Archive for Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former President Gerald Ford dies

December 27, 2006


— Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected president in America's history, has died, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He was 93.

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."

The statement did not say where Ford died or list a cause of death. Ford had battled pneumonia in January and underwent two heart treatments - including an angioplasty - in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

He was the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Ford had been living at his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

Ford was an accidental president, Nixon's hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straightforward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

He took office minutes after Nixon flew off into exile and declared "our long national nightmare is over." But he revived the debate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president. That single act, it was widely believed, cost Ford election to a term of his own in 1976, but it won praise in later years as a courageous act that allowed the nation to move on.

The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the U.S. during his presidency with the fall of Saigon in April 1975. In a speech as the end neared, Ford said: "Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned." Evoking Abraham Lincoln, he said it was time to "look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the nation's wounds."

Ford also earned a place in the history books as the first unelected vice president, chosen by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, who also was forced from office by scandal.

Restoring integrity

He was in the White House only 895 days, but changed it more than it changed him.

Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the presidency of Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for Richard Nixon, the transition to Ford's leadership was one of the most welcomed in the history of the democratic process - despite the fact that it occurred without an election.

After the Watergate ordeal, Americans liked their new president - and first lady Betty, whose candor charmed the country.

They liked her for speaking openly about problems of young people, including her own daughter; they admired her for not hiding that she had a mastectomy - in fact, her example caused thousands of women to seek breast examinations.

And she remained one of the country's most admired women even after the Fords left the White House when she was hospitalized in 1978 and admitted to having become addicted to drugs and alcohol she took for painful arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck. Four years later she founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, a substance abuse facility next to Eisenhower Medical Center.

The toll of years

Ford slowed down in recent years. He had been hospitalized in August 2000 when he suffered one or more small strokes while attending the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

The following year, he joined former Presidents Carter, Bush and Clinton at a memorial service in Washington three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. In June 2004, the four men and their wives joined again at a funeral service in Washington for former President Reagan. But in November 2004, Ford was unable to join the other former presidents at the dedication of the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

In January, Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia for 12 days. He wasn't seen in public until April 23, when President Bush was in town and paid a visit to the Ford home. Bush, Ford and Betty posed for photographers outside the residence before going inside for a private get-together.

The intensely private couple declined reporter interview requests and were rarely seen outside their home in Rancho Mirage's gated Thunderbird Estates, other than to attend worship services at the nearby St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.


Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 4 months ago

President Ford was a gentleman who willingly exchanged his future electability for the good of the nation. Few men would make such a choice. His appointment to the Vice Presidency and succession of President Nixon were fortunate for this nation at a deeply troubled time. Would that such men were always in such positions when this country needs them most.

Thank you, President Ford, for your service which contributed so much to healing so wounded a nation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

I wonder if the people of E. Timor, 300,000 of whom died in the illegal invasion by Indonesia that was directly approved of by Ford and Kissinger, think that he was a "nice guy."

SpeedRacer 11 years, 4 months ago

I was back from Vietnam, in my second semester of college, when Ford took office. The things that most stick in my mind about his presidency are the high gas prices (yes, they were partially the result of the Arab embargo under Nixon, but not much improved under Ford), a worldwide recession, runaway inflation (remember those stupid WIN buttons?), high unemployment rate. Ford struck me as an ineffective caretaker president. But, what I remember greatest is that he provided the impetus for Reagan to achieve the political base he needed to become president.

Bob Forer 11 years, 4 months ago

I agree with every post. Yes, he was a gentleman who put the nation's healing ahead of his electiblity. But he also was an unsophisticated neophyte when it came to world affairs and was dupped by Kissinger, et al, into action contrary to our American principles. While he certainly was not a first tier president, I think history will--and probably should--view him in a positive light, unlike that bozo in office now.

rhd99 11 years, 4 months ago

I was born the year President Ford was in office, therefore I have no recollection of what he did in office, but from what I understand about the history of his Presidency, Ford was a uniter under severe circumstances. Richard Nixon brought disgrace to the office, while Ford sought to unite a nation & restore confidence back to the Oval office once again. Ford's character speaks volumes about the kind of honorable man he was while in office, unlike our current President, who continually lies & brings deceit every day he occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. By the way, this is WOTS, but what's this I hear about a program the Pentagon wants to recruit foreigners into our military, yet the Pentagon wants that to be secretive. Hello, BUSH, you all brought it up, COUGH it up, losers!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

You're right, Pilgrim. Like you, I should be cheering the murder of 300,000 people. Otherwise, I not a true Amurcan.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

Ford made a deal to pardon Nixon in exchange for the presidency. Not much honor there.

rhd99 11 years, 4 months ago

Bozo, come on, if the Nixon pardon is the only thing one remembers about Ford's brief tenure in the Presidency, you're gonna have to do better than that. He had more honor than Nixon, & exponentially more honor than our current President EVER will.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

"He had more honor than Nixon, & exponentially more honor than our current President EVER will."

That's quite a backhanded compliment.

rhd99 11 years, 4 months ago

Well, Bozo, Bush has backhanded us lots more than you & I can count on our feet & hands. Bush has NEVER shown why he can be trusted. Have you listened or read the news about overwhelming disapproval of his Job performance? He backhanded Colin Powell, didn't he? The fact is, Bush doesn't care about who he hurts. All he cares about is himself. Ford was the exact opposite!

rhd99 11 years, 4 months ago

Bottom line, Ford cared about people, BUSH DOESN'T.

justthefacts 11 years, 4 months ago

May I suggest that when casting aspersions on and criticizing every single person whose name is mentioned in this forum, we at least remember that the friends and family's of anyone deceased are in mourning? Some common respect would be a civilized way to approach such discussions, for those interested in acting with good manners.

May I also suggest that it is often those who cannot say anything nice about anyone who are often the least likely to do more then simply talk and talk and talk (anonymously in most cases).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago


Apparently, for you, respect=lying and denying.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 4 months ago

Well, JTTF, I noticed that when he was in office, everyone, especially the press, criticized him for just about everything. Now that he's dead, they're practically not saying anything negative about him.

I personally didn't know the man, of course, and have no idea what kind of person he was. But I've noticed a trend for quite some time about someone suddenly becoming a paragon of virtue as soon as they die. It happens frequently.

Sad as it may seem to you, anyone in the public eye, especially a former president, is going to generate comments from the public, positive or negative. This is to be expected, and if you don't want that, then I suggest you not become a public figure.

As for respect for the family in mourning, well...I seriously doubt that Betty Ford and the rest of the family will be visiting the Lawrence boards to see what comments everyone is making.

beatrice 11 years, 4 months ago

My only thought is -- Rest in peace, Mr. President. Anything less should be put on hold for at least a few days.

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

Can't help but think we in this country all are lucky for men/women/people who try to do the right thing! Thank heaven for people like Ford and others whom U S citizens of all parties can revere at the time of their deaths, if not during the political battles.

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