The ‘accidental’ president whose innate decency and steady hand restored the presidency after its greatest crisis.

When Gerald R. Ford Entered the White House in August 1974, he inherited a presidency tarnished by the Watergate scandal, the economy was in a recession, the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, and he had taken office without having been elected. Most observers gave him little chance of success, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon just a month into his presidency, an action that outraged many Americans, but which Ford thought was necessary to move the nation forward. During his presidency, many people thought of Ford as a man who stumbled a lot — clumsy on his feet and in politics-but acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley shows him to have been a man of independent thought and conscience, who never allowed party loyalty to prevail over his sense of right and wrong. As a young congressman, he stood up to the isolationists in the Republican leadership, promoting a vigorous role for America in the world. Later, as House minority leader and as president, he challenged the right wing of his party, refusing to bend to its vision of confrontation with the Communist world. And after the fall of Saigon, Ford also over-ruled his advisers by allowing Vietnamese refugees to enter the United States, arguing that it was the humane thing to do. Brinkley also offers keen analysis of the Mayaguez incident and the Helsinki Accords, where Ford’s steady and focused leadership played a key role in advancing American interests.

Brinkley draws on exclusive interviews with Ford and on previously unpublished documents (including a remarkable correspondence between Ford and Nixon stretching over four decades), fashioning a masterly reassessment of Gerald R. Ford’s presidency and his under appreciated legacy to the nation.

“A rock-hard moral core defined Gerald Ford. Unrattled by the speed of events or by their uneven consequences, Ford remained the steadiest of public men, certain of his course and confident in his ability to keep to it. He may have landed in the White House without planning to, but he proved well prepared for the nation’s highest office, intellectually as well as emotionally.

Having never slogged through the mud of a presidential campaign, he arrived in the White House with neither an untoward gratitude for those who had supported him nor any lingering animosity toward those who hadn’t. Instead, he had an unobstructed view of his enormous and widely diverse constituency, and his record in the White House was remarkably evenhanded.

He left the presidency in far better shape than he had found it — perhaps even healthier than it had been in decades.”  — Douglas Brinkley on Gerald R. Ford


Times Books


February 6th, 2007

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