Gerald Ford “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President”

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Coolidge’s minimalist strategy, which depended upon acceptance of a purified version of the policies of his predecessor, was followed in large part by Gerald Ford. When he assumed the presidency on August 9, 1974, he insisted that his speech was not an inaugural address “just a little straight talk” and he announced that “our long national nightmare is over.” He also carefully indicated his sympathy for the disgraced former president. Ford said he hoped Richard Nixon “who brought peace to millions, finds it for himself.” Initially, this minimalist strategy succeeded. Press assessments that concluded that the new president was no “different from your next-door neighbor” validated Ford’s attempt to portray himself as a competent and reliable representative of Middle America.1 Ford’s self-description that he was “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” made when he accepted the vice presidency, was the equivalent to Coolidge’s image of “Silent Cal,” the symbol of New England integrity.


Vice President American People Republican Party Minimalist Strategy Transition Team 
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  1. 1.
    For press reactions, see Mark Rozell, The Press and the Ford Presidency (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1992); John Robert Greene, The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1995), pp. 31–32.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Despite the objections of his staff, Ford insisted on presenting his amnesty program to the VFW rather than to a student group. For an inside account see Robert T. Hartmann, Palace Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980), pp. 209–15.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Gerald Ford, A Time to Heal (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), p. 94.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Stephen E. Ambrose reviews Nixon’s options in “The Nixon-Ford Relationship,” in Bernard J. Firestone and Alexj Uginsky, eds., Gerald R.Ford and the Politics of Post-Watergate America (Westport: CT: Greenwood Press, 1993), pp. 18–19.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    James Cannon, Time and Chance (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 205.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Seymour M. Hersh, “The Pardon,” Atlantic Monthly (August 1983), p. 56.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Stanley Kutler, among others, has concluded “no deal” was made although the meeting helped to reassure Nixon’s expectation that a pardon was inevitable. The Wars of Watergate (New York: Knopf, 1990), p. 409. For Haig’s account, see: Inner Circles (New York: Warner, 1992), pp. 481–83. Haig insists that Nixon had no knowledge of the options he presented to Ford.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    See, for example, Stephen E. Ambrose, “The Nixon-Ford Relationship,” pp. 21–22; Cannon, Time and Change, pp. 413–14; Greene, The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, pp. 192–93; Yanek Mieczkowski, Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2005), p. 352. Mark Rozell reviews criticisms and defenses of Ford’s pardon decision in “President Ford’s Pardon of Richard M. Nixon: Constitutional and Political Considerations,” Presidential Studies Quarterly (Winter 1994), pp. 121–37. Eulogies at the Ford’s death treated the pardon as the defining moment of his presidency. New York Times, January 5, 2007.Google Scholar
  9. 33.
    Norman Mailer, “The Search for Jimmy Carter,” New York Times Magazine, September 26, 1976, p. 19.Google Scholar
  10. 34.
    Mieczkowski, Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s, pp. 351–59; Barry Werth, 31 Days (New York: Nan. A. Talese, 2006), pp. 331–35.Google Scholar

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© Philip Abbott 2008

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  • Philip Abbott

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