Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bob Woodward’s Interview With Ford

Washington Post Staff Writer and controversial author of books about presidents Bob Woodward interviewed President Gerald Ford in 2004 and 2005. In an article in WaPo this morning Woodward says he had a future book project in mind but Ford said his comments could be published at any time after his death. When Ford died yesterday, the first memories that popped into my mind, and probably into the minds of many people, were the Chevy Chase lampoons on Saturday Night Live of then-president Ford’s accident-prone stumbles and pratfalls. Ford was called “the accidental president” because he was never elected to office. He became Nixon’s Vice President when Spiro Agnew resigned under a cloud, and he became President when Nixon resigned. He has since said that the Saturday Night Live interpretation of accidental president was overblown. The unintended consequences of our choices are painful to reflect on. President Gerald Ford will always be blamed for being the president who brought Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld into his administration and for enabling their political careers to flower. Ford's first Chief of Staff was Donald Rumsfeld. In 1975, Ford chose Rumsfeld to be his Secretary of Defense and appointed Dick Cheney to replace Rumsfeld as his new Chief of Staff. Ford claimed to Woodward that Cheney had been a “first class” Chief of Staff, but, Ford said, “I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious as vice president”. A year after George W. Bush attacked Iraq, Ford told Woodward that the war was not justified. He said, "Rumsfeld and 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 added, "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do." Ford also said, "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer." Ford will also always be remembered for pardoning Richard M. Nixon. Woodward did not address this fact in his article. But many people (include me in the group) will never forgive President Gerald Ford for that action. At the time, Ford said, the pardon was in the best interests of the country and that the Watergate scandal was an American 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.” In memory, Gerald Ford’s one term as president of the United States (1974-1977) seemed like a bland presidency. And I think of Ford as having been a bland president. And yet, he was the president who finally ended the US participation in the war in Vietnam. And he put men in power who have changed the world in catastrophic ways. What can be said about Gerald Ford is that he was a good man, he listened to his advisers and he always thoughtfully considered every action he ever took as president. President George W. Bush would sell his soul (if he still had one) for the history books to write the same about him.

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