Ford, Gerald Rudolph

From Bwtm

Gerald Rudolph Ford was the 38th President of the United States.

Three things about Jerry stand out for me:

  1. The pardon of Nixon. If Nixon had been indicted and convicted it would have healed the Nation and served as a deterrent to similar crimes. A quick resolution was a good idea, Ford should have punished Nixon with imprisonment.
  2. The Ford Administration was a breeding ground for Neo-Cons and contributed to the corruption and illegal war we suffer from today. Rumsfeld and Cheney had positions of power in the Ford regime. The pardon emboldened these men to commit crimes.
  3. The Reagan challenge for the 1976 Republican Presidential nomination and the raise of campaign dirty tricks, slander and smear as the tools of the Neo-con hijacking of American politics. After losing to Ford, Reagan gave a speech at the convention which contributed to Ford losing to Carter and the Neo-cons taking over the Republican party.


Why Pardoning Nixon Was Wrong

The pardon of Nixon. If Nixon had been indicted and convicted it would have healed the Nation and served as a deterrent to similar crimes. A quick resolution was a good idea, Ford should have punished Nixon with imprisonment.

it set a bad precedent

Jerald terHorst served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946. After his military service, he worked as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Press (1946–1951). He returned to active duty with the Marine Corps in 1951–1952. He then joined the Detroit News, where he served as city and state political writer (1953–1957), Washington correspondent (1958–1960), and Washington Bureau Chief (1961–1974). He served as press secretary for one month (August 9–September 8, 1974) before resigning in the wake of President Ford's announcement that he would pardon former president Richard Nixon for any possible crimes connected with the Watergate scandal. At the time, the story that circulated was that terHorst had resigned because he had been blindsided by Ford's decision, having consistently denied to reporters in his daily press briefings that Ford had any intent of issuing a pardon. Once the pardon was issued, the story went, terHorst felt that any credibility that he had had with reporters had been destroyed, and that he would subsequently be unable to function satisfactorily in the position of press secretary. However, as his letter of resignation and numerous personal statements in the years following clearly demonstrate, terHorst was ultimately moved to resign because he found Ford's decision unconscionable, especially in light of the President's refusal to pardon those who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. His permanent successor was NBC reporter Ron Nessen, who served until the end of the Ford Administration.

Why was Ford wrong to pardon Nixon? Mainly because it set a bad precedent. Nixon had not yet been indicted, let alone convicted, of any crime. It's never a good idea to pardon somebody without at least finding out first what you're pardoning him for. How can you possibly weigh the quality of mercy against considerations of justice? Yet it would happen again in December 1992, when departing President George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, former defense secretary, 12 days before Weinberger was set to go to trial for perjury. As I've noted before, this was almost certainly done to prevent evidence concerning Bush's own involvement in Iran-contra (when he was vice-president) from becoming public. The final report from Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called it "the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness," but in fact it was the second. Ford's motive was less self-protective, but, as Slate's Christopher Hitchens notes here, it had the same effect of shutting down further investigation into illegal activities. Without the precedent of Ford's pre-emptive pardon, Bush père might have lacked the nerve to attempt one himself, and certainly would have created a much bigger ruckus if he went ahead and did it anyway.

If Ford hadn't issued the pardon, would Nixon have stood trial, or perhaps even been sent to jail? If so, his successors might have learned the valuable lesson that presidents are not above the law. But odds are that no prosecution would have taken place. In a Dec. 28 editorial, the Wall Street Journal stated that Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski "seemed determined to pursue" a criminal trial. The precise opposite is true. By his own account, Jaworski was reluctant to pursue prosecutorial alternatives to impeachment. James Cannon's 1994 book Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment With History quotes Jaworski saying, "I knew in my own mind that if an indictment were returned and the court asked me if I believed Nixon could receive a prompt, fair trial as guaranteed by the Constitution, I would have replied in the negative." In a Dec. 29 op-ed in the Washington Post, Jaworski's former employee, Richard Ben-Veniste—yet another person who changed his mind and now thinks Ford was right to pardon Nixon—writes that Jaworski was "of the view that Nixon's precipitous fall from the highest office was punishment enough." Even if Jaworski had been talked into indicting Nixon, the prosecution's constitutionality—at best, uncertain—would have been a matter for the courts to decide, and the judiciary tends to err on the side of caution when considering separation of powers. That probably helps explain why President Bill Clinton was never indicted for perjury, even after congressional efforts to remove him from office failed.

Breeding Ground for Neo-con Ideology

The Ford Administration was a breeding ground for Neo-Cons and contributed to the corruption and illegal war we suffer from today. Rumsfeld and Cheney had positions of power in the Ford regime. The pardon emboldened these men to commit crimes.

Backstabbing the Nation

"I looked upon him as my personal friend. And I always treasured our relationship. And I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon, because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn't want to see my real friend have the stigma," Ford said in the interview.

Ford, Nixon Sustained Friendship for Decades

Our Short National Nightmare

How President Ford managed to go soft on Iraqi Baathists, Indonesian fascists, Soviet Communists, and the shah … in just two years.

December 29, 2006 One expects a certain amount of piety and hypocrisy when retired statesmen give up the ghost, but this doesn't excuse the astonishing number of omissions and misstatements that have characterized the sickly national farewell to Gerald Ford. One could graze for hours on the great slopes of the massive obituaries and never guess that during his mercifully brief occupation of the White House, this president had:

  1. Disgraced the United States in Iraq and inaugurated a long period of calamitous misjudgment of that country.
  2. Colluded with the Indonesian dictatorship in a gross violation of international law that led to a near-genocide in East Timor.
  3. Delivered a resounding snub to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at the time when the Soviet dissident movement was in the greatest need of solidarity.

Instead, there was endless talk about "healing," and of the "courage" that it had taken for Ford to excuse his former boss from the consequences of his law-breaking. You may choose, if you wish, to parrot the line that Watergate was a "long national nightmare," but some of us found it rather exhilarating to see a criminal president successfully investigated and exposed and discredited. And we do not think it in the least bit nightmarish that the Constitution says that such a man is not above the law. Ford's ignominious pardon of this felonious thug meant, first, that only the lesser fry had to go to jail. It meant, second, that we still do not even know why the burglars were originally sent into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In this respect, the famous pardon is not unlike the Warren Commission: another establishment exercise in damage control and pseudo-reassurance (of which Ford was also a member) that actually raised more questions than it answered. The fact is that serious trials and fearless investigations often are the cause of great division, and rightly so. But by the standards of "healing" celebrated this week, one could argue that O.J. Simpson should have been spared indictment lest the vexing questions of race be unleashed to trouble us again, or that the Tower Commission did us all a favor by trying to bury the implications of the Iran-Contra scandal. Fine, if you don't mind living in a banana republic.

To enlarge on the points that I touched upon above: Bob Woodward has gone into print this week with the news that Ford opposed the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq. But Ford's own interference in the life of that country has gone unmentioned. During his tenure, and while Henry Kissinger was secretary of state, the United States secretly armed and financed a Kurdish rebellion against Saddam Hussein. This was done in collusion with the Shah of Iran, who was then considered in Washington a man who could do no wrong. So that when the shah signed a separate peace with Saddam in 1975, and abandoned his opportunist support for the Kurds, the United States shamefacedly followed his lead and knifed the Kurds in the back. The congressional inquiry led by Rep. Otis Pike was later to describe this betrayal as one of the most cynical acts of statecraft on record.

In December 1975, Ford was actually in the same room as Gen. Suharto of Indonesia when the latter asked for American permission to impose Indonesian military occupation on East Timor. Despite many denials and evasions, we now possess the conclusive evidence that Ford (and his deputy Kissinger) did more than simply nod assent to this outrageous proposition. They also undertook to defend it from criticism in the United States Congress and elsewhere. From that time forward, the Indonesian dictatorship knew that it would not lack for armaments or excuses, both of these lavishly supplied from Washington. The figures for civilian deaths in this shameful business have never been properly calculated, but may well amount to several hundred thousand and thus more than a quarter of East Timor's population.

Ford's refusal to meet with Solzhenitsyn, when the great dissident historian came to America, was consistent with his general style of making excuses for power. As Timothy Noah has suggested lately, there seems to have been a confusion in Ford's mind as to whether the Helsinki Treaty was intended to stabilize, recognize, or challenge the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. However that may be, the great moral component of the Helsinki agreement—that it placed the United States on the side of the repressed populations—was ridiculed by Ford's repudiation of Solzhenitsyn, as well as by his later fatuities on the nature of Soviet domination. To have been soft on Republican crime, soft on Baathism, soft on the shah, soft on Indonesian fascism, and soft on Communism, all in one brief and transient presidency, argues for the sort of sportsmanlike Midwestern geniality that we do not ever need to see again.

Finally to the Mayaguez. Ford did not dispatch forces to "rescue" the vessel, as so many of his obituarists have claimed. He ordered an attack on the Cambodian island of Koh Tang, several hours after the crew of the ship had actually been released. A subsequent congressional inquiry discovered that he, and Henry Kissinger, could have discovered as much by monitoring Cambodian radio and contacting foreign diplomats. Eighteen Marines and 23 USAF men were killed in this pointless exercise in bravado, as were many Cambodians. The American names appear on the Vietnam memorial in Washington, even though their lives were lost long after the undeclared war was officially "over." The Ford epoch did not banish a nightmare. It ended a dream—the ideal of equal justice under the law that would extend to a crooked and venal president. And in Iraq and Indonesia and Indochina, it either protracted existing nightmares or gave birth to new ones.


The Jerry Ford Institute of Ignoring History

"Write it when I'm dead,"

Ford didn't bite tongue in interviews

October 30, 2007 WASHINGTON -- Four months before Richard Nixon resigned as president in August 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford, in a slip of the tongue, blurted out to a reporter "You're right" that Nixon was a goner and he'd become president.

Realizing how troubling such a revelation likely would be to the Watergate-shaken public, Ford implored the young Newsweek reporter, Thomas M. DeFrank, not to publish the indiscreet remark.

"Write it when I'm dead," proposed Ford, who began his political career as a Grand Rapids congressman and ultimately became the country's first unelected president.

DeFrank agreed out of fear that if he didn't, Ford would cut off his access. But now he's disclosing what some political analysts are calling "political dynamite" in a new book, "Write it when I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford." The book, on sale today, is based on exclusive "obit" interviews with Ford not to be published until after his death. In 16 private interviews beginning in 1991 and up to six weeks before Ford's death last December, Ford shared his unguarded opinions with DeFrank.

They include that he thought Ronald Reagan was intellectually lazy, Bill Clinton had a "sex sickness," Hillary Clinton has "the emotional toughness" to be president, and that he was "amazed" by the huge federal deficits that mounted under President George W. Bush. "I've always thought that the reason he agreed to these (obit) interviews is that I'd kept my word to him and not printed the (1974) revelation," DeFrank said.

"Ford had always said he really didn't know he was going to be president until around the first of August. I hope these interviews fill in some blanks for historians," he said.

Some of the former president's opinions are gossipy. For example, Ford told DeFrank that he personally observed Bill Clinton's "wandering eye."

DeFrank quotes Ford as saying, "Betty and I have talked about this a lot. He's sick -- he's got an addiction. He needs treatment." Ford revealed hurts, including bitterness that Ronald Reagan didn't step aside and give him the chance in 1980 to defeat Jimmy Carter, who'd beaten him in 1976. Reagan unseated Carter instead.

DeFrank says Ford "neither liked nor respected" Reagan, whom he viewed as a "superficial, disengaged, intellectually lazy showman who didn't do his homework and clung to his naïve, unrealistic and essentially dangerous world view." But Ford let go of the bitterness in 1994, DeFrank says, after Reagan revealed he had Alzheimer's disease.

On Nixon, Ford said he had a "flaw in his character," but "could have survived. It was the after-the-fact manipulation, the cover-up, that created the disaster."

But the revelation drawing the biggest notice is Ford's slip-of-the-tongue back in April 1974. Former Detroit News reporter and Ford press secretary Jerald terHorst said had it been published, it would have been "political dynamite because it would have looked like Ford was part of the effort to bring Nixon down."

Nixon adviser and speechwriter David Gergen saidpublishing the slip-of-the-tongue "would have been a huge story, caused enormous friction between Nixon and Ford, and made the transition much uglier."

Invasion was not justified, Ford said

December 28, 2006 WASHINGTON -- Former President Ford questioned the Bush administration's rationale for the U.S. invasion and war in Iraq in interviews he granted on condition they not be released until after his death.

In a July 2004 interview with The Washington Post, Ford said the Iraq war was not justified, The Post reported. "I don't think I would have gone to war."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney "and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said.

In May, Ford told the New York Daily News that he thought Bush erred by staking the invasion on claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. "Saddam Hussein was an evil person, and there was justification to get rid of him. But we shouldn't have put the basis on weapons of destruction. ... Where does he get his advice?"

He also did not like Bush's domestic surveillance program.

"It may be a necessary evil. ... But I would never do it. I was dumbfounded when I heard they were doing it."