Why did Ford pardon Nixon?

Why did Ford pardon Nixon?

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Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon for the crimes he committed during his presidency was quite an unpopular and controversial move. Why did he make this decision?

One doesn't need to speculate, he specifically stated the reason why in Proclamation 4311:

It is believed that a trial of Richard Nixon, if it became necessary, could not fairly begin until a year or more has elapsed. In the meantime, the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.

Conrad Black describes the circumstances in Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full as follows:

The inevitable swarms of conspiracy theorists claim that [Alexander] Haig brokered a pardon for Nixon from Ford. Both Haig and Ford deny this and have done so in identical and strenuous terms for over thirty years at the time of writing… Further, Nixon considered himself a wronged and tormented man; he was not seeking anything that would imply admission that he had done anything that justified the present legal condition…

At Ford's first presidential press conference, on August 28 [1974], there was a question about a possible pardon of Nixon, which Ford parried. Hugh Scott and [Nelson] Rockefeller had both said publicly that Nixon had endured enough and should not be pursued further. Ford said that he agreed with Scott and Rockefeller, but that there was no judicial process under way and he thought it inappropriate to comment further. The press took this to mean that Ford would pardon Nixon after a trial but not before…

In Washington, Haig had spoken to Nixon and been bombarded with calls from his daughters and sons-in-law expressing concern about Nixon's health and morale. David Eisenhower called President Ford on August 28 and made the same point with him. [Leon] Jaworski advised Ford that he was not planning to ask for an early indictment against Nixon, but a grand jury might prefer one, and that it would take at least nine months to get a trial started. No one seriously thought it would be possible to empanel an impartial jury anywhere in the United States in such a case, and the timetable Jarkowski outlined would have the trial of the former president rolling into and trough the election year of 1976.

Ford told his counsel, Philip Buchen, to tell Nixon's new lawyer… that he was considering a pardon, but that he wanted a statement from Nixon that would be an act of contrition… There were four drafts, mainly composed by Nixon, who refused to acknowledge any guilt, but was prepared to express some remorse…

[Benton] Becker finally requested to see Nixon, so he could report to Ford on his condition. He found the ex-president shockingly diminished in the month since he had left Washington. He was jowly, pallid, almost shrunken, and had a limp handshake and a distracted manner. Becker reported to Ford that Nixon was severely depressed and he doubted if he would life more than another couple of months.

On Sunday, September 8, Ford went on television on radio, explained that he wished to put Watergate behind the country and the terrible divisions it had created, and read his proclamation of a "full, free, and absolute" pardon for Nixon.

Hope this helps.

There is no clear answer to this question, as President Ford did not give one before his death. Many speculate that President Nixon made a deal with Ford, stating that he would resign the presidency, allowing Ford to assume the office, with the condition that Ford would pardon Nixon. Ford made Nixon sweat, and did not pardon him immediately.

There is no direct evidence, however, that such a deal was made. Perhaps Ford felt it was the right thing to do, given that Nixon was made to take the entire fall for the Watergate scandal. Or perhaps Ford still held friendly regard for his one-time friend and colleague. Unfortunately, nobody will ever have a definite answer, since both parties are dead.

Why Pardoning Nixon Wasn't Good for America

This excerpt was adapted from the foreword to Smoking Gun, The Nation on Watergate, 1952 – 2010 (eBookNation, August 4, 2014), written by former US Representative Elizabeth Holtzman. The former Congresswoman served on the House Judiciary Committee and voted to impeach Nixon you can download the new e-book , a unique real-time history from the pages of The Nation magazine on the rise and fall of Richard Nixon -- and the consequences for American democracy -- to read instantly on your tablet, e-reader, smartphone or computer. It is also available as a paperback (coming October 2014).

If Watergate is a story of accountability, President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon is a story of presidential immunity. Here The Nation was especially spot-on, comprehending the sinister significance of the pardon right from the start.

Issued before any prosecution of Nixon had commenced, and without any acknowledgment of guilt on Nixon’s part, Ford’s pardon created a dual system of justice—one for ordinary Americans and another for the President. (Ford’s excuse that Nixon had “suffered enough” could have been applied, of course, to any person whose criminal activities had been exposed.) Unlike its persistence in tackling Watergate, Congress backed away from any serious investigation of the pardon. We will thus probably never know whether Nixon and his lieutenant Ford made a secret deal over the pardon—-in which Nixon would resign promptly and Ford would pardon him, not only shielding the President from prosecution, but limiting the Republican Party’s electoral losses at the polls in November.

Sadly, Watergate did not deter other Presidents from abusing their power. From Ronald Reagan and the Iran/Contra scandal to the present, Presidents have used the mantra of national security to ignore the Constitution. Worse, Ford’s pardon has grown into a principle of impunity for Presidents. It is not simply that Presidents are now viewed as safe from prosecution they cannot even be investigated. No investigation has examined the presidential deceptions that drove us into the Iraq War, or the presidential authorizations of warrantless wiretapping in violation of law, or the possible criminal liability of former President George W. Bush and other top administration officials for violating laws on torture. Neither Congress nor the courts have taken the Watergate example to heart and stood firmly against presidential crimes or serious misconduct. Instead of remembering that Nixon cynically invoked “national security” to conceal ordinary crimes having nothing to do with the country’s welfare, they cower at the term, allowing Presidents to broaden their powers enormously.

Lack of government accountability runs directly contrary to the Constitution. The framers understood the threat that a strong executive would pose to our democracy they knew because they had themselves overthrown a king and were careful students of history. To preserve our democracy, we need to rediscover the meaning of presidential accountability. One good way to start is to understand what went right—and wrong—in Watergate. For that effort, this volume of The Nation’s coverage of the subject is a useful resource.


The Republican ticket of President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew won a landslide victory in the 1972 presidential election. Nixon's second term was dominated by the Watergate scandal, which stemmed from a Nixon campaign group's attempted burglary of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters and the subsequent cover-up by the Nixon administration. [3] Due to a scandal unrelated to Watergate, Vice President Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973. Under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, Nixon nominated Ford as Agnew's replacement. Nixon selected Ford, then the House Minority Leader, largely because he was advised that Ford would be the most easily confirmed of the prominent Republican leaders. [4] Ford was confirmed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, and he took office as vice president in December 1973. [5]

In the months after his confirmation as vice president, Ford continued to support Nixon's innocence with regards to Watergate, even as evidence mounted that the Nixon administration had ordered the break-in and subsequently sought to cover it up. In July 1974, after the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over recordings of certain meetings he had held as president, the House Judiciary Committee voted to begin impeachment proceedings against Nixon. After the tapes became public and clearly showed that Nixon had taken part in the cover-up, Nixon summoned Ford to the Oval Office on August 8, where Nixon informed Ford that he would resign. Nixon formally resigned on August 9, making Ford the first President of the United States who had not been elected as either president or vice president. [6]

Immediately after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, Ford spoke to the assembled audience in a speech broadcast live to the nation. [7] Ford noted the peculiarity of his position: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers." [8] He went on to state:

I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people. [9]

Cabinet Edit

The Ford Cabinet
PresidentGerald Ford1974–1977
Vice Presidentnone1974
Nelson Rockefeller1974–1977
Secretary of StateHenry Kissinger1974–1977
Secretary of the TreasuryWilliam E. Simon1974–1977
Secretary of DefenseJames R. Schlesinger1974–1975
Donald Rumsfeld1975–1977
Attorney GeneralWilliam B. Saxbe1974–1975
Edward H. Levi1975–1977
Secretary of the InteriorRogers Morton1974–1975
Stanley K. Hathaway1975
Thomas S. Kleppe1975–1977
Secretary of AgricultureEarl Butz1974–1976
John Albert Knebel1976–1977
Secretary of CommerceFrederick B. Dent1974–1975
Rogers Morton1975–1976
Elliot Richardson1976–1977
Secretary of LaborPeter J. Brennan1974–1975
John Thomas Dunlop1975–1976
William Usery Jr.1976–1977
Secretary of Health,
Education, and Welfare
Caspar Weinberger1974–1975
F. David Mathews1975–1977
Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development
James Thomas Lynn1974–1975
Carla Anderson Hills1975–1977
Secretary of TransportationClaude Brinegar1974–1975
William Thaddeus Coleman Jr.1975–1977
Director of the Office of
Management and Budget
Roy Ash1974–1975
James Thomas Lynn1975–1977
United States Trade RepresentativeWilliam Denman Eberle1974
Frederick B. Dent1975–1977
Ambassador to the United NationsJohn A. Scali1974–1975
Daniel Patrick Moynihan1975–1976
William Scranton1976–1977
Chief of StaffAlexander Haig1974
Donald Rumsfeld1974–1975
Dick Cheney1975–1977
Counselor to the PresidentAnne Armstrong1974
Dean Burch1974
Kenneth Rush1974
Robert T. Hartmann1974–1977
John Otho Marsh Jr.1974–1977
Rogers Morton1976
White House CounselPhilip W. Buchen1974–1977

Upon assuming office, Ford inherited Nixon's cabinet, although Ford quickly replaced Chief of Staff Alexander Haig with Donald Rumsfeld, who had served as a Counselor to the President under Nixon. Rumsfeld and Deputy Chief of Staff Dick Cheney rapidly became among the most influential people in the Ford administration. [10] Ford also appointed Edward H. Levi as Attorney General, charging Levi with cleaning up a Justice Department that had been politicized to unprecedented levels during the Nixon administration. [11] Ford brought in Philip W. Buchen, Robert T. Hartmann, L. William Seidman, and John O. Marsh as senior advisers with cabinet rank. [12] Ford placed a far greater value in his cabinet officials than Nixon had, though cabinet members did not regain the degree of influence they had held prior to World War II. Levi, Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon, and Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger all emerged as influential cabinet officials early in Ford's tenure. [13]

Most of the Nixon holdovers in cabinet stayed in place until Ford's dramatic reorganization in the fall of 1975, an action referred to by political commentators as the "Halloween Massacre". [14] Ford appointed George H.W. Bush as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, [15] while Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense and Cheney replaced Rumsfeld as Chief of Staff, becoming the youngest individual to hold that position. [14] The moves were intended to fortify Ford's right flank against a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan. [14] Though Kissinger remained as Secretary of State, Brent Scowcroft replaced Kissinger as National Security Advisor. [16]

Vice presidency Edit

Ford's accession to the presidency left the office of vice president vacant. On August 20, 1974, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller, the leader of the party's liberal wing, for the vice presidency. [17] Rockefeller and former Congressman George H. W. Bush of Texas were the two finalists for vice presidential nomination, and Ford chose Rockefeller in part due to a Newsweek report that revealed that Bush had accepted money from a Nixon slush fund during his 1970 Senate campaign. [18] Rockefeller underwent extended hearings before Congress, which caused embarrassment when it was revealed he made large gifts to senior aides, including Kissinger. Although conservative Republicans were not pleased that Rockefeller was picked, most of them voted for his confirmation, and his nomination passed both the House and Senate. [19] He was sworn in as the nation's 41st vice president on December 19, 1974. [20] Prior to Rockefeller's confirmation, Speaker of the House Carl Albert was next in line to the presidency. Ford promised to give Rockefeller a major role in shaping the domestic policy of the administration, but Rockefeller was quickly sidelined by Rumsfeld and other administration officials. [21]

Executive Privilege Edit

In the wake of Nixon's heavy use of executive privilege to block investigations of his actions, Ford was scrupulous in minimizing its usage. However, that complicated his efforts to keep congressional investigations under control. Political scientist Mark J. Rozell concludes that Ford's:

failure to enunciate a formal executive privilege policy made it more difficult to explain his position to Congress. He concludes that Ford's actions were prudent they likely salvaged executive privilege from the graveyard of eroded presidential entitlements because of his recognition that the Congress was likely to challenge any presidential use of that unpopular perquisite. [22]

Ford made one appointment to the Supreme Court while in office, appointing John Paul Stevens to succeed Associate Justice William O. Douglas. Upon learning of Douglas's impending retirement, Ford asked Attorney General Levi to submit a short list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and Levi suggested Stevens, Solicitor General Robert Bork, and federal judge Arlin Adams. Ford chose Stevens, an uncontroversial federal appellate judge, largely because he was likely to face the least opposition in the Senate. [23] Early in his tenure on the Court, Stevens had a relatively moderate voting record, but in the 1990s he emerged as a leader of the Court's liberal bloc. [24] In 2005 Ford wrote, "I am prepared to allow history's judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination 30 years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court". [25] Ford also appointed 11 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 50 judges to the United States district courts.

Nixon pardon Edit

Along with the experience of the Vietnam War and other issues, Watergate contributed to a decline in the faith that Americans placed in political institutions. Low public confidence added to Ford's already formidable challenge of establishing his own administration without a presidential transition period or the popular mandate of a presidential election. [26] Though Ford became widely popular during his first month in office, he faced a difficult situation regarding the fate of former President Nixon, whose status threatened to undermine the Ford administration. [27] In the final days of Nixon's presidency, Haig had floated the possibility of Ford pardoning Nixon, but no deal had been struck between Nixon and Ford before Nixon's resignation. [28] Nonetheless, when Ford took office, most of the Nixon holdovers in the executive branch, including Haig and Kissinger, pressed for a pardon. [29] Through his first month in office, Ford publicly kept his options open regarding a pardon, but he came to believe that ongoing legal proceedings against Nixon would prevent his administration from addressing any other issue. [30] Ford attempted to extract a public statement of contrition from Nixon before issuing the pardon, but Nixon refused. [31]

On September 8, 1974, Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while president. [32] [33] [34] In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family's situation "is a 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." [35]

The Nixon pardon was highly controversial, and Gallup polling showed that Ford's approval rating fell from 71 percent before the pardon to 50 percent immediately after the pardon. [36] Critics derided the move and said a "corrupt bargain" had been struck between the men. [37] In an editorial at the time, The New York Times stated that the Nixon pardon was a "profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that in a stroke had destroyed the new president's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence". [38] Ford's close friend and press secretary, Jerald terHorst, resigned his post in protest. [39] The pardon would hang over Ford for the remainder of his presidency, and damaged his relationship with members of Congress from both parties. [40] Against the advice of most of his advisers, Ford agreed to appear before a House Subcommittee that requested further information on the pardon. [41] On October 17, 1974, Ford testified before Congress, becoming the first sitting president since Abraham Lincoln to do so. [42]

After Ford left the White House, the former president privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 Supreme Court decision which stated that a pardon indicated a presumption of guilt, and that acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to a confession of that guilt. [43]

Clemency for draft dodgers Edit

During the Vietnam War, about one percent of American men of eligible for the draft failed to register, and approximately one percent of those who were drafted refused to serve. Those who refused conscription were labeled as "draft dodgers" many such individuals had left the country for Canada, but others remained in the United States. [44] Ford had opposed any form of amnesty for the draft dodgers while in Congress, but his presidential advisers convinced him that a clemency program would help resolve a contentious issue and boost Ford's public standing. [45] On September 16, 1974, shortly after he announced the Nixon pardon, Ford introduced a presidential clemency program for Vietnam War draft dodgers. The conditions of the clemency required a reaffirmation of allegiance to the United States and two years of work in a public service position. [46] The program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters established a Clemency Board to review the records and make recommendations for receiving a presidential pardon and a change in military discharge status. [47] Ford's clemency program was accepted by most conservatives, but attacked by those on the left who wanted a full amnesty program. [48] Full pardon for draft dodgers would later come in the Carter Administration. [49]

1974 midterm elections Edit

The 1974 congressional midterm elections took place less than three months after Ford assumed office. The Democratic Party turned voter dissatisfaction into large gains in the House of Representatives elections, taking 49 seats from the Republican Party, increasing their majority to 291 of the 435 seats. Even Ford's former House seat was won by a Democrat. In the Senate elections, the Democrats increased their majority to 61 seats in the 100-seat body. [50] The subsequent 94th Congress would override the highest percentage of vetoes since Andrew Johnson served as president in the 1860s. Ford's successful vetoes, however, resulted in the lowest yearly spending increases since the Eisenhower administration. [51] [52] Buoyed by the new class of "Watergate Babies," liberal Democrats implemented reforms designed to ease the passage of legislation. The House began to select committee chairs by secret ballot rather than through seniority, resulting in the removal of some conservative Southern committee chairs. The Senate, meanwhile, lowered the number of votes necessary to end a filibuster from 67 to 60. [53]

Economy Edit

Federal finances and GDP during Ford's presidency [54]
Receipts Outlays Surplus/
GDP Debt as a %
of GDP [55]
1975 279.1 332.3 –53.2 1,606.9 24.6
1976 298.1 371.8 –73.7 1,786.1 26.7
TQ [56] 81.2 96.0 –14.7 471.7 26.3
1977 355.6 409.2 –53.7 2,024.3 27.1
Ref. [57] [58] [59]

By the time Ford took office, the U.S. economy had entered into a period of stagflation, which economists attributed to various causes, including the 1973 oil crisis and increasing competition from countries such as Japan. [60] Stagflation confounded the traditional economic theories of the 1970s, as economists generally believed that an economy would not simultaneously experience inflation and low rates of economic growth. Traditional economic remedies for a dismal economic growth rate, such as tax cuts and increased spending, risked exacerbating inflation. The conventional response to inflation, tax increases and a cut in government spending, risked damaging the economy. [61] The economic troubles, which signaled the end of the post-war boom, created an opening for a challenge to the dominant Keynesian economics, and laissez-faire advocates such as Alan Greenspan acquired influence within the Ford administration. Ford seized the initiative, abandon 40 years of orthodoxy, and introduced a new conservative economic agenda as he sought to adapt traditional Republican economics to deal with the novel economic challenges. [60] [62]

At the time that he took office, Ford believed that inflation, rather than a potential recession, represented the greatest threat to the economy. [63] He believed that inflation could be reduced, not by reducing the amount of new currency entering circulation, but by encouraging people to reduce their spending. [64] In October 1974, Ford went before the American public and asked them to "Whip Inflation Now". As part of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons. [65] To try to mesh service and sacrifice, "WIN" called for Americans to reduce their spending and consumption, especially with regards to gasoline. Ford hoped that the public would respond to this call for self-restraint much as it had to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's calls for sacrifice during World War II, but the public received WIN with skepticism. At roughly the same time he rolled out WIN, Ford also proposed a ten-point economic plan. The central plank of the plan was a tax increase on corporations and high earners, which Ford hoped would both quell inflation and cut into government's budget deficit. [64]

Ford's economic focus changed as the country sank into the worst recession since the Great Depression. [66] In November 1974, Ford withdrew his proposed tax increase. [67] Two months later, Ford proposed a 1-year tax reduction of $16 billion to stimulate economic growth, along with spending cuts to avoid inflation. [68] Having switched from advocating for a tax increase to advocating a tax reduction in just two months, Ford was greatly criticized for his "flip-flop". [69] Congress responded by passing a plan that implemented deeper tax cuts and an increase in government spending. Ford seriously considered vetoing the bill, but ultimately chose to sign the Tax Reduction Act of 1975 into law. [70] In October 1975, Ford introduced a bill designed to combat inflation through a mix of tax and spending cuts. That December, Ford signed the Revenue Adjustment Act of 1975, which implemented tax and spending cuts, albeit not at the levels proposed by Ford. The economy recovered in 1976, as both inflation and unemployment declined. [71] Nonetheless, by late 1976 Ford faced considerable discontent over his handling of the economy, and the government had a $74 billion deficit. [72]

Rockefeller Commission Edit

Prior to Ford's presidency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had illegally assembled files on domestic anti-war activists. [73] In the aftermath of Watergate, CIA Director William Colby put together a report of all of the CIA's domestic activities, and much of the report became public, beginning with the publication of a December 1974 article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. The revelations sparked outrage among the public and members of Congress. [74] In response to growing pressure to investigate and reform the CIA, Ford created the Rockefeller Commission. [75] The Rockefeller Commission marked the first time that a presidential commission was established to investigate the national security apparatus. [75] The Rockefeller Commission's report, submitted in June 1975, generally defended the CIA, although it did note that "the CIA has engaged in some activities that should be criticized and not permitted to happen again." The press strongly criticized the commission for failing to include a section on the CIA's assassination plots. [76] The Senate created its own committee, led by Senator Frank Church, to investigate CIA abuses. Ford feared that the Church Committee would be used for partisan purposes and resisted turning over classified materials, but Colby cooperated with the committee. [77] In response to the Church Committee's report, both houses of Congress established select committees to provide oversight to the intelligence community. [78]

Environment Edit

Due to the frustration of environmentalists left over from the Nixon days, including Environmental Protection Agency head Russell E. Train, environmentalism was a peripheral issue during the Ford years. Secretary of the Interior Thomas S. Kleppe was a leader of the “Sagebrush Rebellion”, a movement of western ranchers and other groups that sought the repeal of environmental protections on federal land. They lost repeatedly in the federal courts, most notably in the 1976 Supreme Court decision of Kleppe v. New Mexico. [79] Ford's successes included the addition of two national monuments, six historical sites, three historic parks and two national preserves. None were controversial. In the international field, treaties and agreements with Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, the Soviet Union and several European countries included provisions to protect endangered species. [80]

Social issues Edit

Ford and his wife were outspoken supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed constitutional amendment that had been submitted to the states for ratification in 1972. [81] The ERA was designed to ensure equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender. Despite Ford's support, the ERA would fail to win ratification by the necessary number of state legislatures. [ citation needed ]

As president, Ford's position on abortion was that he supported "a federal constitutional amendment that would permit each one of the 50 States to make the choice". [82] This had also been his position as House Minority Leader in response to the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, which he opposed. [83] Ford came under criticism for a 60 Minutes interview his wife Betty gave in 1975, in which she stated that Roe v. Wade was a "great, great decision". [81] During his later life, Ford would identify as pro-choice. [84]

Campaign finance Edit

After the 1972 elections, good government groups like Common Cause pressured Congress to amend campaign finance law to restrict the role of money in political campaigns. In 1974, Congress approved amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, establishing the Federal Election Commission to oversee campaign finance laws. The amendments also established a system of public financing for presidential elections, limited the size of campaign contributions, limited the amount of money that candidates could spend on their own campaigns, and required the disclosure of nearly all campaign contributions. Ford reluctantly signed the bill into law in October 1974. In the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court overturned the cap on self-funding by political candidates, holding that such a restriction violated freedom of speech rights. [85] The campaign finance reforms of the 1970s were largely unsuccessful in lessening the influence of money in politics, as more contributions shifted to political action committees and state and local party committees. [86]

Court ordered busing to desegregate public schools Edit

In 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education that "Busing was a permissible tool for desegregation purposes." However, in the closing days of the Nixon administration, the Supreme Court largely eliminated District Court ability to order busing across city and suburban systems in the case of Milliken v. Bradley. [87] It meant that disgruntled white families could move to the suburbs and not be reached by court orders regarding segregation of the central city schools. Ford, representing a Michigan district, had always taken the position in favor of the goal of school desegregation but opposition to court-ordered forced busing as a means of achieving it. In the first major bill he signed as president, Ford's compromise solution was to win over the general population with mild anti-busing legislation. He condemned anti-busing violence, promoted the theoretical goal of school desegregation, and promised to uphold the Constitution. The problem did not go away – it only escalated and remained on the front burner for years. Tension exploded in Boston, where working-class Irish neighborhoods inside the city limits violently resisted court-ordered busing of black children into their schools. [88]

Other domestic issues Edit

When New York City faced bankruptcy in 1975, Mayor Abraham Beame was unsuccessful in obtaining Ford's support for a federal bailout. The incident prompted the New York Daily News' famous headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead", referring to a speech in which "Ford declared flatly . that he would veto any bill calling for 'a federal bail-out of New York City ' ". [89] [90] The following month, November 1975, Ford changed his stance and asked Congress to approve federal loans to New York City, upon the condition that the city agree to more austere budgets imposed by Washington, D.C. In December 1975, Ford signed a bill providing New York City with access to $2.3 billion in loans. [91]

Despite his reservations about how the program ultimately would be funded in an era of tight public budgeting, Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which established special education throughout the United States. Ford expressed "strong support for full educational opportunities for our handicapped children" upon signing the bill. [92]

Ford was confronted with a potential swine flu pandemic. In the early 1970s, an influenza strain H1N1 shifted from a form of flu that affected primarily pigs and crossed over to humans. On February 5, 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix mysteriously died and four fellow soldiers were hospitalized health officials announced that "swine flu" was the cause. Soon after, public health officials in the Ford administration urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated. [93] Although the vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, some 25% of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was canceled in December 1976. The vaccine was blamed for twenty-five deaths more people died from the shots than from the swine flu. [94]

Cold War Edit

Ford continued Nixon's détente policy with both the Soviet Union and China, easing the tensions of the Cold War. In doing so, he overcame opposition from members of Congress, an institution which became increasingly assertive in foreign affairs in the early 1970s. [95] This opposition was led by Senator Henry M. Jackson, who scuttled a U.S.–Soviet trade agreement by winning passage of the Jackson–Vanik amendment. [96] The thawing relationship with China brought about by Nixon's 1972 visit to China was reinforced with another presidential visit in December 1975. [97]

Despite the collapse of the trade agreement with the Soviet Union, Ford and Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev continued the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, which had begun under Nixon. In 1972, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had reached the SALT I treaty, which placed upper limits on each power's nuclear arsenal. [98] Ford met Brezhnev at the November 1974 Vladivostok Summit, at which point the two leaders agreed to a framework for another SALT treaty. [99] Opponents of détente, led by Jackson, delayed Senate consideration of the treaty until after Ford left office. [100]

Helsinki Accords Edit

When Ford took office in August 1974, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) negotiations had been underway in Helsinki, Finland, for nearly two years. Throughout much of the negotiations, U.S. leaders were disengaged and uninterested with the process Kissinger told Ford in 1974 that "we never wanted it but we went along with the Europeans . [i]t is meaningless—it is just a grandstand play to the left. We are going along with it." [101] In the months leading up to the conclusion of negotiations and signing of the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975, Americans of Eastern European descent voiced their concerns that the agreement would mean the acceptance of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe and the permanent incorporation of the Baltic states into the USSR. [102] Shortly before President Ford departed for Helsinki, he held a meeting with a delegation of Americans of Eastern European background, and stated definitively that U.S. policy on the Baltic States would not change, but would be strengthened since the agreement denies the annexation of territory in violation of international law and allows for the peaceful change of borders. [103]

The American public remained unconvinced that American policy on the incorporation of the Baltic States would not be changed by the Helsinki Final Act. Despite protests from all around, Ford decided to move forward and sign the Helsinki Agreement. [104] As domestic criticism mounted, Ford hedged on his support for the Helsinki Accords, which had the impact of overall weakening his foreign-policy stature. [105] Though Ford was criticized for his apparent recognition of the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, the new emphasis on human rights would eventually contribute to the weakening of the Eastern bloc in the 1980s and speed up its collapse in 1989. [106]

Vietnam Edit

One of Ford's greatest challenges was dealing with the ongoing Vietnam War. American offensive operations against North Vietnam had ended with the Paris Peace Accords, signed on January 27, 1973. The accords declared a cease fire across both North and South Vietnam, and required the release of American prisoners of war. The agreement guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam and, like the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for national elections in the North and South. [107] South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu was not involved in the final negotiations, and publicly criticized the proposed agreement, but was pressured by Nixon and Kissinger into signing the agreement. In multiple letters to the South Vietnamese president, Nixon had promised that the United States would defend Thieu's government, should the North Vietnamese violate the accords. [108]

Fighting in Vietnam continued after the withdrawal of most U.S forces in early 1973. [109] As North Vietnamese forces advanced in early 1975, Ford requested Congress approve a $722 million aid package for South Vietnam, funds that had been promised by the Nixon administration. Congress voted against the proposal by a wide margin. [110] Senator Jacob K. Javits offered ". large sums for evacuation, but not one nickel for military aid". [110] Thieu resigned on April 21, 1975, publicly blaming the lack of support from the United States for the fall of his country. [111] Two days later, on April 23, Ford gave a speech at Tulane University, announcing that the Vietnam War was over ". as far as America is concerned". [108]

With the North Vietnamese forces advancing on the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, Ford ordered the evacuation of U.S. personnel, while also allowing U.S. forces to aid others who wished to escape from the Communist advance. Forty-thousand U.S. citizens and South Vietnamese were evacuated by plane until enemy attacks made further such evacuations impossible. [112] In Operation Frequent Wind, the final phase of the evacuation preceding the fall of Saigon on April 30, military and Air America helicopters took evacuees to off-shore U.S. Navy vessels. During the operation, so many South Vietnamese helicopters landed on the vessels taking the evacuees that some were pushed overboard to make room for more people. [113]

The Vietnam War, which had raged since the 1950s, finally came to an end with the Fall of Saigon, and Vietnam was reunified into one country. Many of the Vietnamese evacuees were allowed to enter the United States under the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. The 1975 act appropriated $455 million toward the costs of assisting the settlement of Indochinese refugees. [114] In all, 130,000 Vietnamese refugees came to the United States in 1975. Thousands more escaped in the years that followed. [115] Following the end of the war, Ford expanded the embargo of North Vietnam to cover all of Vietnam, blocked Vietnam's accession to the United Nations, and refused to establish full diplomatic relations. [116]

Mayaguez and Panmunjom Edit

North Vietnam's victory over the South led to a considerable shift in the political winds in Asia, and Ford administration officials worried about a consequent loss of U.S. influence in the region. The administration proved it was willing to respond forcefully to challenges to its interests in the region on two occasions, once when Khmer Rouge forces seized an American ship in international waters and again when American military officers were killed in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea. [117]

In May 1975, shortly after the fall of Saigon and the Khmer Rouge conquest of Cambodia, Cambodians seized the American merchant ship Mayaguez in international waters, sparking what became known as the Mayaguez incident. [118] Ford dispatched Marines to rescue the crew from an island where the crew was believed to be held, but the Marines met unexpectedly stiff resistance just as, unknown to the U.S., the crew were being released. In the operation, three military transport helicopters were shot down and 41 U.S. servicemen were killed and 50 wounded while approximately 60 Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed. [119] Despite American losses, the rescue operation proved to be a boon to Ford's poll numbers Senator Barry Goldwater declared that the operation "shows we've still got balls in this country." [120] Some historians have argued that the Ford administration felt the need to respond forcefully to the incident because it was construed as a Soviet plot. [121] But work by Andrew Gawthorpe, published in 2009, based on an analysis of the administration's internal discussions, shows that Ford's national security team understood that the seizure of the vessel was a local, and perhaps even accidental, provocation by an immature Khmer government. Nevertheless, they felt the need to respond forcefully to discourage further provocations by other Communist countries in Asia. [122]

A second crisis, known as the axe murder incident, occurred at Panmunjom in the DMZ between the two Koreas. At the time, Panmunjom was the only part of the DMZ where forces from North Korea and South Korea came into contact with each other. Encouraged by U.S. difficulties in Vietnam, North Korea had been waging a campaign of diplomatic pressure and minor military harassment to try and convince the U.S. to withdraw from South Korea. [123] In August 1976, North Korean forces killed two U.S. officers and injured South Korean guards who were trimming a tree in Panmunjom's Joint Security Area. The attack coincided with a meeting of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, at which North Korea presented the incident as an example of American aggression, helping secure the passage of a motion calling for a U.S. withdrawal from South Korea. [124] Determined not to be seen as "the paper tigers of Saigon," the Ford administration decided that it was necessary to respond with a major show of force. A large number of ground forces went to cut down the tree, while at the same time the United States Air Force deployed flights over the DMZ. The North Koreans backed down and allowed the tree-cutting to go ahead, and later issued an unprecedented official apology. [125]

Middle East Edit

In the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, two ongoing international disputes developed into crises during Ford's presidency. The Cyprus dispute turned into a crisis with the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which took place following the Greek-backed 1974 Cypriot coup d'état. The dispute put the United States in a difficult position as both Greece and Turkey were members of NATO. In mid-August, the Greek government withdrew Greece from the NATO military structure in mid-September 1974, the Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to halt military aid to Turkey. Ford vetoed the bill due to concerns regarding its effect on Turkish-American relations and the deterioration of security on NATO's eastern front. A second bill was then passed by Congress, which Ford also vetoed, although a compromise was accepted to continue aid until the end of the year. [1] As Ford expected, Turkish relations were considerably disrupted until 1978. [ citation needed ]

In 1973, Egypt and Syria had launched a joint surprise attack against Israel, seeking to re-take land lost in the Six-Day War of 1967. However, early Arab success gave way to an Israel military victory in what became known as the Yom Kippur War. Although an initial cease fire had been implemented to end active conflict in the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger's continuing shuttle diplomacy was showing little progress. Ford disliked what he saw as Israeli "stalling" on a peace agreement, and wrote, "[Israeli] tactics frustrated the Egyptians and made me mad as hell." [126] During Kissinger's shuttle to Israel in early March 1975, a last minute reversal to consider further withdrawal, prompted a cable from Ford to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which included:

I wish to express my profound disappointment over Israel's attitude in the course of the negotiations . Failure of the negotiation will have a far reaching impact on the region and on our relations. I have given instructions for a reassessment of United States policy in the region, including our relations with Israel, with the aim of ensuring that overall American interests . are protected. You will be notified of our decision. [127]

On March 24, Ford informed congressional leaders of both parties of the reassessment of the administration policies in the Middle East. "Reassessment", in practical terms, meant canceling or suspending further aid to Israel. For six months between March and September 1975, the United States refused to conclude any new arms agreements with Israel. Rabin notes it was "an innocent-sounding term that heralded one of the worst periods in American-Israeli relations". [128] The announced reassessments upset many American supporters of Israel. On May 21, Ford "experienced a real shock" when seventy-six U.S. senators wrote him a letter urging him to be "responsive" to Israel's request for $2.59 billion in military and economic aid. Ford felt truly annoyed and thought the chance for peace was jeopardized. It was, since the September 1974 ban on arms to Turkey, the second major congressional intrusion upon the President's foreign policy prerogatives. [129] The following summer months were described by Ford as an American-Israeli "war of nerves" or "test of wills". [130] After much bargaining, the Sinai Interim Agreement (Sinai II) between Egypt and Israel was formally signed, and aid resumed. [ citation needed ]

Angola Edit

A civil war broke out Angola after the fledgling African nation gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The Soviet Union and Cuba both became heavily involved in the conflict, backing the left-wing MPLA, one of the major factions in the civil war. In response, the CIA directed aid to two other factions in the war, UNITA and the FNLA. After members of Congress learned of the CIA operation, Congress voted to cut off aid to the Angolan groups. The Angolan Civil War would continue in subsequent years, but the Soviet role in the war hindered détente. Congress's role in ending the CIA presence marked the growing power of the legislative branch in foreign affairs. [131]

Indonesia Edit

U.S. policy since the 1940s has been to support Indonesia, which hosted American investments in petroleum and raw materials and controlled a highly strategic location near vital shipping lanes. In 1975, the left-wing Fretilin party seized power after a civil war in East Timor (now Timor-Leste), a former colony of Portugal that shared the island of Timor with the Indonesian region of West Timor. Indonesian leaders feared that East Timor would serve as a hostile left-wing base that would promote secessionist movements inside Indonesia. [132] Anti-Fretilin activists from the other main parties fled to West Timor and called upon Indonesia to annex East Timor and end the communist threat. On December 7, 1975, Ford and Kissinger met Indonesian President Suharto in Jakarta and indicated the United States would not take a position on East Timor. Indonesia invaded the next day, and took control of the country. The United Nations, with U.S. support, called for the withdrawal of Indonesian forces. A bloody civil war broke out, and over one hundred thousand died in the fighting or from executions or starvation. Upwards of half of the population of East Timor became refugees fleeing Fretilin-controlled areas. East Timor took two decades to settle down, and finally, after international intervention in the 1999 East Timorese crisis, East Timor became an independent nation in 2002. [133] [134]

List of international trips Edit

Ford made seven international trips during his presidency. [135]

Dates Country Locations Details
1 October 21, 1974 Mexico Nogales, Magdalena de Kino Met with President Luis Echeverría and laid a wreath at the tomb of Padre Eusebio Kino.
2 November 19–22, 1974 Japan Tokyo,
State visit. Met with Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
November 22–23, 1974 South Korea Seoul Met with President Park Chung-hee.
November 23–24, 1974 Soviet Union Vladivostok Met with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and discussed limitations of strategic arms.
3 December 14–16, 1974 Martinique Fort-de-France Met with President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
4 May 28–31, 1975 Belgium Brussels Attended the NATO Summit Meeting. Addressed the North Atlantic Council and met separately with NATO heads of state and government.
May 31 – June 1, 1975 Spain Madrid Met with Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Received keys to city from Mayor of Madrid Miguel Angel García-Lomas Mata.
June 1–3, 1975 Austria Salzburg Met with Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
June 3, 1975 Italy Rome Met with President Giovanni Leone and Prime Minister Aldo Moro.
June 3, 1975 Vatican City Apostolic Palace Audience with Pope Paul VI.
5 July 26–28, 1975 West Germany Bonn,
Linz am Rhein
Met with President Walter Scheel and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
July 28–29, 1975 Poland Warsaw,
Official visit. Met with First Secretary Edward Gierek.
July 29 – August 2, 1975 Finland Helsinki Attended opening session of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Met with the heads of state and government of Finland, Great Britain, Turkey, West Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Also met with Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev. Signed the final act of the conference.
August 2–3, 1975 Romania Bucharest,
Official visit. Met with President Nicolae Ceaușescu. [136]
August 3–4, 1975 Yugoslavia Belgrade Official visit. Met with President Josip Broz Tito and Prime Minister Džemal Bijedić.
6 November 15–17, 1975 France Rambouillet Attended the 1st G6 summit.
7 December 1–5, 1975 China Peking Official visit. Met with Party Chairman Mao Zedong and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping.
December 5–6, 1975 Indonesia Jakarta Official visit. Met with President Suharto.
December 6–7, 1975 Philippines Manila Official visit. Met with President Ferdinand Marcos.

Ford faced two assassination attempts during his presidency. In Sacramento, California, on September 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a Colt .45-caliber handgun at Ford. [137] As Fromme pulled the trigger, Larry Buendorf, [138] a Secret Service agent, grabbed the gun, and Fromme was taken into custody. She was later convicted of attempted assassination of the President and was sentenced to life in prison she was paroled on August 14, 2009. [139]

In reaction to this attempt, the Secret Service began keeping Ford at a more secure distance from anonymous crowds, a strategy that may have saved his life seventeen days later. As he left the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore, standing in a crowd of onlookers across the street, pointed her .38-caliber revolver at him. [140] Moore fired a single round but missed because the sights were off. Just before she fired a second round, retired Marine Oliver Sipple grabbed at the gun and deflected her shot the bullet struck a wall about six inches above and to the right of Ford's head, then ricocheted and hit a taxi driver, who was slightly wounded. Moore was later sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled on December 31, 2007, after serving 32 years. [141]

Ford made the first major decision of his re-election campaign in mid-1975, when he selected Bo Callaway to run his campaign. [142] The pardon of Nixon and the disastrous 1974 mid-term elections weakened Ford's standing within the party, creating an opening for a competitive Republican primary. [143] The intra-party challenge to Ford came from the conservative wing of the party many conservative leaders had viewed Ford as insufficiently conservative throughout his political career. [144] Conservative Republicans were further disappointed with the selection of Rockefeller as vice president, and faulted Ford for the fall of Saigon, the amnesty for draft dodgers, and the continuation of détente policies. [145] Ronald Reagan, a leader among the conservatives, launched his campaign in autumn of 1975. Hoping to appease his party's right wing and sap Reagan's momentum, Ford requested that Rockefeller not seek re-election, and the vice president agreed to this request. [146] Ford defeated Reagan in the first several primaries, but Reagan gained momentum after winning North Carolina's March 1976 primary. [147] Entering the 1976 Republican National Convention, neither Ford nor Reagan had won a majority of delegates through the primaries, but Ford was able to win the support of enough unpledged delegates to win the presidential nomination. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas won the vice presidential nomination. [148]

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate, Ford campaigned at a time of cynicism and disillusionment with government. [149] Ford adopted a "Rose Garden" strategy, with Ford mostly staying in Washington in an attempt to appear presidential. [149] The campaign benefited from several anniversary events held during the period leading up to the United States Bicentennial. The Washington fireworks display on the Fourth of July was presided over by the president and televised nationally. [150] The 200th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts gave Ford the opportunity to deliver a speech to 110,000 in Concord acknowledging the need for a strong national defense tempered with a plea for "reconciliation, not recrimination" and "reconstruction, not rancor" between the United States and those who would pose "threats to peace". [151] Speaking in New Hampshire on the previous day, Ford condemned the growing trend toward big government bureaucracy and argued for a return to "basic American virtues". [152]

Eleven major contenders competed in the 1976 Democratic primaries. At the start of the primaries, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia was little-known nationally, but he rocketed to prominence with a victory in the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. A born again Christian, Carter emphasized his personal morality and his status as a Washington outsider. Carter won the presidential nomination on the first ballot of the 1976 Democratic National Convention, and selected liberal Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. Carter began the race with a huge lead in the polls, but committed a major gaffe by giving an interview to Playboy in which he stated that "I've committed adultery in my heart several times." Ford made his own gaffe during a televised debate, stating that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." [153] In an interview years later, Ford said he had intended to imply that the Soviets would never crush the spirits of eastern Europeans seeking independence. However, the phrasing was so awkward that questioner Max Frankel was visibly incredulous at the response. [154] As a result of this blunder, Ford's surge stalled and Carter was able to maintain a slight lead in the polls. [155]

In the end, Carter won the election, receiving 50.1% of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes compared with 48.0% of the popular vote and 240 electoral votes for Ford. [156] Ford dominated in the West and performed well in New England, but Carter carried much of the South and won Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. [157] [156] Though Ford lost, in the three months between the Republican National Convention and the election he had managed to close what polls had shown as a 33-point Carter lead to a 2-point margin. [158]

Polls of historians and political scientists have generally ranked Ford as a below-average to average president. A 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association's Presidents and Executive Politics section ranked Ford as the 25th best president. [159] A 2017 C-Span poll of historians also ranked Ford as the 25th best president. [160] Historian John Robert Greene writes that "Ford had difficulty navigating a demanding political environment." He also notes, however, that "Americans, by and large, believed that Gerald Ford was an innately decent and good man and that he would (and did) bring honor to the White House. Although this sentiment proved too little to bring Ford to victory in 1976, it is an assessment that most Americans and scholars still find valid in the years after his presidency." [161]

Critics of Ford's Nixon pardon now call it wise - Americas - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON — President Gerald Ford was never one for second-guessing, but for many years after leaving office in 1977, he carried in his wallet a scrap of a 1915 Supreme Court ruling. A pardon, the excerpt said, "carries an imputation of guilt," and acceptance of a pardon is "a confession of it."

Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon for any crimes that he might be charged with while president because of the Watergate crimes is seen by many historians as the central event of his 896-day presidency.

It also appears to have left him with an uncharacteristic need for self-justification, though friends say he never wavered in his insistence that the pardon was a wise and necessary act and that it had not resulted from any secret deal with his disgraced predecessor.

"I must have talked to him 20 times about the pardon, and there was never a shred of doubt that heɽ done the right thing," said James Cannon, a Ford domestic policy adviser and author of a 1994 book about his presidency.

During one of their discussions, Ford pulled out the clipping from the Supreme Court decision, Burdick v. United States. "It was a comfort to him," Cannon said. "It was legal justification that he was right."

Over the last three decades, as emotions have cooled, many who were initially critical of the pardon have come to share Ford's judgment that it was the best way to stanch the open wound of Watergate — the break-in at the Democrats' offices in the Watergate Building and the subsequent coverup of the role played by the Republicans and the Nixon White House.

In 2001, a bipartisan panel selected Ford as recipient of the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library, singling out for praise his pardon, which Ford later said he believed was a major factor in his failure to win election to the presidency in 1976. Ford, who died Tuesday at the age of 93, was defeated as the Republican candidate then by the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter.

Few dramas in American political history remain more riveting than that of the exit of the embattled Nixon and Ford's reaction, at first halting and then decisive, to the looming possibility of a former president on criminal trial for months on end.

"At the time, I thought this was going to cause a problem with the public and the press, and of course it did," said Robert Hartmann, a former Ford aide who recalled in an interview the tense Oval Office atmosphere when the new president told top staff members of his decision. "I thought he was right. But it's also important to be seen as right and remembered in history as having done the right thing."

The contradictions raised by the pardon were evident when Ford announced it on Sept. 8, 1974.

"I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station," Ford said. A moment later he made clear that Nixon would not face equal justice.

"My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed," he said, though the major Watergate trials for Nixon's aides were still months away.

In the resulting firestorm, many Americans asked why, in return for a pardon, Ford had not at least demanded an admission of wrongdoing from Nixon or a statement of remorse.

The pardon drama had begun a few weeks earlier, with a visit to Ford, who was then vice president, from Alexander Haig, Nixon's chief of staff.

Haig informed Ford that White House tapes would soon prove Nixon's role in the Watergate coverup and outlined several alternatives for Nixon's departure. He handed Ford two pieces of paper — a description of the presidential power to pardon and a blank pardon form.

Ford later said that he had given no definitive answer. But when he described the meeting to his aides, they were alarmed at the implication: that Nixon, through Haig, might be offering Ford the presidency in return for a pardon.

"We didn't want a situation where heɽ agreed to a pardon and there would be an appearance of a quid pro quo," said John Marsh, a former congressman who had become a top aide to Ford.

Haig has often denied that he was making any kind of a "sleazy approach," as he put it in an appearance on CNN.

"The president never, never was offered a deal," he said.

Ford, too, in his memoir and in interviews, said that he did not believe that Haig had explicitly offered a trade of the presidency for a pardon. But his aides feared the meeting would be viewed in the worst light.

"There was a strong naïve streak in Jerry Ford," Cannon said. "He didn't always see the danger in things."

Cannon said that Ford later told him that he had destroyed the two papers Haig had given him.

Nixon resigned a week after Haig's visit, and Ford was sworn in as president on Aug. 9.

An accumulation of policy troubles confronted the new president, Marsh recalled.

"We were coming out of the Arab oil embargo," Marsh said. "The economy was going sour. We were in the wind- down of the Vietnam War, and that was a bad situation."

Meanwhile, he said, "Watergate was affecting everything."

At his first news conference, on Aug. 28, reporters pressed Ford on Nixon's fate, and his answers were ambiguous. Until any charges were filed against Nixon, he said, "I think it is unwise and untimely for me to make any commitment."

Afterward, Ford was furious at the way the news conference had gone, Cannon said.

"He felt heɽ bungled it royally," Cannon added. "He told me he just sat there fuming for two days, and then he decided on the pardon."

Winning the White House

Six years after losing the governorship in his home state, Nixon made a remarkable political comeback and once again claimed his party’s presidential nomination. He prevailed in the 1968 U.S. presidential election, defeating Democrat Hubert Humphrey (1911-78) and third-party candidate George Wallace (1919-98). Nixon took office at a time of upheaval and change in the U.S. The American people were bitterly divided over the Vietnam War (1954-75), while women marched for equal rights and racial violence rocked the nation’s cities.

Declaring his intention to achieve “peace with honor” in Vietnam, Nixon introduced a strategy known as Vietnamization, which called for gradually withdrawing American troops from the war while training South Vietnamese army forces to take over their own defense. In January 1973, Nixon administration officials reached a peace agreement with Communist North Vietnam. The last American combat troops left Vietnam in March of that year. The hostilities continued, however, and in 1975 North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam and reunited the country under Communist rule.In addition to dealing with the Vietnam War, Nixon made historic visits, in 1972, to China and the Soviet Union. He reduced tensions between these Communist nations and the U.S., helping to set the stage for establishing formal diplomatic relations. Nixon also signed important treaties to limit the production of nuclear weapons.

Why did Ford pardon Nixon? - History

President Gerald Ford concluded that to put Watergate behind the nation he should issue a pardon to President Nixon for any actions he took regarding Watergate and surrounding issues. He did so on September 8, 1974. His decision was very controversial, and many think it was the cause for his loss to President Carter in 1976..

When President Nixon resigned the open question was what would happen with the case against him now that he was no longer President. The aides to Leon Jaworski, the special prosecutor, had written a memo examining the pro and cons of indicting Nixon. Jaworski was convinced the Nixon was guilty of in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. The argument to charge Nixon was strong- the need to ensure that everyone was equal under the law. If Nixon was guilty, he needed to be indicted like anyone else.

President Ford was sympathetic to Nixon. He liked him personally. He understood that his health both physical and mental was slipping at the time. He also felt that Nixon was arrested an put on trial he it would keep all the wounds of Watergate open. The country would be obsessed with the story and would not be able to move on. Ford concluded that the only solution was to issue Nixon an unconditional pardon.

On September 8, 1974, Ford addressed the nation and explained that it was time of the country to move on. He issued Nixon and complete pardon. The decision was very unpopular at the time. Many believe that resulted in his loss in the 1976 Presidential election. Historians think in retrospect it was the correct decision and did let the country move forward.

President Ford's Address

I have come to a decision which I felt I should tell you and all of my fellow American citizens, as soon as I was certain in my own mind and in my own conscience that it is the right thing to do.

I have learned already in this office that the difficult decisions always come to this desk. I must admit that many of them do not look at all the same as the hypothetical questions that I have answered freely and perhaps too fast on previous occasions.

My customary policy is to try and get all the facts and to consider the opinions of my countrymen and to take counsel with my most valued friends. But these seldom agree, and in the end, the decision is mine. To procrastinate, to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable turn of events that may never come or more compelling external pressures that may as well be wrong as right, is itself a decision of sorts and a weak and potentially dangerous course for a President to follow.

I have promised to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best that I can for America.

I have asked your help and your prayers, not only when I became President but many times since. The Constitution is the supreme law of our land and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which govern our consciences, are superior to it.

As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family.

Theirs is 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.

There are no historic or legal precedents to which I can turn in this matter, none that precisely fit the circumstances of a private citizen who has resigned the Presidency of the United States. But it is common knowledge that serious allegations and accusations hang like a sword over our former President's head, threatening his health as he tries to reshape his life, a great part of which was spent in the service of this country and by the mandate of its people.

After years of bitter controversy and divisive national debate, I have been advised, and I am compelled to conclude that many months and perhaps more years will have to pass before Richard Nixon could obtain a fair trial by jury in any jurisdiction of the United States under governing decisions of the Supreme Court.

I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons but the law is a respecter of reality.

The facts, as I see them, are that a former President of the United States, instead of enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen accused of violating the law, would be cruelly and excessively penalized either in preserving the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining a speedy determination of his guilt in order to repay a legal debt to society.

During this long period of delay and potential litigation, ugly passions would again be aroused. And our people would again be polarized in their opinions. And the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad.

In the end, the courts might well hold that Richard Nixon had been denied due process, and the verdict of history would even more be inconclusive with respect to those charges arising out of the period of his Presidency, of which I am presently aware.

But it is not the ultimate fate of Richard Nixon that most concerns me, though surely it deeply troubles every decent and every compassionate person. My concern is the immediate future of this great country.

In this, I dare not depend upon my personal sympathy as a long-time friend of the former President, nor my professional judgment as a lawyer, and I do not.

As President, my primary concern must always be the greatest good of all the people of the United States whose servant I am. As a man, my first consideration is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience.

My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not merely to proclaim domestic tranquillity but to use every means that I have to insure it.

I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right.

I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference.

I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.

Finally, I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved ones have suffered enough and will continue to suffer, no matter what I do, no matter what we, as a great and good nation, can do together to make his goal of peace come true.

[At this point, the President began reading from the proclamation granting the pardon.]

"Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974."

[The President signed the proclamation and then resumed reading.]

"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and ninety-ninth."

The Pardon

1 - Proclamation 4311—Granting Pardon to Richard Nixon
September 8, 1974

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
Richard Nixon became the thirty-seventh President of the United States on January 20, 1969 and was reelected in 1972 for a second term by the electors of forty-nine of the fifty states. His term in office continued until his resignation on August 9, 1974.

Pursuant to resolutions of the House of Representatives, its Committee on the Judiciary conducted an inquiry and investigation on the impeachment of the President extending over more than eight months. The hearings of the Committee and its deliberations, which received wide national publicity over television, radio, and in printed media, resulted in votes adverse to Richard Nixon on recommended Articles of Impeachment.

As a result of certain acts or omissions occurring before his resignation from the Office of President, Richard Nixon has become liable to possible indictment and trial for offenses against the United States. Whether or not he shall be so prosecuted depends on findings of the appropriate grand jury and on the discretion of the authorized prosecutor. Should an indictment ensue, the accused shall then be entitled to a fair trial by an impartial jury, as guaranteed to every individual by the Constitution.

It is believed that a trial of Richard Nixon, if it became necessary, could not fairly begin until a year or more has elapsed. In the meantime, the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.

Now, Therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and ninety-ninth.

Ford's Pardon Still Controversial

While President Ford was being remembered fondly, controversy continues to swirl, more than 32 years later, around one of his first major acts in office.

Before he pardoned Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, Ford received two pieces of paper from Al Haig, Nixon's chief of staff, which outlined how Ford would go about pardoning the president. Even today, speculation persists that there was a deal between Nixon and Ford that would get the presidency if he promised to keep Nixon from going to jail. Haig firmly denied that rumor.

"Why would a rational man who had just heard that he's about to be president risk everything by doing something like that? Doing a conditional deal?" Haig told Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer. "He was going to be president no matter what. That was a simple fact. And he was smart enough to know it."

Ford's former chief of staff, James Cannon, said Ford resisted the word "deal" when talking about how he came to pardon Nixon, but it appeared to him that the nature of the pardon smacked of quid pro quo. Cannon said members of Ford's staff told him not to pardon Nixon because it would appear to be a deal.

"It looks to me like, if you take two pieces of paper, one of which says this is your power to pardon and this is a blank form for a pardon, that looks pretty much like a deal," Cannon said.

"The one subject where his private comments were exactly the same as his public comments to me over a period of 30 years, 25 years, was the question of the pardon," New York Daily News reporter Tom DeFrank said. "He always said there was no deal."

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Ford said he pardoned Nixon in order to help the nation heal, but many people felt that the disgraced president should have been held accountable for the crimes associated with his re-election campaign.

Ben Bradlee, who was the editor of the Washington Post when the paper helped unravel the Watergate scandal, said he would have preferred to see Ford wait awhile before pardoning Nixon, but that it was ultimately good for the country that he did. But more importantly, Bradlee said Ford was a "compulsively decent man," and that fact should lie at the heart of his legacy.

Last week, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward said Ford told in 2004 that he was very opposed to the war in Iraq and that he thought it was unjustified. Woodward also said that Ford criticized former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney, who both worked for President Ford as young men.

"I was very surprised about it," DeFrank said. "Because I had four interviews with Gerald Ford after the war in Iraq began, '03, '04, '05, end in May of '06. And in every one of those interviews, he told me he supported the war in Iraq."

DeFrank, who covered Ford when he was president, said he saw him on Nov. 14. The only point where his reporting and Woodward's intersect is about weapons of mass destruction, DeFrank said.

"President Ford told me in May that he thought it was a big mistake for President Bush to have pegged the invasion of Iraq to the WMD issue," DeFrank said.

Although DeFrank said Ford was supportive and defensive about Rumsfeld and Cheney, James Cannon, former Newsweek editor and Ford White House staffer, said Ford felt the Republican party had gone too far to the right.
"He was a true conservative, certainly a true conservative fiscally, and but he was much more of a moderate person on social issues," Cannon said. "I think he deeply felt that the party had left him. He was still where he was. The party had gone to the extreme right."

Americans Grew to Accept Nixon's Pardon


PRINCETON, NJ -- More than a quarter of a century after his controversial pardon of Richard Nixon, former President Gerald Ford was honored with the 2001 Profiles in Courage award at the John F. Kennedy library on Monday May 21. On September 8, 1974, roughly one month after taking office, Ford pardoned Nixon for any involvement in the Watergate scandal, arguing this pardon was a way to heal the nation after a long period of political turmoil. A review of Gallup polling shows that a majority of Americans opposed the pardon in 1974, but over time Americans gradually accepted it as the right thing for the nation.

Initial Gallup polling on this issue conducted September 6-9, 1974 showed that only 38% of Americans said Ford should grant Nixon a pardon if he was brought to trial and found guilty, while a majority of Americans (53%) felt that Ford should not grant Nixon a pardon. (Most of this poll was conducted prior to Ford's pardon of Nixon on September 8, 1974.)

In June 1976, as Ford was in the midst of his campaign for president, similar results were found. Thirty-five percent of Americans believed Ford did the right thing in granting Nixon a pardon, but still a majority (55%) said it was the wrong thing to do.

A June 1982 poll revealed a shift in public opinion -- Americans were evenly divided on whether Ford did the right thing or the wrong thing when he pardoned Nixon. Forty-six percent approved and 46% disapproved of Ford's decision.

By 1986, when the question was last asked, a majority of Americans had come to support Ford's decision. In the poll, 54% of Americans said that Ford did the right thing, but a substantial minority (39%) still felt that Ford should not have pardoned Nixon.

When Ford took office in August 1974, his presidential approval ratings were remarkably high -- his initial approval rating was 71%. In the first Gallup poll conducted after his pardon of Nixon, Ford's approval rating dropped 21 percentage points to 50%. The decline in approval ratings continued throughout 1974 and reached a low of 37% in January 1975. Ford's approval scores began to recover in May 1975 and he ended his term with an approval rating of 53%.

As you may know, President Ford granted Richard Nixon a pardon from criminal charges arising out of Watergate. Do you think Ford did the right thing or the wrong thing in granting Nixon a pardon?

Proclamation pardoning Richard Nixon, 1974

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."

Speaking half an hour after Richard Nixon submitted his resignation letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on August 9, 1974, and minutes after taking the oath of office, President Gerald Ford began the difficult work of restoring the American people’s confidence in its government, giving a short speech that attempted to put the crisis caused by the Watergate scandal in the past. In addition to declaring an end to the nightmare, President Ford also urged a restoration of "the golden rule in our political process" and asked the public to pray for the Nixon family.

A month later, on September 8, President Ford issued a proclamation granting a "full, free, and absolute pardon" to Nixon extending to any actions he had taken throughout his entire presidency. In a televised address that night, in which he explained that he thought that someone needed to put an end to the Nixon tragedy, he also introduced a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam War draft dodgers. The contrast proved too much for President Ford’s press secretary, who resigned in protest. The American public was also outraged by the pardon to a degree President Ford had not been expecting, and a month later, he voluntarily became the first president to appear before a Congressional committee to explain his decision-making process.

James Cannon, an advisor to President Ford, revealed in a late 2006 New York Times article that President Ford privately justified pardoning Nixon with a 1915 Supreme Court decision, a copy of which he carried in his wallet. Pardons, the Court ruled, implied guilt, and accepting a pardon "is an admission of it."

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Gerald Ford becomes president after Richard Nixon resigns

In accordance with his statement of resignation the previous evening, Richard M. Nixon officially ends his term as the 37th president of the United States at noon on August 9, 1974. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and enigmatically raised his arms in a victory or peace salute. The helicopter door was then closed, and the Nixon family began their journey home to San Clemente, California. Richard Nixon was the first U.S. president to resign from office.

Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

Ford, the first president who came to the office through appointment rather than election, had replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president only eight months before. In a political scandal independent of the Nixon administration’s wrongdoings in the Watergate affair, Agnew had been forced to resign in disgrace after he was charged with income tax evasion and political corruption. In September 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.

For Ford, Pardon Decision Was Always Clear-Cut

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 — President Gerald R. Ford was never one for second-guessing, but for many years after leaving office in 1977, he carried in his wallet a scrap of a 1915 Supreme Court ruling. A pardon, the excerpt said, “carries an imputation of guilt,” and acceptance of a pardon is “a confession of it.”

Mr. Ford’s decision to pardon Richard M. Nixon for any crimes he might have been charged with because of Watergate is seen by many historians as the central event of his 896-day presidency. It also appears to have left him with an uncharacteristic need for self-justification, though friends say he never wavered in his insistence that the pardon was a wise and necessary act and that it had not resulted from any secret deal with his disgraced predecessor.

“I must have talked to him 20 times about the pardon, and there was never a shred of doubt that he’d done the right thing,” said James Cannon, a Ford domestic policy adviser and author of a 1994 book about his presidency. During one of their discussions, Mr. Ford pulled out the 1915 clipping, from Burdick v. United States. “It was a comfort to him,” Mr. Cannon said. “It was legal justification that he was right.”

Over the last three decades, as emotions have cooled, many who were initially critical of the pardon have come to share Mr. Ford’s judgment that it was the best way to stanch the open wound of Watergate. In 2001, a bipartisan panel selected Mr. Ford as recipient of the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library, singling out for praise his pardon decision, which Mr. Ford later said he believed was a major factor in his failure to win election to the presidency in 1976.

In a 2004 interview with Bob Woodward, reported Thursday night on The Washington Post’s Web site, Mr. Ford offered another, less lofty motive for the pardon: his friendship with Nixon, which lasted for two decades after the pardon and which letters show was closer than publicly understood.

“I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon,” Mr. Ford told Mr. Woodward, “because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn’t want to see my real friend have the stigma.”

Few dramas in American political history remain more riveting than that of Nixon’s exit and Mr. Ford’s reaction, at first halting and then decisive, to the looming possibility of a former president on criminal trial for months on end.

“At the time, I thought this was going to cause a problem with the public and the press, and of course it did,” said Robert T. Hartmann, a former Ford aide. “I thought he was right. But it’s also important to be seen as right and remembered in history as having done the right thing.”

Since the Ford years, the tradeoff between exacting justice and political peace has repeatedly arisen around the world, as Chile, East Germany, South Africa and other countries have confronted dark periods in their histories. The crimes have been bloodier and their scale far greater than those of Watergate, but the question has echoed the one posed to the Ford White House in 1974.

The contradictions posed by the pardon were evident when Mr. Ford announced it on Sept. 8, 1974. “I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station,” Mr. Ford said. A moment later he made clear that Nixon would not face equal justice.

“My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed,” he said, though the major Watergate trials for Nixon aides were still weeks away. In the resulting firestorm, many Americans asked why, in return for a pardon, Mr. Ford had not at least demanded an admission of wrongdoing from Nixon.

The pardon drama had begun six weeks earlier, with a visit to then-Vice President Ford from Alexander M. Haig, Nixon’s chief of staff.

Mr. Haig told Mr. Ford that White House tapes would soon prove Nixon’s role in the Watergate cover-up and outlined several possibilities for Nixon’s departure. He handed Mr. Ford two pieces of paper: a description of the presidential power to pardon and a blank pardon form.

Mr. Ford later said he had given no definitive answer. But when he described the meeting to his aides, they were alarmed at the implication: that Nixon, through Mr. Haig, might be offering Mr. Ford the presidency in return for a pardon.

“We didn’t want a situation where he’d agreed to a pardon and there would be an appearance of a quid pro quo,” said John O. Marsh, a former Virginia congressman who had become a top aide to Mr. Ford.

Mr. Haig has often denied that he was making any kind of a “sleazy approach,” as he put it in an appearance on CNN on Wednesday night. “You know, the president never, never was offered a deal.”

Mr. Ford, too, in his memoir and in interviews, said he did not believe that Mr. Haig had explicitly offered a trade of the presidency for a pardon. But his aides feared the meeting would be viewed that way.

“There was a strong naïve streak in Jerry Ford,” Mr. Cannon said. “He didn’t always see the danger in things.” Mr. Ford later told him that he had destroyed the two papers Mr. Haig had given him, Mr. Cannon said.

Nixon resigned a week after Mr. Haig’s visit, and Mr. Ford was sworn in as president on Aug. 9. An accumulation of policy troubles confronted the president, Mr. Marsh recalled.

“We were coming out of the Arab oil embargo,” Mr. Marsh said. “The economy was going sour. We were in the wind-down of the Vietnam war, and that was a bad situation.” Meanwhile, he said, “Watergate was affecting everything.”

At his first news conference, on Aug. 28, reporters pressed Mr. Ford on Nixon’s fate, and his answers were ambiguous. Until any charges were filed against Nixon, he said, “I think it is unwise and untimely for me to make any commitment.”

Afterward, Mr. Ford was angry that he had not prepared better for Nixon questions, Mr. Cannon said.

“He felt he’d bungled it royally,” Mr. Cannon added. “He told me he just sat there fuming for two days, and then he decided on the pardon.”

In the office of Leon Jaworski, the Watergate special prosecutor, news of the pardon divided the staff, said Richard J. Davis, then a 28-year-old assistant to Mr. Jaworski who had written legal memorandums outlining the criminal case against Nixon for obstruction of justice.

“Some people were furious,” Mr. Davis said Thursday. “But I was very torn.” If Nixon were to face charges, “we would have been living with Watergate every day for two or three more years,” he said.

What upset Mr. Davis and some colleagues even more than the pardon, he said, was Mr. Ford’s agreement to turn over the White House tapes and other documents to Nixon, appearing to extend the cover-up. The decision was reversed in December 1974, when Mr. Ford signed a law assuring government control over Watergate-related materials.

By then, Mr. Ford had visited the House, where he had served for 25 years, to defend the pardon. His toughest questioner was Elizabeth Holtzman, 31, a New York congresswoman, whose turn to question the president came last. The pardon, she said, created “very dark suspicions” that “made people question whether or not in fact there was a deal.”

Mr. Ford cut off her question, declaring, “There was no deal, period, under no circumstances.”

In an interview Thursday, Ms. Holtzman acknowledged the public affection being expressed for Mr. Ford, but she declined to join the chorus of praise for the pardon.

“I felt it set up a dual standard of justice, one for the president, and one for everyone else,” Ms. Holtzman said. “I haven’t changed my view.”

Despite his experience with others second-guessing him, Mr. Ford offered a critique of President Bush’s invasion of Iraq in an interview in May with Thomas M. DeFrank of the Daily News and the one in July 2004 with Mr. Woodward of The Washington Post.

He included in his criticism Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, both of whom had served him as chief of staff.

“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq,” Mr. Ford said, The Post reported Thursday. “They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction. 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.”

Watch the video: What if Richard Nixon never resigned?