from addressing any other issue.  Ford attempted to extract a public statement of contrition from Nixon before issuing the pardon, but Nixon refused. 
On September 8, 1974, Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while president.    In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family's situation "is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must." 
The Nixon pardon was highly controversial, and Gallup polling showed that Ford's approval rating fell from 71 percent before the pardon to 50 percent immediately after the pardon.  Critics derided the move and said a "corrupt bargain" had been struck between the men.  In an editorial at the time, The New York Times stated that the Nixon pardon was a "profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that in a stroke had destroyed the new president's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence".  Ford's close friend and press secretary, Jerald terHorst, resigned his post in protest.  The pardon would hang over Ford for the remainder of his presidency, and damaged his relationship with members of Congress from both parties.  Against the advice of most of his advisers, Ford agreed to appear before a House Subcommittee that requested further information on the pardon.  On October 17, 1974, Ford testified before Congress, becoming the first sitting president since Abraham Lincoln to do so. 
After Ford left the White House, the former president privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 Supreme Court decision which stated that a pardon indicated a presumption of guilt, and that acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to a confession of that guilt. 
Clemency for draft dodgers Edit
During the Vietnam War, about one percent of American men of eligible for the draft failed to register, and approximately one percent of those who were drafted refused to serve. Those who refused conscription were labeled as "draft dodgers" many such individuals had left the country for Canada, but others remained in the United States.  Ford had opposed any form of amnesty for the draft dodgers while in Congress, but his presidential advisers convinced him that a clemency program would help resolve a contentious issue and boost Ford's public standing.  On September 16, 1974, shortly after he announced the Nixon pardon, Ford introduced a presidential clemency program for Vietnam War draft dodgers. The conditions of the clemency required a reaffirmation of allegiance to the United States and two years of work in a public service position.  The program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters established a Clemency Board to review the records and make recommendations for receiving a presidential pardon and a change in military discharge status.  Ford's clemency program was accepted by most conservatives, but attacked by those on the left who wanted a full amnesty program.  Full pardon for draft dodgers would later come in the Carter Administration. 
1974 midterm elections Edit
The 1974 congressional midterm elections took place less than three months after Ford assumed office. The Democratic Party turned voter dissatisfaction into large gains in the House of Representatives elections, taking 49 seats from the Republican Party, increasing their majority to 291 of the 435 seats. Even Ford's former House seat was won by a Democrat. In the Senate elections, the Democrats increased their majority to 61 seats in the 100-seat body.  The subsequent 94th Congress would override the highest percentage of vetoes since Andrew Johnson served as president in the 1860s. Ford's successful vetoes, however, resulted in the lowest yearly spending increases since the Eisenhower administration.   Buoyed by the new class of "Watergate Babies," liberal Democrats implemented reforms designed to ease the passage of legislation. The House began to select committee chairs by secret ballot rather than through seniority, resulting in the removal of some conservative Southern committee chairs. The Senate, meanwhile, lowered the number of votes necessary to end a filibuster from 67 to 60. 
|GDP||Debt as a %|
of GDP 
By the time Ford took office, the U.S. economy had entered into a period of stagflation, which economists attributed to various causes, including the 1973 oil crisis and increasing competition from countries such as Japan.  Stagflation confounded the traditional economic theories of the 1970s, as economists generally believed that an economy would not simultaneously experience inflation and low rates of economic growth. Traditional economic remedies for a dismal economic growth rate, such as tax cuts and increased spending, risked exacerbating inflation. The conventional response to inflation, tax increases and a cut in government spending, risked damaging the economy.  The economic troubles, which signaled the end of the post-war boom, created an opening for a challenge to the dominant Keynesian economics, and laissez-faire advocates such as Alan Greenspan acquired influence within the Ford administration. Ford seized the initiative, abandon 40 years of orthodoxy, and introduced a new conservative economic agenda as he sought to adapt traditional Republican economics to deal with the novel economic challenges.  
At the time that he took office, Ford believed that inflation, rather than a potential recession, represented the greatest threat to the economy.  He believed that inflation could be reduced, not by reducing the amount of new currency entering circulation, but by encouraging people to reduce their spending.  In October 1974, Ford went before the American public and asked them to "Whip Inflation Now". As part of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons.  To try to mesh service and sacrifice, "WIN" called for Americans to reduce their spending and consumption, especially with regards to gasoline. Ford hoped that the public would respond to this call for self-restraint much as it had to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's calls for sacrifice during World War II, but the public received WIN with skepticism. At roughly the same time he rolled out WIN, Ford also proposed a ten-point economic plan. The central plank of the plan was a tax increase on corporations and high earners, which Ford hoped would both quell inflation and cut into government's budget deficit. 
Ford's economic focus changed as the country sank into the worst recession since the Great Depression.  In November 1974, Ford withdrew his proposed tax increase.  Two months later, Ford proposed a 1-year tax reduction of $16 billion to stimulate economic growth, along with spending cuts to avoid inflation.  Having switched from advocating for a tax increase to advocating a tax reduction in just two months, Ford was greatly criticized for his "flip-flop".  Congress responded by passing a plan that implemented deeper tax cuts and an increase in government spending. Ford seriously considered vetoing the bill, but ultimately chose to sign the Tax Reduction Act of 1975 into law.  In October 1975, Ford introduced a bill designed to combat inflation through a mix of tax and spending cuts. That December, Ford signed the Revenue Adjustment Act of 1975, which implemented tax and spending cuts, albeit not at the levels proposed by Ford. The economy recovered in 1976, as both inflation and unemployment declined.  Nonetheless, by late 1976 Ford faced considerable discontent over his handling of the economy, and the government had a $74 billion deficit. 
Rockefeller Commission Edit
Prior to Ford's presidency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had illegally assembled files on domestic anti-war activists.  In the aftermath of Watergate, CIA Director William Colby put together a report of all of the CIA's domestic activities, and much of the report became public, beginning with the publication of a December 1974 article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. The revelations sparked outrage among the public and members of Congress.  In response to growing pressure to investigate and reform the CIA, Ford created the Rockefeller Commission.  The Rockefeller Commission marked the first time that a presidential commission was established to investigate the national security apparatus.  The Rockefeller Commission's report, submitted in June 1975, generally defended the CIA, although it did note that "the CIA has engaged in some activities that should be criticized and not permitted to happen again." The press strongly criticized the commission for failing to include a section on the CIA's assassination plots.  The Senate created its own committee, led by Senator Frank Church, to investigate CIA abuses. Ford feared that the Church Committee would be used for partisan purposes and resisted turning over classified materials, but Colby cooperated with the committee.  In response to the Church Committee's report, both houses of Congress established select committees to provide oversight to the intelligence community. 
Due to the frustration of environmentalists left over from the Nixon days, including Environmental Protection Agency head Russell E. Train, environmentalism was a peripheral issue during the Ford years. Secretary of the Interior Thomas S. Kleppe was a leader of the “Sagebrush Rebellion”, a movement of western ranchers and other groups that sought the repeal of environmental protections on federal land. They lost repeatedly in the federal courts, most notably in the 1976 Supreme Court decision of Kleppe v. New Mexico.  Ford's successes included the addition of two national monuments, six historical sites, three historic parks and two national preserves. None were controversial. In the international field, treaties and agreements with Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, the Soviet Union and several European countries included provisions to protect endangered species. 
Social issues Edit
Ford and his wife were outspoken supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed constitutional amendment that had been submitted to the states for ratification in 1972.  The ERA was designed to ensure equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender. Despite Ford's support, the ERA would fail to win ratification by the necessary number of state legislatures. [ citation needed ]
As president, Ford's position on abortion was that he supported "a federal constitutional amendment that would permit each one of the 50 States to make the choice".  This had also been his position as House Minority Leader in response to the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, which he opposed.  Ford came under criticism for a 60 Minutes interview his wife Betty gave in 1975, in which she stated that Roe v. Wade was a "great, great decision".  During his later life, Ford would identify as pro-choice. 
Campaign finance Edit
After the 1972 elections, good government groups like Common Cause pressured Congress to amend campaign finance law to restrict the role of money in political campaigns. In 1974, Congress approved amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, establishing the Federal Election Commission to oversee campaign finance laws. The amendments also established a system of public financing for presidential elections, limited the size of campaign contributions, limited the amount of money that candidates could spend on their own campaigns, and required the disclosure of nearly all campaign contributions. Ford reluctantly signed the bill into law in October 1974. In the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court overturned the cap on self-funding by political candidates, holding that such a restriction violated freedom of speech rights.  The campaign finance reforms of the 1970s were largely unsuccessful in lessening the influence of money in politics, as more contributions shifted to political action committees and state and local party committees. 
Court ordered busing to desegregate public schools Edit
In 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education that "Busing was a permissible tool for desegregation purposes." However, in the closing days of the Nixon administration, the Supreme Court largely eliminated District Court ability to order busing across city and suburban systems in the case of Milliken v. Bradley.  It meant that disgruntled white families could move to the suburbs and not be reached by court orders regarding segregation of the central city schools. Ford, representing a Michigan district, had always taken the position in favor of the goal of school desegregation but opposition to court-ordered forced busing as a means of achieving it. In the first major bill he signed as president, Ford's compromise solution was to win over the general population with mild anti-busing legislation. He condemned anti-busing violence, promoted the theoretical goal of school desegregation, and promised to uphold the Constitution. The problem did not go away – it only escalated and remained on the front burner for years. Tension exploded in Boston, where working-class Irish neighborhoods inside the city limits violently resisted court-ordered busing of black children into their schools. 
Other domestic issues Edit
When New York City faced bankruptcy in 1975, Mayor Abraham Beame was unsuccessful in obtaining Ford's support for a federal bailout. The incident prompted the New York Daily News' famous headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead", referring to a speech in which "Ford declared flatly . that he would veto any bill calling for 'a federal bail-out of New York City ' ".   The following month, November 1975, Ford changed his stance and asked Congress to approve federal loans to New York City, upon the condition that the city agree to more austere budgets imposed by Washington, D.C. In December 1975, Ford signed a bill providing New York City with access to $2.3 billion in loans. 
Despite his reservations about how the program ultimately would be funded in an era of tight public budgeting, Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which established special education throughout the United States. Ford expressed "strong support for full educational opportunities for our handicapped children" upon signing the bill. 
Ford was confronted with a potential swine flu pandemic. In the early 1970s, an influenza strain H1N1 shifted from a form of flu that affected primarily pigs and crossed over to humans. On February 5, 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix mysteriously died and four fellow soldiers were hospitalized health officials announced that "swine flu" was the cause. Soon after, public health officials in the Ford administration urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated.  Although the vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, some 25% of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was canceled in December 1976. The vaccine was blamed for twenty-five deaths more people died from the shots than from the swine flu. 
Cold War Edit
Ford continued Nixon's détente policy with both the Soviet Union and China, easing the tensions of the Cold War. In doing so, he overcame opposition from members of Congress, an institution which became increasingly assertive in foreign affairs in the early 1970s.  This opposition was led by Senator Henry M. Jackson, who scuttled a U.S.–Soviet trade agreement by winning passage of the Jackson–Vanik amendment.  The thawing relationship with China brought about by Nixon's 1972 visit to China was reinforced with another presidential visit in December 1975. 
Despite the collapse of the trade agreement with the Soviet Union, Ford and Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev continued the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, which had begun under Nixon. In 1972, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had reached the SALT I treaty, which placed upper limits on each power's nuclear arsenal.  Ford met Brezhnev at the November 1974 Vladivostok Summit, at which point the two leaders agreed to a framework for another SALT treaty.  Opponents of détente, led by Jackson, delayed Senate consideration of the treaty until after Ford left office. 
Helsinki Accords Edit
When Ford took office in August 1974, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) negotiations had been underway in Helsinki, Finland, for nearly two years. Throughout much of the negotiations, U.S. leaders were disengaged and uninterested with the process Kissinger told Ford in 1974 that "we never wanted it but we went along with the Europeans . [i]t is meaningless—it is just a grandstand play to the left. We are going along with it."  In the months leading up to the conclusion of negotiations and signing of the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975, Americans of Eastern European descent voiced their concerns that the agreement would mean the acceptance of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe and the permanent incorporation of the Baltic states into the USSR.  Shortly before President Ford departed for Helsinki, he held a meeting with a delegation of Americans of Eastern European background, and stated definitively that U.S. policy on the Baltic States would not change, but would be strengthened since the agreement denies the annexation of territory in violation of international law and allows for the peaceful change of borders. 
The American public remained unconvinced that American policy on the incorporation of the Baltic States would not be changed by the Helsinki Final Act. Despite protests from all around, Ford decided to move forward and sign the Helsinki Agreement.  As domestic criticism mounted, Ford hedged on his support for the Helsinki Accords, which had the impact of overall weakening his foreign-policy stature.  Though Ford was criticized for his apparent recognition of the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, the new emphasis on human rights would eventually contribute to the weakening of the Eastern bloc in the 1980s and speed up its collapse in 1989. 
One of Ford's greatest challenges was dealing with the ongoing Vietnam War. American offensive operations against North Vietnam had ended with the Paris Peace Accords, signed on January 27, 1973. The accords declared a cease fire across both North and South Vietnam, and required the release of American prisoners of war. The agreement guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam and, like the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for national elections in the North and South.  South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu was not involved in the final negotiations, and publicly criticized the proposed agreement, but was pressured by Nixon and Kissinger into signing the agreement. In multiple letters to the South Vietnamese president, Nixon had promised that the United States would defend Thieu's government, should the North Vietnamese violate the accords. 
Fighting in Vietnam continued after the withdrawal of most U.S forces in early 1973.  As North Vietnamese forces advanced in early 1975, Ford requested Congress approve a $722 million aid package for South Vietnam, funds that had been promised by the Nixon administration. Congress voted against the proposal by a wide margin.  Senator Jacob K. Javits offered ". large sums for evacuation, but not one nickel for military aid".  Thieu resigned on April 21, 1975, publicly blaming the lack of support from the United States for the fall of his country.  Two days later, on April 23, Ford gave a speech at Tulane University, announcing that the Vietnam War was over ". as far as America is concerned". 
With the North Vietnamese forces advancing on the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, Ford ordered the evacuation of U.S. personnel, while also allowing U.S. forces to aid others who wished to escape from the Communist advance. Forty-thousand U.S. citizens and South Vietnamese were evacuated by plane until enemy attacks made further such evacuations impossible.  In Operation Frequent Wind, the final phase of the evacuation preceding the fall of Saigon on April 30, military and Air America helicopters took evacuees to off-shore U.S. Navy vessels. During the operation, so many South Vietnamese helicopters landed on the vessels taking the evacuees that some were pushed overboard to make room for more people. 
The Vietnam War, which had raged since the 1950s, finally came to an end with the Fall of Saigon, and Vietnam was reunified into one country. Many of the Vietnamese evacuees were allowed to enter the United States under the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. The 1975 act appropriated $455 million toward the costs of assisting the settlement of Indochinese refugees.  In all, 130,000 Vietnamese refugees came to the United States in 1975. Thousands more escaped in the years that followed.  Following the end of the war, Ford expanded the embargo of North Vietnam to cover all of Vietnam, blocked Vietnam's accession to the United Nations, and refused to establish full diplomatic relations. 
Mayaguez and Panmunjom Edit
North Vietnam's victory over the South led to a considerable shift in the political winds in Asia, and Ford administration officials worried about a consequent loss of U.S. influence in the region. The administration proved it was willing to respond forcefully to challenges to its interests in the region on two occasions, once when Khmer Rouge forces seized an American ship in international waters and again when American military officers were killed in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea. 
In May 1975, shortly after the fall of Saigon and the Khmer Rouge conquest of Cambodia, Cambodians seized the American merchant ship Mayaguez in international waters, sparking what became known as the Mayaguez incident.  Ford dispatched Marines to rescue the crew from an island where the crew was believed to be held, but the Marines met unexpectedly stiff resistance just as, unknown to the U.S., the crew were being released. In the operation, three military transport helicopters were shot down and 41 U.S. servicemen were killed and 50 wounded while approximately 60 Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed.  Despite American losses, the rescue operation proved to be a boon to Ford's poll numbers Senator Barry Goldwater declared that the operation "shows we've still got balls in this country."  Some historians have argued that the Ford administration felt the need to respond forcefully to the incident because it was construed as a Soviet plot.  But work by Andrew Gawthorpe, published in 2009, based on an analysis of the administration's internal discussions, shows that Ford's national security team understood that the seizure of the vessel was a local, and perhaps even accidental, provocation by an immature Khmer government. Nevertheless, they felt the need to respond forcefully to discourage further provocations by other Communist countries in Asia. 
A second crisis, known as the axe murder incident, occurred at Panmunjom in the DMZ between the two Koreas. At the time, Panmunjom was the only part of the DMZ where forces from North Korea and South Korea came into contact with each other. Encouraged by U.S. difficulties in Vietnam, North Korea had been waging a campaign of diplomatic pressure and minor military harassment to try and convince the U.S. to withdraw from South Korea.  In August 1976, North Korean forces killed two U.S. officers and injured South Korean guards who were trimming a tree in Panmunjom's Joint Security Area. The attack coincided with a meeting of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, at which North Korea presented the incident as an example of American aggression, helping secure the passage of a motion calling for a U.S. withdrawal from South Korea.  Determined not to be seen as "the paper tigers of Saigon," the Ford administration decided that it was necessary to respond with a major show of force. A large number of ground forces went to cut down the tree, while at the same time the United States Air Force deployed flights over the DMZ. The North Koreans backed down and allowed the tree-cutting to go ahead, and later issued an unprecedented official apology. 
Middle East Edit
In the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, two ongoing international disputes developed into crises during Ford's presidency. The Cyprus dispute turned into a crisis with the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which took place following the Greek-backed 1974 Cypriot coup d'état. The dispute put the United States in a difficult position as both Greece and Turkey were members of NATO. In mid-August, the Greek government withdrew Greece from the NATO military structure in mid-September 1974, the Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to halt military aid to Turkey. Ford vetoed the bill due to concerns regarding its effect on Turkish-American relations and the deterioration of security on NATO's eastern front. A second bill was then passed by Congress, which Ford also vetoed, although a compromise was accepted to continue aid until the end of the year.  As Ford expected, Turkish relations were considerably disrupted until 1978. [ citation needed ]
In 1973, Egypt and Syria had launched a joint surprise attack against Israel, seeking to re-take land lost in the Six-Day War of 1967. However, early Arab success gave way to an Israel military victory in what became known as the Yom Kippur War. Although an initial cease fire had been implemented to end active conflict in the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger's continuing shuttle diplomacy was showing little progress. Ford disliked what he saw as Israeli "stalling" on a peace agreement, and wrote, "[Israeli] tactics frustrated the Egyptians and made me mad as hell."  During Kissinger's shuttle to Israel in early March 1975, a last minute reversal to consider further withdrawal, prompted a cable from Ford to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which included:
I wish to express my profound disappointment over Israel's attitude in the course of the negotiations . Failure of the negotiation will have a far reaching impact on the region and on our relations. I have given instructions for a reassessment of United States policy in the region, including our relations with Israel, with the aim of ensuring that overall American interests . are protected. You will be notified of our decision. 
On March 24, Ford informed congressional leaders of both parties of the reassessment of the administration policies in the Middle East. "Reassessment", in practical terms, meant canceling or suspending further aid to Israel. For six months between March and September 1975, the United States refused to conclude any new arms agreements with Israel. Rabin notes it was "an innocent-sounding term that heralded one of the worst periods in American-Israeli relations".  The announced reassessments upset many American supporters of Israel. On May 21, Ford "experienced a real shock" when seventy-six U.S. senators wrote him a letter urging him to be "responsive" to Israel's request for $2.59 billion in military and economic aid. Ford felt truly annoyed and thought the chance for peace was jeopardized. It was, since the September 1974 ban on arms to Turkey, the second major congressional intrusion upon the President's foreign policy prerogatives.  The following summer months were described by Ford as an American-Israeli "war of nerves" or "test of wills".  After much bargaining, the Sinai Interim Agreement (Sinai II) between Egypt and Israel was formally signed, and aid resumed. [ citation needed ]
A civil war broke out Angola after the fledgling African nation gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The Soviet Union and Cuba both became heavily involved in the conflict, backing the left-wing MPLA, one of the major factions in the civil war. In response, the CIA directed aid to two other factions in the war, UNITA and the FNLA. After members of Congress learned of the CIA operation, Congress voted to cut off aid to the Angolan groups. The Angolan Civil War would continue in subsequent years, but the Soviet role in the war hindered détente. Congress's role in ending the CIA presence marked the growing power of the legislative branch in foreign affairs. 
U.S. policy since the 1940s has been to support Indonesia, which hosted American investments in petroleum and raw materials and controlled a highly strategic location near vital shipping lanes. In 1975, the left-wing Fretilin party seized power after a civil war in East Timor (now Timor-Leste), a former colony of Portugal that shared the island of Timor with the Indonesian region of West Timor. Indonesian leaders feared that East Timor would serve as a hostile left-wing base that would promote secessionist movements inside Indonesia.  Anti-Fretilin activists from the other main parties fled to West Timor and called upon Indonesia to annex East Timor and end the communist threat. On December 7, 1975, Ford and Kissinger met Indonesian President Suharto in Jakarta and indicated the United States would not take a position on East Timor. Indonesia invaded the next day, and took control of the country. The United Nations, with U.S. support, called for the withdrawal of Indonesian forces. A bloody civil war broke out, and over one hundred thousand died in the fighting or from executions or starvation. Upwards of half of the population of East Timor became refugees fleeing Fretilin-controlled areas. East Timor took two decades to settle down, and finally, after international intervention in the 1999 East Timorese crisis, East Timor became an independent nation in 2002.  
List of international trips Edit
Ford made seven international trips during his presidency. 
|1||October 21, 1974||Mexico||Nogales, Magdalena de Kino||Met with President Luis Echeverría and laid a wreath at the tomb of Padre Eusebio Kino.|
|2||November 19–22, 1974||Japan||Tokyo, |
|State visit. Met with Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.|
|November 22–23, 1974||South Korea||Seoul||Met with President Park Chung-hee.|
|November 23–24, 1974||Soviet Union||Vladivostok||Met with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and discussed limitations of strategic arms.|
|3||December 14–16, 1974||Martinique||Fort-de-France||Met with President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.|
|4||May 28–31, 1975||Belgium||Brussels||Attended the NATO Summit Meeting. Addressed the North Atlantic Council and met separately with NATO heads of state and government.|
|May 31 – June 1, 1975||Spain||Madrid||Met with Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Received keys to city from Mayor of Madrid Miguel Angel García-Lomas Mata.|
|June 1–3, 1975||Austria||Salzburg||Met with Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.|
|June 3, 1975||Italy||Rome||Met with President Giovanni Leone and Prime Minister Aldo Moro.|
|June 3, 1975||Vatican City||Apostolic Palace||Audience with Pope Paul VI.|
|5||July 26–28, 1975||West Germany||Bonn, |
Linz am Rhein
|Met with President Walter Scheel and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.|
|July 28–29, 1975||Poland||Warsaw, |
|Official visit. Met with First Secretary Edward Gierek.|
|July 29 – August 2, 1975||Finland||Helsinki||Attended opening session of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Met with the heads of state and government of Finland, Great Britain, Turkey, West Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Also met with Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev. Signed the final act of the conference.|
|August 2–3, 1975||Romania||Bucharest, |
|Official visit. Met with President Nicolae Ceaușescu. |
|August 3–4, 1975||Yugoslavia||Belgrade||Official visit. Met with President Josip Broz Tito and Prime Minister Džemal Bijedić.|
|6||November 15–17, 1975||France||Rambouillet||Attended the 1st G6 summit.|
|7||December 1–5, 1975||China||Peking||Official visit. Met with Party Chairman Mao Zedong and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping.|
|December 5–6, 1975||Indonesia||Jakarta||Official visit. Met with President Suharto.|
|December 6–7, 1975||Philippines||Manila||Official visit. Met with President Ferdinand Marcos.|
Ford faced two assassination attempts during his presidency. In Sacramento, California, on September 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a Colt .45-caliber handgun at Ford.  As Fromme pulled the trigger, Larry Buendorf,  a Secret Service agent, grabbed the gun, and Fromme was taken into custody. She was later convicted of attempted assassination of the President and was sentenced to life in prison she was paroled on August 14, 2009. 
In reaction to this attempt, the Secret Service began keeping Ford at a more secure distance from anonymous crowds, a strategy that may have saved his life seventeen days later. As he left the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore, standing in a crowd of onlookers across the street, pointed her .38-caliber revolver at him.  Moore fired a single round but missed because the sights were off. Just before she fired a second round, retired Marine Oliver Sipple grabbed at the gun and deflected her shot the bullet struck a wall about six inches above and to the right of Ford's head, then ricocheted and hit a taxi driver, who was slightly wounded. Moore was later sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled on December 31, 2007, after serving 32 years. 
Ford made the first major decision of his re-election campaign in mid-1975, when he selected Bo Callaway to run his campaign.  The pardon of Nixon and the disastrous 1974 mid-term elections weakened Ford's standing within the party, creating an opening for a competitive Republican primary.  The intra-party challenge to Ford came from the conservative wing of the party many conservative leaders had viewed Ford as insufficiently conservative throughout his political career.  Conservative Republicans were further disappointed with the selection of Rockefeller as vice president, and faulted Ford for the fall of Saigon, the amnesty for draft dodgers, and the continuation of détente policies.  Ronald Reagan, a leader among the conservatives, launched his campaign in autumn of 1975. Hoping to appease his party's right wing and sap Reagan's momentum, Ford requested that Rockefeller not seek re-election, and the vice president agreed to this request.  Ford defeated Reagan in the first several primaries, but Reagan gained momentum after winning North Carolina's March 1976 primary.  Entering the 1976 Republican National Convention, neither Ford nor Reagan had won a majority of delegates through the primaries, but Ford was able to win the support of enough unpledged delegates to win the presidential nomination. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas won the vice presidential nomination. 
In the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate, Ford campaigned at a time of cynicism and disillusionment with government.  Ford adopted a "Rose Garden" strategy, with Ford mostly staying in Washington in an attempt to appear presidential.  The campaign benefited from several anniversary events held during the period leading up to the United States Bicentennial. The Washington fireworks display on the Fourth of July was presided over by the president and televised nationally.  The 200th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts gave Ford the opportunity to deliver a speech to 110,000 in Concord acknowledging the need for a strong national defense tempered with a plea for "reconciliation, not recrimination" and "reconstruction, not rancor" between the United States and those who would pose "threats to peace".  Speaking in New Hampshire on the previous day, Ford condemned the growing trend toward big government bureaucracy and argued for a return to "basic American virtues". 
Eleven major contenders competed in the 1976 Democratic primaries. At the start of the primaries, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia was little-known nationally, but he rocketed to prominence with a victory in the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. A born again Christian, Carter emphasized his personal morality and his status as a Washington outsider. Carter won the presidential nomination on the first ballot of the 1976 Democratic National Convention, and selected liberal Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. Carter began the race with a huge lead in the polls, but committed a major gaffe by giving an interview to Playboy in which he stated that "I've committed adultery in my heart several times." Ford made his own gaffe during a televised debate, stating that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe."  In an interview years later, Ford said he had intended to imply that the Soviets would never crush the spirits of eastern Europeans seeking independence. However, the phrasing was so awkward that questioner Max Frankel was visibly incredulous at the response.  As a result of this blunder, Ford's surge stalled and Carter was able to maintain a slight lead in the polls. 
In the end, Carter won the election, receiving 50.1% of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes compared with 48.0% of the popular vote and 240 electoral votes for Ford.  Ford dominated in the West and performed well in New England, but Carter carried much of the South and won Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.   Though Ford lost, in the three months between the Republican National Convention and the election he had managed to close what polls had shown as a 33-point Carter lead to a 2-point margin. 
Polls of historians and political scientists have generally ranked Ford as a below-average to average president. A 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association's Presidents and Executive Politics section ranked Ford as the 25th best president.  A 2017 C-Span poll of historians also ranked Ford as the 25th best president.  Historian John Robert Greene writes that "Ford had difficulty navigating a demanding political environment." He also notes, however, that "Americans, by and large, believed that Gerald Ford was an innately decent and good man and that he would (and did) bring honor to the White House. Although this sentiment proved too little to bring Ford to victory in 1976, it is an assessment that most Americans and scholars still find valid in the years after his presidency." 
Ford looked clumsy
Unfortunately, President Ford did some things that caused him to be depicted as a klutz.
Seemed mentally slow
He certainly didn't look very smart, with the primitive brow. Ford also did not have a good speaking voice and actually sounded to be somewhat mentally slow.
Saturday Night Live
On the Saturday Night Live television show, comedian Chevy Chase would often impersonate President Ford, playing him as extremely clumsy and stupid. This played upon the nation's impression of the President.
Hit lady on head
Also, for some reason, Ford was constantly doing clumsy and awkward things in front of the TV cameras and photographers. For example, he slipped on the steps coming out of Air Force One. Several times when he was playing golf, he hit the ball into the gallery of spectatorsonce hitting a lady on the head. While playing doubles in tennis, he hit his partner on the head with the ball. All of these incidents were caught on camera.
Actually, these accidents could happen to anyone, but it seemed that he had more than his share. Of course, being under the microscope of the media exaggerated the gaffs and found more than would normally be noticed.
Brinkley, Douglas. Gerald R. Ford. New York: Times Books, 2007.
Cannon, James. Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.
DeFrank, Thomas M. Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2007.
Firestone, Bernard J., and Alexej Ugrinsky, eds. Gerald R. Ford and the Politics of Post-Watergate America. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.
Ford, Gerald R. A Time To Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.
Ralph Nader Congress Project. Citizens Look at Congress: Gerald R. Ford, Republican Representative from Michigan. Washington, D. C.: Grossman Publishers, 1972.
TerHorst, Jerald F. Gerald Ford and the Future of the Presidency. New York: The Third Press, 1974.
Unsworth, Michael E. "'The Best Officer of the Deck': Gerald R. Ford's World War II Experience." Michigan History 78 (January/February 1994): 8-14.
The Legacy of Gerald R. Ford
I was watching Sunday Morning and they had an interview with David McCullough, the Pulitizer Prize winning author of such highly respected biographies of John Adams and Harry S. Truman. Mr. McCullough gave a list of his top ten presidents and to the surprise of the interviewer, and to many others undoubtedly, he placed Gerald R. Ford in his top ten.
My very first vote in a presidential election was for Gerald Ford. His administration was short having served from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977. He was the only President and Vice-President to never have been voted in by the American people. His administration saw the pardon of Richard Nixon, the invasion of North Vietnam of South Vietnam, strained relations with Israel and tough economic times. Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in a close election.
Ford was as honest a president as the American nation has ever seen. He took a nation that was deeply divided and disillusioned from the Nixon resignation and Watergate scandals and helped healed those wounds. He gave a great speech on his ascendancy to the Presidency and showed great courage in the pardon of Richard Nixon, which was greatly unpopular at the time.
How Did The Country React To Ford’s Pardon Of Nixon?
The immediate reaction to Ford’s announcement was outrage. Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward’s investigative partner, called Woodward and snarled: “The son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch.”
Ford paid an immediate price for his actions. According to a series of Gallup polls, Ford’s approval rating dropped from 66% in early September to 50% later that month by January 1975, he’d sunk to a 37% approval rating. In the months leading up to the 1976 election—which Ford would lose to Jimmy Carter, after fighting off Ronald Reagan during the Republican primaries—Gallup reported that 55% of Americans thought that Ford had done the wrong thing in pardoning Nixon.
But over time, opinions about Ford’s pardon of Nixon changed. Bernstein acknowledged in 2014 that Ford’s pardon had taken “great courage.” Woodward likewise called the pardon “an act of courage.” In 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy awarded Ford the “Profile in Courage” award at the John F. Kennedy Library. Kennedy recalled that he had come out against the pardon in 1974. “But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right,” Kennedy said. “His courage and dedication to our country made it possible for us to begin the process of healing and put the tragedy of Watergate behind us.”
In 2006, Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor and a Democrat wrote: “Did Ford make the right decision in pardoning his predecessor? The answer to that question is more nuanced than either the howls of outrage that greeted the pardon three decades ago or the general acceptance with which it is viewed now.”
That is—like most things in history—the ultimate legacy of Ford’s decision is complex.
Ford pardoned Nixon and paid the political price. Will Biden pardon Trump? Should he?
Some outlets, echoing Ford’s argument of national unity, say yes. The Baltimore Sun called the possibility of a pardon “tension calming.” The Independent went even further, calling a Biden-Trump pardon: “the only path forward.”
History does not repeat but it does rhyme—and Trump and Nixon are not the same president. In a piece in the Dispatch, Professor Mary Stuckey of Penn State notes that: “There was no violence associated with Richard Nixon or Watergate.” The stakes, in other words, are different. Professor Sean Wilentz of Princeton also notes that Ford pardoned Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal alone a pardon of Trump would “[halt] further investigation and possible prosecution concerning the serious violation of several important federal laws arising from several distinct episodes dating back to the 2016 campaign.”
Biden may be eager to clear Trump from the American headspace, but Trump won’t be going anywhere for awhile—on January 19th, his impeachment trial is set to begin in the Senate.
That all but ensures that the first several days of Biden’s term will be cluttered with Trump news.