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tv   The Presidency Gerald R. Fords Political Career  CSPAN  July 1, 2021 5:03pm-6:05pm EDT

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c-span landmark cases explores the stories and constitutional drama behind significant supreme court decisions. sunday at 9:45 eastern the landmark case miranda v arizona. ernesto miranda was arrested for suspicion of kidnapping and rape and he signed a confession. the supreme court ruled the confession was inadmissible because he was not notified before being questioned of his fifth and sixth amendment rights against self-incrimination and his right to an attorney. watch landmark cases sunday night watch online at or listen on the cspan radio app. next, on the presidency, scott kaufman talks about his book ambition, pragmatism and party, a biography of gerald r. ford. he details how his approach to foreign rights factored into
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foreign policy and how environmental issues influenced domestic policy. he also reflects on president ford's pardon of richard nixon, in light of current events. good evening. welcome to the ford presidential museum. my name is joel westfall and it is my honor to serve here as deputy director and welcome good to have you here. we are pleased to have you with us for tonight's program. tonight the featured speaker is scott kaufman, who is a francis marion board of trustees scholar and chair of the history department where he teaches american diplomatic and military history. he earned his doctorate at ohio university. the other ohio university. in 2014, kaufman was awarded a ford presidential foundation research travel grant. much of the research from this
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book he wrote came from the archives and manuscript collections of the ford library in ann arbor and for the assistance of his son steve. he is the co-author of 11 books on u.s. and foreign policy and diplomacy and history of the presidency and first lady. a few of his publications include "project share," "the presidency of james earl carter jr." and "rosland carter: equal partner in the white house" among many others. kaufman is currently writing a monograph on the environment due to be released in december of 2018. kaufman is a featured expert on the carter administration, cold war, u.s. foreign policy, the ford administration, nuclear testing and the office of the
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first lady. with regard to scott kaufman's new book "ambition, pragmatism and party," smu history director jeffrey eagle stated, no one understands the american political scene of the 1970s. it is my great pleasure to welcome scott kaufman to the ford presidential museum. [ applause ] thank you very much for having me. there are so many people i would like to thank. i'll briefly go through the list of the individuals that have been so helpful to bring me here, and have been so kind and generous to me. of course, joel westfall, don holloway, kristin mooney, joe calaruso, kate murray, they have all been so generous to me. the national archives
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administration and, of course, in addition to joe, i've got to mention the ford foundation. the gerald r. ford foundation. because i really think it is safe to say without their support, this project probably would not have gotten off the ground. i should also point out it is great to be back here in grand rapids. this is my second time here. i was here doing what i was doing for research in 2014 and had a chance to come to grand rapids. and i really love this city. it is such a vibrant city. it is great to be here in downtown at the museum is a wonderful addition to this downtown area. and i encourage people who have not been to grand rapids to come here. because furniture city is really quite wonderful. this talk, itself, i think is timely. if gerald ford was alive today, i think he would be having a case of deja vu. let's just look at some of the facts. the incumbent president is under investigation by a special counsel. there are questions whether the president was involved in a
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conspiracy. there are questions whether the president obstructed justice. john dean seems to be everywhere on television all of a sudden. and at least one member of congress and there's even a national ad campaign have been calling for the president's impeachment. now, of course, the deja vu to which i'm referring are the events tied to the watergate scandal and richard nixon's resignation. events that propelled gerald ford to the presidency. but there's one other memory that i think ford will recall. some media outlets have wondered whether donald trump will offer pardons for those individuals involved in the scandals surrounding his presidency. just last month, "time" magazine speculated that trump might offer pardon for his personal attorney michael cohen before cohen has been charged with a crime just as ford did for nixon.
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and i want to come back to this issue of the presidential pardon because it does play such a big role in the way ford is remembered. and i think it's something that we need to talk about with regard to how ford should be remembered. which brings me to the book, "ambition pragmatism and party." there are a few broad comments i would like to make about this book before i get into more specifics. although the subtitle is a political biography of gerald r. ford, i would suggest to you it's more than that. it is also in many respects a study of the republican party. certainly from the time that gerald ford entered congress, well, he was elected to congress in 1948, to the time he passed away in 2006. second of all, as joe westfall mentioned, i relied on a wide variety of source material for this book. of course, the records of the ford library were essential, but i turned as well to nearly a dozen other archives, some with the asis stance of a colleague
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of mine, dr. alyssa waters, alongside government documents, memoirs, magazines, newspapers, journals, secondary works, and again, at times, dr. waters, a good number of interviews with members of congress as well as with steve ford, who is wonderful in speaking with me. thirdly, while a lot has been written about president ford, far less has been written about his pre-presidential and post-presidential career. and i wanted to give more time to his life before the presidency and afterward. his upbringing, his time in congress, his life as an ex-president. so readers in the book will find that about two-thirds of it is devoted not to ford the president, but ford the upbringing, ford the congressman and ford the next president.
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i think this says a lot about the times people lived. so readers will find in the book references to tv shows, to movies, to books, such as the films "the towering inferno in 1975," the books "the catcher in the rooi rye," flannel suit" and programs like "the simpsons" and yes, of course, "saturday night live." so where did the book come about? around 2011 i was asked by peter coveny who worked for wiley blackwell to edit a series of essays on the ford and carter administrations. i have done a lot of work on jimmy carter for years and thought i knew the history very well. i knew far less about gerald ford. so i began reading a lot about him. and i realized there was room for a biography of him, another one. there had been only two
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biographies written of him since his passing in 2006. one of them came out in 2007 by doug brinkley. another one in 2014 by james cannon, who some of you may know, worked with gerald ford. but i felt that both of them left some stones unturned, left room for another biography. so i contacted fred woodward, who was then the chief editor at the university of kansas. i said to him, i'd like to write a biography on gerald ford, what do you think? he said, great idea. the rest is history. hence the book came out late last year. the book itself, the title of the book reflects what i see as three themes. that, in my view, addresses ford's political life. number one, ambition. ford was an ambitious individual. in boy scouts he worked to become an eagle scout. he played football in high school and in college and sought to become a starting center on the varsity teams. in the u.s. navy, he sought to rise up the ranks of the warship
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on which he served. in congress, he wanted to become house speaker. he enjoyed being president of the united states and sought to win the presidency in his own right in 1976. he considered running for the presidency again in 1980 and then considered being ronald reagan's running mate that same year. as the ex-president, he served on numerous corporate boards as well as becoming very involved in politics. party. gerald ford was a life-long republican who was a member of the moderate wing of that party. and he was loyal to the republican party. but i should point out that loyalty meant that at times he changed his positions on the issues. which i'll say more about him momentarily. and last but not least,
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pragmatism. ford was loyal to his party but he wasn't an idealogue. he was willing to reach across party lines. grand rapids, his hometown, was and i believe still is a city mocked by what scholars and ford's contemporaries have referred to as a midwestern form of conservatism. this meant limited government, it meant fiscal frugality, it meant piety, but of a non-fundamental sort. it also meant political moderation, pragmatism and the willingness to reach across party lines. a willingness to compromise. and this could be seen in ford as a member of congress and as a president. and even as an ex-president, he was willing to reach across party lines by setting a precedent, working with another former ex-president, a democrat, jimmy carter. so let me talk more about gerald ford and some of the things i talk about in the book and tie them into these broader themes "ambition, pragmatism and party." ford's views were shaped in my mind by a variety of factors.
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number one, his mother dorothy. dorothy ford, formally was dorothy king. she had married a man named leslie lynch king, but leslie lynch king was an abusive husband and an abusive father. he abused dorothy both mentally and physically. and even threatened the life of their newborn child. and it reached the point that dorothy decided she had no choice but to flee him and seek a divorce. something that she did. we have to keep in mind just how brave this is of dorothy. during much of the 1900s, the idea of getting divorced, especially when children was involved, was stigmatized. but for dorothy, this had to be done, not only for her own welfare, but the welfare of her young child. and so dorothy became to her son the person that became gerald r. ford jr., an example, a symbol of strength and perseverance. especially in times when facing terrible odds. gerald ford sr. whom dorothy married in 1917 and the person whom gerald r. ford jr.
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believed, at least until his teen years, was his biological father. and even when he found out that ford sr. was his stepfather, still saw ford as his father. it was gerald ford sr. who introduced jerry and his three stepbrothers to sports including football. it was gerald ford sr. who opened up his own business in october of 1929, which was probably the worst timing possible. because, of course, as we know that same month, the stock market crashed and the great depression set in. yet gerald ford sr. was able to keep his business running it was gerald ford sr. who opened up his own business in october of 1929, which was probably the worst timing possible. because, of course, as we know that same month, the stock market crashed and the great
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depression set in. yet gerald ford sr. was able to keep his business running without government support. he became, too, to the younger ford an example of strength and perseverance when facing terrible odds. he also influenced the younger fords' ideas that one should seek to make ends meet without relying on government assistance. in addition to the examples of strength and perseverance they provided, ford's parents were also religiously devout. that, too, influenced ford. but one thing about the ford family is it was more of a personal spirituality. they weren't overt about it, but they were certainly very devout. and last but not least, the ford parents insisted that their children do their chores and be honest. and that doing chores tied in with something else about gerald ford. he had a very strong work ethic. gerald ford once said, the harder you work, the luckier you are. in other words, hard work will pay off dividends in the end. and indeed, he was someone who
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worked very hard and what he did. and finally, we have to look at the influence of boy scouts in football. both of them taught him to work as part of a team. football, the sport that ford came to love, taught him not to get upset when you lose. instead, when things don't go well on the field and you lose, pick yourself up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself off and prepare as hard as you possibly can for the next game. so here's an individual who believes in strength and perseverance, in not relying on government support, who has a strong work ethic, but there are two other things about ford that should be mentioned. first of all, he could be stubborn. and second of all, he could be naive. ford once said that no matter how bad a person seen, there had
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to be good in that person. and what you had to do is look for and pull out that good. the thing was, though, that sometimes in the search for the good, ford overlooked the bad. and that, too, could cause him difficulties at times. well, ford's ambitiousness, the first theme, can be seen repeatedly. as noted, he wanted to become and became an eagle scout. he sought to become the starting center of the varsity football team, both in high school and college and did that. in fact, at the university of michigan, he played well enough that he was offered the opportunity to play pro football. but he didn't want to do football. he decided he wanted to go on a different career path. he wanted to go into law. once again through hard work, through perseverance, ford was able to start achieving that goal. he clawed his way into yale law
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school. and afterward, returned to grand rapids to practice law. and began to think about a political career as well. but before he could go anywhere with politics, the attack on pearl harbor took place, the japanese attack on pearl harbor on december 7, 1941. like many americans, ford wanted to serve his country in this war, fight against the enemy. he was at first -- he joined the u.s. navy, he was first assigned to the homefront, didn't want to be there, he wanted to be out in the field fighting the enemy. and he was able to get himself a assigned to the u.s. light aircraft carrier monterey. originally he was assigned as a gunnery officer, but he didn't want to be a gunnery officer, he wanted to be on the bridge where the action was. through perseverance, hard work and good luck, he was able to become the assistant navigation officer on the monterey. after the war ended, he would
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return back to the states as lieutenant commander, gerald ford. he returns to grand rapids and goes back into law. but by then he's definitely interested in politics. in 1940 before the war, well, before the u.s. entered the war, ford had wanted to work with the wendell worky campaign, the republican nominee here in michigan. the problem was if he wanted to work for the wilkie campaign, he needed support from fred mckay. ford went to see mckay, spent about three hours waiting to see mckay and mckay gave him about three minutes of his time and seemed to have wanted nothing to do with the young ford. and left a very sour taste in ford's mouth. ford ended up working for the wilkie campaign in new york. he became ennamorred with politics. and after the war was over, he decided when he comes back to grand rapids, joins the law firm here, but decides in 1948 that he wants to run for the fifth
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district, which at that time included grand rapids. serve his state in the u.s. house of representatives. now, he knows it's a long shot, because he's going to have to take on the incumbent and fellow republican and member of the mckay political machine, a man named frank yonkman. ford also has one other thing he has to worry about. i don't know if i should say this, the wording may not be the right way to put it, but he fell in love. now, if you're asking why he worried about falling in love, well, the issue is he was falling in love with a woman who was getting a divorce. her name was betty warren. she thought he was crazy for wanting to be involved with a divorcee, especially now that he was running for congress in a conservative district. he didn't care. he loved her, she loved him. after she got divorced, not long thereafter, they decided to get married. but ford said to her, our marriage is going to have to
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wait, the wedding will have to wait until the fall of 1948. didn't explain why. but the reason was simple, ford knew that if he could defeat yonkman in the republican primary, that he should be able to win the general election without any problem. the fifth district had gone democrat only once between 1920 and 1948. so if he can get past yonkman, he should be able to win the general election. well, sure enough, in an upset, won that, received national attention, ford defeated yonkman in the republican primary. afterward, married betty ford, and shortly thereafter, won the general election. and now enters a quarter century career in congress. his motto that hard work brings luck seemed to come true. when very early on, ford got himself assigned to the influential appropriations committee in the house. he proved himself during his quarter century in congress loyal to his party. he proved himself a political
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partisan, one who is more loyal to the two republican presidents he served under, dwight eisenhower and richard nixon, than the two democrats he served under, harry truman and john f. kennedy, i'm sorry, lyndon johnson and john f. kennedy, three democrats he served under. policy wise he supported defense and foreign aid programs, aimed at combatting communism and security. he endorsed the war in vietnam, but he fell johnson should have relied more on air and nafl support and less on ground troops. he was less supportive of social programs, believed in encouraging people to rely on federal assistance rather than pull themselves up without government help. because of his loyalty to the republican party, ford sometimes had to take the positions differently than he had previously. and this especially became the case after he became a minority leader in 1965, that i'll say more about in a minute.
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for instance, ford had opposed lyndon johnson's great society programs, believing he encouraged people to live off government assistance, yet he endorsed richard nixon's family assistance plan even though that would increase the number of people on the welfare rolls. as another example, ford adopted a hard line to communist china as a member of congress, but he endorsed nixon's decision to achieve a reproachant with china. in february 1972, ford -- nixon became the first president to visit china since it had gone communist. and ford decided afterward, i want to go to china as well. i want to see what it's all about.
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one of the most wonderful collections at the ford library is his congressional papers, because you get a good idea of what his constituents and people who weren't his constituents were thinking about what he was doing and what policies he should adopt or not adopt. and one of them -- one of the letters had to do with ford's decision to visit communist china. some of the letters sent to ford were very praise-worthy, this is a great idea, but there was at least one constituent from grand haven who was not very happy with ford doing this. and he wrote ford. and i'm quoting here, i do not want to wish you any bad luck, but i hope your aircraft falls into the middle of the pacific ocean for stabbing the american people in the back. it was the came kind of fraternizing collaboration and double cross that helped the nazis overtake the netherlands in 1941. yeah, pretty strong.
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rather unhappy individual there. and it gives you a sense, but it does give you a sense of what ford's constituents were thinking. yet ford's loyalty to his party, which again, led him to change his views at times, did not mean he was an i dealogue. he was a pragmatist. he supported foreign aid and defense programs whether the president was a republican or a democrat. he endorsed elements of presidential truman's fair deal program such as its call for expanding social security. on civil rights and the environment, congressman ford proved himself more progressive than many of his colleagues, but at the same time, not as progressive as others. he tended to favor, for instance, having the states run the federal government protect african-american rights and the environment. however, he did vote for eliminating the poll tax to vote. he had supported the 1964 civil rights act. the 1965 voting rights act.
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and the 1963 clean air act. during this quarter century in congress, ford never sponsored a major piece of legislation. during that quarter century, he proved he was not the best of speakers. even he knew he was not the greatest speaker in the world. he was intelligent. but it was not an intelligence that led him to make quick decisions. ford was someone who liked to hear all sides of an issue, to think about what he heard, to mull it over before making a decision. and one last thing about ford that i argue, he had trouble coming up with a vision. coming up with an explanation as to how these policy proposals fit into a broader idea of where the nation should go. in fact, some of ford's colleagues saw the same thing. one of the people whom ford served with in congress was a wisconsin lawmaker named melvin
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laird. laird once said, jerry doesn't catch on as rapidly as he should to the political significance of an event or issue. once he does, once he understands it, there's no problem, but it does take him time. yet even though he was not the best of speakers, did sponsor a major piece of legislation, the fact that he was willing to listen to others, to think about what they said, whether they were democrats or not, made him very well liked in congress. plus, he was very gregarious by nature. democrats came to like and respect him. in fact, he was asked by democrats in congress to join the committee that established the national -- that would help form the national aeronautics space administration. he was asked by president johnson to investigate the kennedy assassination.
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because he was willing to listen to all sides, he became well liked among republicans. and this was especially important, because it ties in with his ambition. by ford's third term as a congressman, he had decided he wanted to become speaker of the house. and he put enormous amount of time and effort into achieving that goal. he ended up becoming involved with a group of younger members of congress who became referred to as the young turks. these were younger individuals who included melvin laird, charles goodell, that name may ring a bell, by the way, his son, roger goodell, is the commissioner of the nfl, and a man by the name of donald rumsfeld. these younger lawmakers believed that the leadership in the house of representatives was old, out of touch and too willing to accept the idea of the republicans in the house remaining the minority. they wanted younger leadership, vibrant energetic leadership to
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help the republicans achieve a majority in the house. and, of course, for ford to become speaker. and indeed, with their support in 1965, ford becomes speaker of the house. the minority leader, excuse me. putting him one step away of the dream of becoming speaker. a dream he would not achieve. before i get into that, what did all this hard work and this ambition mean for ford and his family? by 1957, betty and gerald ford had four children. three sons, jack, michael and steve and a daughter susan. but because out of his ambitiousness, ford was gone quite a bit. he was an absent husband and an absent father. his workaholic nature meant he was rarely home. he would wake up early, swim laps in the pool of the family home in alexandria, virginia, and then be at work by 8:00 a.m.
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he traveled a lot. some years he might be gone as many as 280 days in that year. he tried to be home on sundays. and if he was home on saturdays, he would try to take his kids to the capitol building with him and to his office where, i should point out the kids engaged in some mischief. one of the stories i read about ford's children is that when they would go to the office with him, they would move things around like nameplates and other stuff on the desks. and when i interviewed steve ford, i asked him, did you guys actually do that? and the fact that he never gave me a direct answer suggests to me that it probably happened. but the point i'm getting at here is, while he was home on sundays and while he would take his kids with him to the office on saturdays, he was rarely there. and it was hard on betty. she loved her husband.
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she supported his political career. but not having him around was difficult on her. and she started to look for an outlet. and she found it in alcohol. now, i assume all of us here are very well aware that alcoholism can run in families from one generation to the next. betty ford's father had been an alcoholic and she began to abuse alcohol. she also began to abuse painkillers that she was taking for a bad back. her husband had some idea what was going on but largely was oblivious to it. in 1972, though, betty ford finally had some hope. that year richard nixon had run for re-election. and easily defeated the democratic nominee, george mcgovern. it was a landslide victory for nixon. yet the democrats retained control of congress. and ford thought to himself, my
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gosh, if the democrats can put up a candidate as bad as mcgovern yet still hold on to congress, certainly the house of representatives, i don't see how i'll ever become speaker. so he says to betty, look, here's what i would like to do. i want to stay in office for two more terms. that will bring me to the end of nixon's second and in the constitution, a last term of office, and then i'll retire. and they was thrilled. finally, i'm going to be able to spend time with my husband. finally i'll get my husband back. that was before a series of unprecedented events brought ford into the white house. i think many of the people here in this room remember in october of 1973, the vice president was forced to resign taking bribes. nixon asked his individuals in congress, who should i nominate to replace agnew? and overwhelmingly the answer was, if you want someone who will get confirmed easily,
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nominate gerald ford. so nixon offers the nomination to ford. betty wasn't happy. in fact, steve ford said that his mother hit the roof when she found out. ford tried to ease her concerns, don't worry, he said, vice presidents don't do anything. but she was concerned. she supported him, supported his nomination, supported his confirmation, believed it was the best thing for the country, but i think there's no better example of just how concerned and upset she was than when nixon congratulated the fords, shook betty's hand, congratulated her, and her response to him was, congratulations or condolences? yeah. now, if there was someone who was happy about ford being nominated for the vice presidency, it was his daughter, susan.
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she made a $5 bet with her mother that he was going to get the nomination. and sure enough, when the nomination came down, she was very excited and she starts getting on the phone and calling people from the house to let them know, yeah, indeed her father was the one nominated. and ford said, wait a minute here, i have to use the phone. so he tells an aide of his, please tell susan to get off the phone. then he thought to himself, a father telling his teenager daughter to get off the phone, that may not have enough punch to it. so he said to the aide, tell her the vice president wanted her off the phone. and i imagine that did the job. ford is now vice president. here is a t when it comes to ford. by this time, the watergate scandal has hit the country and nixon is denying any involvement. ford believes him, even as the evidence becomes overwhelming. now, granted, ford began to distance himself from nixon a
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little bit, but he still believed nixon was not involved and nixon said, i have no part in this, i'm not involved in this. yet -- and ford believed him. that was until the evidence came out, the smoking gun tape, which demonstrated that nixon had been involved in the conspiracy and obstruction of justice. and it was painful for ford. he had considered nixon a friend and felt very lied to, felt very betrayed by nixon. nixon, of course, had a choice between resignation and impeachment, chose resignation. and now ford finds himself in a period of eight months going from congressperson to vice president and now president of the united states. to give you an idea of just how fast this had happened -- um, okay, when president ford became vice president, he had kept his phone number in the white pages of the alexandria phone book. because he believed if people need to be able to get ahold of
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me, then they got to be able to have my phone number. well, now all of a sudden he's president of the united states, he's now president of the united states, his phone number is still listed, and his aides told him to get an unlisted phone number, which he did, but it gives you the idea of just how fast all of this happened. so here enters ford, a popular president, approval rating around 75%. the person to use ford's own words, paraphrase ford, the person to end america's nightmare. and he gave the impression to the american people as far as i'm concerned that he was an average joe. who raised an average american family. he worked in his short sleeves, his cooked his own breakfast, his favorite breakfast was an english muffin, melon, orange juice and tea. his favorite meal at night was pot roast or steak with red cabbage and a scoop of butter pecan ice cream for dessert.
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he and betty were an attractive coup couple with four attractive children, two of him, steve and susan, still lived at home. they were god-fearing. they loved the sports. they loved the outdoors. they were gregarious. ford seemed like the all-american father of the all-american family. the kind of person you want to have over, maybe to grill some hamburgers and hot dogs and watch a football game with. but that image of the all-american father of the all-american family didn't last, and it didn't last because a month after he became president, ford pardoned richard nixon. a number of explanations have been given for this, some from ford himself, he believed nixon couldn't get a fair trial. he had heard that nixon was very
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sickly, may not live much longer, believed that nixon had suffered enough. and ford said that he was tired of being asked questions from reporters about whether he would nixon pardon -- pardon nixon when he would go to trial. and he wanted to get the country focused on what he considered more important issues. and the way he thought he could do that was by pardoning the former president. yet, doing so created an uproar. the anger was intense. some people charging, there was a conspiracy by which nixon resigned and gave ford the presidency in return for a promise of ford to pardon him. the point is, the anger was so intense that as one aide later said, the pardon destroyed ford's image and made it hard for him to talk about anything else. and there was a lot of anything else ford had to talk about. the u.s. withdrawal from
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vietnam, the migues crisis, when the u.s. merchant ship was seized by cambodia and for a brief time the american crew taken hostage, promoting detant and arms control at the soviet union, promoting peace process, the economic recession and energy crisis, the new york city financial crisis, all of these, by the way, have been dealt with by other presidential scholars, i deal with them, too, but there are two other issues i feel like have not been covered extensively by those written on ford. and the additional list i gave you, ford also had to deal with the environmental movement and what is harmful for the environment and the growing interest among americans to give more attention to human rights in american foreign policy. in addressing these issues, ford approached them from two directions. first of all, he believed that because he had not been elected in his own right he could not
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seek new programs. and second of all, he wanted to move the country down a road of the moderate conservatism that he believed in. for these reasons, he was prepared to use the veto. he used the veto at least 63 times. at least 20, 23 more times than nixon did. in fact, he had more vetoes than agenda proposals. but he was a pragmatist. he was one to compromise. now, in part, this was because he was constrained. he had to deal with the democratic-controlled congress, one that became even more firmly controlled by democrats following the 1974 midterms. but he was not anathema to bipartisanship and compromise. he signed, for instance, a tax bill favored by democrats to call for greater tax cuts than ford himself favored. now, the reason he did this is, yes, there were tax cuts involved but he also felt if he didn't sign the bill, democrats would then try to seek and pass a bill to call for greater
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government spending, something ford didn't want. he signed energy legislation that didn't do everything he wanted. but he signed it because there were things in the bill he liked. it promoted energy conservation, it set up a strategic petroleum reserve and it gave ford the ability if he so sought to recommend a de-controlling oil prices. now, there was a price to be paid for this willingness to compromise. for this willingness to reach across the aisle, at least work with democrats. his decision on issues like energy, on taxes, and other decisions he made, such as nominating nelson rockefeller who came from the liberal wing of the republican party, upset conservatives, the conservative wing of the republican party. it was a conservative wing that had been growing in power and influence since at least the 1960s. his desire to achieve detaunt with the soviet union did not
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please conservatives and also displaced neo-conservatives among the democrats. ford hurt himself by flip-flopping on the issues. for instance, when he became president he called for a tax surcharge, then changed his mind and says, i want a tax cut. and last but not least, ford ran into the same problem he ran into when he was a member of congress. he had trouble coming up with a vision. trouble explaining what his larger view was of where the country should go. at one point, he talked about the new realism, but it was just the one time. otherwise, all americans saw were policy proposals. and i would suggest to you this was a reason why ford lost in 1976 to jimmy carter, this lack of a vision. but there are other reasons that have been and should be given. certainly the nixon pardon. ford faced a challenge from ronald reagan for the presidential nomination, for the republican nomination for president. ronald reagan came from the
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conservative wing of the republican party. it was a race that battered ford politically. and made it impossible for him to focus on the nomination of -- focus on the democratic nominee early on, instead, he had to wait to secure the nomination before he could focus on the democratic rival. ford famously made a gaffe during a second debate with carter, i'm sorry, i'm getting ahead here. ford made a gaffe in his second debate with carter when he declared there was no soviet domination of eastern europe. and then being stubborn, he refused to clarify what he meant by that only compounding his error. there was an economic downturn shortly before the election that hurt him. and last but not least, there was betrayal of ford as a klutz. i think many of you have seen the video, maybe remember seeing it on tv, in 1975 ford went to austria to meet with the president of egypt, an war anwar
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sadat. it was raining outside. ford was walking outside of air force one and slips down the stairs. and next thing you know, any slip, any trip, any fall or near fall on the ski slope became fodder for the media for popular culture. best example of this would be chevy chase's portrayal of gerald ford on "saturday night live". where he depicts ford as a nice individual but someone who could not walk straight. and wasn't terribly bright. well, i would argue with you that all of these things, whether it be the economic downturn in ford's inability to find a way to solve it, the betrayal of him as a klutz, his lack of vision, the pardon of nixon, all these things can fit under what i believe is one
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large umbrella, image. lyndon johnson once said, i'm going to use the uncensored version of this, just so you know, gerald ford is so dumb he can't walk and fart at the same time. in other words, ford was an intellectual vacuous klutz. and what i think the nation came to see during ford's tenure as president was not someone who was physically and intellectually vibrant, not someone who had played football, gone to yale school, swam and skied, instead what they saw was someone physically unsteady. and that physical unsteadiness became tied to an intellectual unsteadiness that led ford to make bad -- led ford to make bad decisions and make bad comments. hence the lack of a vision, his refusal to clarify himself when he said there's no domination of poland, the pardon of nixon, his inability to find the economic downturn, the willingness to find the recognition of this all along, all these things are tied
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in with the image of a president who was made, who was not physically steady, who was not intellectually steady and made bad decisions. and that, i would suggest to you, is why he ultimately lost. ford now leaves the white house. yet as he once said, old habits die hard. following jimmy carter's inauguration, ford returned to california, moved to california with his wife, they had friends there, ford could play golf, they thought the weather would be good for betty, and betty thought, great, i'll have my husband back finally. yet, being the loyal republican, being the workaholic, being the politician he was, ford continued to go out a lot. he was endorsing republican candidates when stumping for them, and this was hard to betty. she was continuing to abuse alcohol, continuing the addiction to painkillers, and finally in 1978, there's a family intervention. gerald ford himself led the intervention to help betty.
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yet it's important to point out that even though he now fully understood what betty was going through, old habits died hard. ford still wanted to be involved in politics. and believed that his wife would support him if he tried to get more involved. in 1980, he considered running for the presidency in his own right. when that fell through, he considered being ronald reagan's running mate that same year. although that idea fell through as well because ford wanted more power than reagan wanted to give him. ford having decided now, i'm going to step out of politics, became, well, he remained a loyalist to the gop and became also increasingly a republican critic. he felt reagan spent too much on defense over too short a period. he worried about the debt reagan was incurring. he opposed george w. bush's
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decision to invade iraq. he worried about his party moving further and further to the political right. he worried about the partisanship on capitol hill. and he became more liberal on a variety of social issues hill. and he was -- became more liberal on a variety of social issues, including abortion, homosexual rights, and passage of the equal rights amendment for women. and i think it could be argued that, if ford was alive today, he'd be received by many republicans, given the environment today, as a rhino. a republican in name only. meanwhile, ford being an individual who was pragmatic and wanted to reach across party lines developed a friendship with another ex-president, a democrat, jimmy carter. the two of them criticized israel for standing in the way of the middle east peace process. they joined forces of the north american free trade agreement. they argued against impeaching president bill clinton, in favor
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of censuring him. they argued in support of george w. bush continuing the ban on assault weapons that was set to expire in 2004. although, bush allowed it to expire that year. at the same time, ford is out still involved in politics. he's making money. in part, get together funds for the ford library museum. both facilities of which opened up in 1981. but he was also making money for himself and his family. he made large amounts of money from speaking engagements, from his memoirs, and from sitting on corporate boards. and some people accused him of being interested only in material gain. in fact, his former-press secretary said that ford was ford incorporated. a guy who only wanted to make money for his own, financial wellbeing. and that criticism stung. ford said wait a minute here. i'm not just sitting on corporate boards to make money.
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i'm working hard for these people. i am putting a lot of effort into this. and ford could also point out that he was very much involved in philanthropy. in 1977, he established the jerry ford invitational. an annual-government tournament that, by the early 1990s, had raised over a million dollars for charity. he helped save a theater in palm desert, california. he and betty raised money to build an elementary school in indian wells, california. and he was very supportive of betty's efforts to create what became the betty ford center. of course, this couldn't last forever. age began to take its toll. and shortly after christmas in 2006, ford passed away. so, it leaves a question. how should ford be remembered? there was a gallup poll taken of ford's presidency shortly after he left the white house. and these people were asked, what was president ford's greatest achievement?
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and people were given a number of options to choose from. and the one they chose most was no great achievement. he didn't do anything. at least, nothing big. and i think this says something about how ford has been remembered. ford has been remembered, i would suggest, as a caretaker president. a person who sat in -- in this chair behind the desk in the oval office. keeping it warm. until either he was elected in his own right or someone else became president of the united states in 1976. and caretaker president, whose only, major act was to pardon richard nixon. i would suggest to you, this is not a fair assessment. ford had to deal with a lot of issues, a myriad of issues, as president. but i would argue with you that, if ford should be remembered for anything, it should be for his belief in bipartisanship. today, this country is mocked by
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partisanship. a partisanship that, oftentimes, is angry. mocked by accusations, harsh language, and disdain for the opposition. a partisanship, where a willingness to compromise is seen as tantamount to surrender to the opposition. this is not the ford -- the country that gerald ford would have wanted. in fact, in his eulogy for ford, a fellow michigander and democrat, representative john dingle, urged his colleagues in congress to honor ford by and i am quoting, carrying on his legacy of bipartisanship in the years to come. it's an entreaty that has been forgotten in washington. thank you. [ applause ] >> we have a couple really good
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questions from the audience. the first one, of course, if you can repeat it, do you think congressman ford would do well in today's washington? >> do i think congressman ford would do well in today's washington? probably not. i mean, let's look at the republican party. the number of moderates, and ford always considered himself a moderate, has declined. people, like susan collins, who is still there. very upset with the direction the party's taken. others, like olympia snow have left. i come from south carolina. lindsey graham has been under attack in south carolina from the tea party. on the grounds that he is too willing to engage in bipartisanship. so i think that he would be seen as a rino, at the very least. >> next question. who do you think influenced gerald r. ford the most? >> who influenced gerald r. ford the most? i don't think there'd be any, single person. but i would certainly, if i am
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talking about people, i would definitely put his parents up there. his upbringing. two individuals who are examples of strength and perseverance. they are -- his father's belief in not relying on the government for federal assistance. for assistance pulling yourself by your own bootstraps. their belief in their spirituality. all of those things, i think, influenced ford. >> given ford's view of people, that he sought to find the good in them, was his pardon of richard nixon inevitable? >> historians don't like the word inevitability. and i am not sure -- i don't want to say inevitable. but i think, given the situation, given who ford was. given his belief that, whether it be nixon suffered enough, or that the nation had to focus on what he considered more important issues. that he had to get nixon behind him.
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and so, in that respect, the -- the pardon was inevitable. but i just -- i don't like the word because we talk about inevitability. then, that -- that leaves out the possibility for variables -- other variables getting involved. but i do think that this was something -- certainly, something ford believed had to happen. >> why did ronald reagan challenge gerald ford in 1976? and did ford detest him for that? >> why did reagan challenge ford in '76? and did ford attest him for that? reagan felt that ford was taking positions that he believed were not in line with where the republican party should be going. reagan came from the conservative wing in the party. he felt that ford was adopting a number of positions that were bad positions. maybe, the best example of that, and one that certainly helped reagan's campaign make a comeback. i mean, at first, it seemed reagan might lose easily, was
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the panama canal. ford had decided that it was a good idea to continue negotiations that might lead to a treaty to turn the panama canal over to panama. and reagan used that against ford, saying the canal is ours. we paid for it. it's ours. we shouldn't give it up. and that helped revive reagan's campaign against ford. did ford hate reagan for this? ford was not one to hold grudges. but certainly, he was not happy with the reagan challenge. because it did make it difficult for ford to focus on his democratic rival. took a lot -- a lot of his energy. but i should point out one other thing, and i mention as well. in some respects, ford deserved to be faulted here and he admits this. he didn't truly realize just how strong of a challenge reagan posed -- could pose to him. i think, had he recognized it earlier, he might have had an easier time securing the nomination but he didn't.
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and so, he was in it for a long, hard fight against reagan. >> you heard a lot about ford's legacy as president. what legacy did he leave on capitol hill after nearly a quarter century of service there? >> well, that's a good question. what legacy did gerald ford leave on capitol hill after a quarter century of service this? there. i spoke with about a half-dozen members of congress who had served with ford, in one form or another. and the legacy is one that they wished, i think, that he could have left, if i can put it that way. to a t, all of them were very upset with the decline of bipartisanship. i think, if ford could have left a legacy, that would have been it. of course, you can be a partisan. of course, you can be loyal to your party. but you should be willing to listen to the other side. take in what they have to say because they might have good ideas. and i -- and i know, for certain, based upon what i have
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read about ford and talking with his son, that ford believed this was becoming less and less the case in congress. >> this will be the last question. you talked about research for your book a little bit. and your work at the ford library in ann arbor. what was perhaps one of your favorite collections that you happen to come upon? or other collections you would like to simply talk about what really emphasized your research? >> well, again, the congressional papers were just wonderful because they gave a really good sense of what people were thinking, at the time. it's one thing to read about what a -- what a congressperson is thinking, what a president is thinking. it's another to see what average-americans were thinking about what the president was doing or not doing. and you, also, come across some real interesting stuff in those papers, as well. questions about ufos, for instance.
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um, would be one example. but some of the things that i read when it came to panama, cuba, china, gun control, all of these things, were there in those papers. and -- and i just really found that so eye opening, to me, and so helpful in understanding the america, in which ford lived. and also, understanding more about the district in which he came from. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> we would like to, again, thank dr. coffman for being with us tonight. he's even so wonderful a person, that he will be reprising this lecture tomorrow in ann arbor. and we thank him for that, as well. please, enjoy the -- the snacks and afterglow that we have prepared for you out in the lobby. and thank you very much, once again, for being part of this -- this lecture.
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and also, thank you, dr. coffman, for providing us some really wonderful insights. not so much on president ford but on congressman ford. and i think that, that really is a -- is a eye opener in many respects. so thank you very much for that. thank you very much. have a nice evening. a century ago, on may 31st, 1921, racial tensions in tulsa, oklahoma, led to an armed mob of white men marching on the city's predominantly african-american greenwood district. the arrest of a young, black man for his interactions with a white woman in a downtown-office building triggered the unrest. over the next day, the neighborhood known as black wall street would be the scene of shootings, looting, and arson. while official totals put the
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number killed at 36, historians now believe the toll was as high as 300. 35 blocks of the city were left in ruins. tonight, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv, we explore the consequences of that day's events. >> american history tv on c-span3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend, saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern, on the civil war. elizabeth veran and william kurcz of the university of civil war history about african-american union soldiers fighting for emancipation. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, on lectures in history. university of california riverside professor, katherine algore on the lives of women during the american revolution and the early republic. and sunday, at 6:00 p.m.
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eastern, on american artifacts. the arrival of the reconstructed french ship at the 18th century port of yorktown, virginia, designed after the french vessel that brought major general de-lafayette back to the united states in 1780. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. >> c-span is c-span's online store. this is a collection of c-span products. browse to see what's new. your purchase will support our nonprofit operations and you still have time to order the congressional directory with contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. go to >> susan ford bales is the daughter of president gerald ford and betty ford. she reflects on her family's time in the white house with former-abc news white house correspondent, anne


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