|Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.|
|Born:||July 14, 1913|
|Died||December 26, 2006 (Age 93)|
Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was President of the United States even though no one ever voted for him, not even as Vice President of the United States. This happened after Nixon's VP Spiro Agnew resigned and under the 25th Amendment, the President is allowed to appoint a replacement Vice President.
Ford, a WWII Navy veteran, was the House Minority Leader in 1973 when Richard Nixon appointed him VP. Ford pardoned his friend Nixon, given him a full pardon, an action which cost him the election of 1976 to Jimmy Carter. Despite being recent, he happens to be one of the least known of presidents ever, though it is possible that presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce surpassed him.
Gerald Ford was named Leslie Lynch King Jr. at birth but his parents' marriage didn't work out so he got the name of his mother's second husband. Turns out his father had a drinking problem. When Ford was 16 days old, his father got drunk, pointed a knife at his mother and threatened to kill them both. Mrs. King finally had enough so she filed for divorce and took her son with her.
On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon announced he would be resigning the office of President the next day as a result of the Watergate scandal. On August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as 38th President of the United States. Using the 25th Amendment that enabled himself to be appointed Vice President the previous year, he appointed former Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President, who after being approved by Congress, was sworn in on December 19.
A month after assuming the presidency, September 8, President Ford gave former President Nixon a full pardon for his role in Watergate. Back in the day when Republicans had honor and a respect for law, this outraged voters in both parties. While Ford felt it was necessary for America to recover, it basically allowed Nixon to get off scot-free and set a precedent where the rich and powerful are never held accountable for their crimes. American voters and activists protested Ford's pardon of Nixon. Even Ford's newly appointed Press Secretary Jerald terHorst resigned in protest. Ford's approval rating, which started at 70%, dropped 35 percentage points, as he was viewed as just as bad as Nixon. Some accused Ford and Nixon of working out a deal where Nixon resigns, giving Ford the Presidency, in exchange for a pardon.
Ford vs Reagan
"I intend to conduct an open and above-board campaign, both for the nomination and for the presidency."- Ford's campaign announcement
Because Ford was serving more than two years of Nixon's second term after the latter's resignation, the 22nd Amendment only allowed Ford to run for one term of his own in 1976 but not for another term in 1980.
Despite being the incumbent, Ford was not popular. Along with a recession in 1975, Ford's decision to pardon the criminal Richard Nixon for his part in Watergate hurt his chances. The populace viewed he was just as corrupt as Nixon. But he was determined to serve a term of his own right. On July 8, 1975, he announced he was running for president in 1976. But the odds were not in his favor. His pardon of Nixon, an energy crisis, a recession and high unemployment plagued him. Many felt he was not up for the job.
Ford was also a bit physically clumsy, even tripping once during a presidential visit to Austria in June of 1975 where he fell on his behind while climbing down from Air Force One. While it didn't affect his job as president, the newly created Saturday Night Live satirized Ford's clumsiness. Actor Chevy Chase made the very athletic Ford look like a common clumsy klutz.
In November 1975, President Ford received a call from former California governor and two-bit actor Ronald Reagan. Reagan, who disagreed with Ford's policy of easing relations with the Soviets instead of escalating tensions, called to announce he was challenging Ford for the Republican nomination. This infuriated Ford, as there was a custom of never challenging an incumbent President who was able to run for re-election. The very divisive Reagan said "I hope this won't be divisive", which blew away Ford.
The New Hampshire primary was held in February of 1976, the first major showdown in almost every election. While Ford wanted to emphasize the idea that "you don't change horses mid-stream", many polls showed that many Republicans didn't want to keep him. Reagan represented the
racist and anti-poor right-wing of the Republican Party, as unfortunately the Republican Party was becoming more and more right-wing and abandoning the moderate principles of previous Republican presidents like Eisenhower. Even Reagan's most ardent left-wing haters had to admit he was charismatic.
To combat Reagan's popularity, Ford decided to reveal Reagan's true plutocratic nature. Reagan endorsed a plan to cut $90 billion from the federal budget and have the states pick up the tab. This would've hurt the working middle class of New Hampshire. When the primary was held on February 24, Ford won with 50.06% to Reagan's 48.26%, a margin of less than 2%, but a victory for Ford nonetheless. Reagan was now on the defensive.
By the time of the March 1976 North Carolina primary, Reagan had lost five primaries. Ford was looking pretty good. People more and more called on Reagan to concede to Ford, which made Reagan more angry and stubborn to stay in. Reagan attacked Ford on an issue in which Ford was vulnerable: The Panama Canal. The Ford Administration wanted to give control of the Panama Canal back to Panama. Reagan called upon right-wing American imperialism on the idea "We own that canal. It is sovereign United States territory." Reagan would pound the podium and emote, saying "We bought it, we paid for it, and we're going to keep it." Because America just has to have an Empire. Reagan used the Canal issue to portray Ford as someone who couldn't be trusted on the world stage. Reagan would win the North Carolina primary. While this was just one victory, it gave Reagan hope he could win and make his campaign look alive.
The Republican National Convention was held in Kansas City, Kansas on August 16-19, a month after the Democratic Party nominated former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Ford spent the last month before calling on committed delegates, getting them into the White House and making deals to consolidate his nomination.
America was given four years of borrowed time from Reagan's inevitable disastrous policies of turning water into polluted water and walking on the poor as Ford secured the nomination. Ford got 1,187 votes over Reagan's 1,070 votes. The incumbent Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, had informed Ford that he wished to retire from politics, so Ford chose Kansas Senator Bob Dole to replace him.
"I am honored by your nomination, and I accept it. I'm ready. I'm eager to go before the American people and debate the real issues face-to-face with Jimmy Carter!"
Towards the end of the speech, Ford looked towards Reagan and said, "After the scrimmages of past few months, it really feels good to have Ron Reagan on the same side of the line."
In an unscripted attempt to encourage party unity, President Ford invited Reagan to the convention right then and there. As Reagan descended to the floor, the crowd went wild. Ford allowed Reagan to speak after shaking hands.
"I believe the Republican Party has a platform that is a banner of bold, unmistakable colors with no pale, pastel shades... We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said several years ago is true: 'There is no substitute for victory'."
Reagan gave a stirring speech that overshadowed Ford's own acceptance address, despite being little more than five minutes long. Some delegates later stated that they left the convention wondering if they had voted for the wrong candidate.
Ford vs Carter
Ford pursued a "Rose Garden strategy" in which he sought to portray himself as an experienced leader focused on fulfilling his role as chief executive.
By September, with the election just six weeks away, Ford's chances of serving a full four years wasn't looking so good. His Democratic rival Jimmy Carter was 33 points ahead of him at that point.
The First Presidential Debate, the first in which an incumbent president participated, was scheduled for September 23 in Philadelphia. Ford prepared himself to face off against Carter. On September 20, he practiced answering questions with his team. His team asked him questions for anything that Jimmy Carter might throw at him.
The second debate was on October 6 and was about foreign policy. This was President Ford's chance to press his advantage. He was the President of the United States and before had been the Vice President and a Congressman for 24 years. Up to December 1975, Ford had visited 19 countries as President and met with their world leaders and met world leaders that visited the United States. Max Frankell of the New York Times asked about the fate of the nations under the Communist empire. Ford anticipated a certain question when he asked.
Ford was supposed to say, as he said in the practice debate, "The policy of this government is to recognize the independence, the sovereignty and the autonomy of all Eastern European nations." Instead what he said was:
"There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration."- Ford straight up denying the Soviets dominated Eastern Europe.
No one could deny that the Soviet Union dominated all of Eastern Europe except for Greece. While Ford was signaling that the United States did not acknowledge or accept the domination of the peoples of Eastern Europe and Central Europe by the Soviet Union, but it looked like Ford was denying reality.
By October 13, within three weeks of the election, President Ford trailed Carter by 6 points.
During a rally in North Carolina on October 23, while addressing his controversial pardon of Nixon that was still fresh in Americans' minds, Ford claimed "America has had its faith restored in the White House. My administration has been open, candid, straightforward, and will keep it that way for the next four years."
Ford traveled the country to narrow the margin of lose to Carter and stoke up enthusiasm for his presidency. On November 1, the eve of the election, he was informed he was ahead of Carter by one point. His mood went from desperate to rejuvenated.
"But now we come to the crucial 24 hours. I won't let you down. Thank you very much!" was his last campaign speech on the eve of the election.
On Election Night, November 2, the entire Ford Family and many of his closets friends and aides were gathered at the White House, watching the elections results come in. From the White House, Ford watched as the news declared at 3 am that he had lost the election to Jimmy Carter.
Ford lost to Carter in a close race. Ford got 240 votes to Carter's 297 votes. Carter got 50.1% of the popular vote to Ford's 48%. Because President Ford had lost his voice from campaigning, First Lady Betsy Ford delivered the President's concession speech.
It's generally agreed that if Ford hadn't pardoned Richard Nixon, it's possible he would've won in 1976. Due to the precedent the pardon sent, with Presidents now now committing war crimes and inciting insurrections, one must ask if one election was worth it.
- Signed the Helsinki Accords (detente with the Soviets)
- Pardoned Richard Nixon
- This set a precedent where Presidents are not prosecuted for their crimes
- Supported the Indonesian occupation of East Timor
- Refused to pardon Vietnam draft dodgers
- Presided over the worst economy in the four decades since the Great Depression
- Bad inflation and recession.
- Gerald Ford Opposes Independent Probe Of 9/11 Attacks
- Said sarcastically