President Gerald R. Ford

Not By Election But By Virtue of Law And Appointment

Gerald R. Ford was the 38th President of the United States. He is the only chief executive of the country, to date, who has not become both president or vice president by virtue of winning elections. He became vice president by appointment and transitioned into the presidency by virtue of the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.

Summary Of Career Highlights

As president, he managed gallant stewardship of the USA after the damaging Watergate scandal in the midst of economic inflation and high unemployment. But this created recession. And he also created disgruntlement in the citizenry when he granted a full pardon to Richard Nixon.

But he also gave a bright future to tens of thousands of Vietnamese into the USA who were escaping persecution in their homeland because they were anti-communist.

The Taking Of His Stepfather’s Name

Gerald Rudolph R. Ford, whose real name was Leslie Lynch King Jr., was born on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. While still a baby, his parents divorced, which made his mother transfer to Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, she met Gerald Ford Sr. whom she married. He adopted Gerald and gave him his name.

College Years And The War

Gerald was a star football player at the University of Michigan where he graduated in 1935. He also worked as an assistant coach while taking up law at Yale University until 1941.

During World War II, he served in the Navy and was deployed in the South Pacific. He was able to attain the rank of lieutenant commander but nearly lost his life in 1944 when a deadly typhoon occurred which killed hundreds of people.

Gerald R. Ford’s Entry Into Politics, Marriage, And Family

Back in the USA, in 1948, he returned to Grand Rapids to practice law. He decided to enter politics and he won as Republican congressman representing Michigan. In the same year, a few weeks before he was elected, he married Elizabeth Anne Bloomer. They raised 4 children together – 3 sons named Michael, John, and Steven and one daughter named Susan.

Stepping Stones To The Presidency

Gerald was in Congress for 25 years. He was well-liked by his peers and his ideology was flexible. He was the House Minority Leader starting in 1965 and retained this position until Richard Nixon appointed him Vice President in 1973 in lieu of the resigned Spiro Agnew.

His reputation in Congress was that he was open and honest. He was nominated by Nixon to replace Agnew who had to resign in disgrace. Gerald was the only Republican which the Democrat-controlled Congress could approve and live with as Vice President of the land.

But then, as fate would dictate, in 1974, it was becoming predictable that Nixon would be confronting criminal charges due to his participation in the Watergate scandal. Three articles of impeachment had already been passed by the House Judiciary Committee. Instead of waiting for the decision of Congress, Nixon tendered his resignation effective for August 9, 1974.

Gerald R. Ford took his oath of office to become 38th President of the United States. He accepted the job under extraordinary circumstances and he acknowledged that it is a period in the history of the country that troubles the minds and hearts of the American people. But he declared that the national nightmare is over. He retained Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other foreign and domestic policy advisers of the Nixon administration.

Gerald R. Ford took 2 top public offices, the Vice Presidency and the Presidency, without going through elections. As president, he was replacing the first-ever President to resign from office.

The National Issues Which Faced Him

The times were daunting for President Gerald R. Ford when he took over. He was confronted with the challenges of overcoming inflation, resuscitating a depressed economy, figuring out acute energy shortages, and making sure that world peace is maintained.

Ford’s solution to curb inflation was to minimize government intervention and spending. He saw this policy as a means of solving the problems of the American economy and society which came in the form of higher prices on essential goods. He believed that it would improve the overall quality of life.

These policies were established during his first year as president, with much opposition from a Democrat-controlled Congress. It was nicknamed WIN or Whip Inflation Now. The end result of this program was that Recession set in and now became the nation’s most critical domestic problem to replace Inflation. Less government spending and decreased pumping of money into the economy created the Recession.

This time, Ford shifted to measures that will make the economy wake up again. But because of his fear of inflation coming back, he disapproved of a series of nonmilitary appropriations bills that he feared would increase the already hefty budgetary deficit.

All in all, he vetoed more than 50 measures by the end of 1976 of which more than 40 were sustained. It was a strained relationship with Congress.

This inherited problem of inflation from the Nixon administration which Ford never really solved slowed down the economy to a turtle’s pace. The recession that resulted in 1974 up to 1975 did lower the inflation rate but negatively resulted in an unemployment rate of nearly 9 percent.

Gerald R. Ford’s Political Style

Ford typified himself, similar to his profile in his Congressional days, to a moderate thinker for domestic affairs, a conservative ideologist for fiscal affairs, and a well trained, dyed in the wool global thinker for foreign affairs. His major objective was to make businesses operate with fewer restrictions by decreasing taxes and easing red tape imposed by regulatory agencies. He wanted that the independence that the American people gained 2 centuries ago, will not be lost to bureaucrats and computers.

Ford’s Early Presidential Acts

As president, one of his earlier acts was to proclaim a conditional amnesty program for draft evaders and deserters during the length of the Vietnam War. And then, it was followed by a most damning act which he did the next month which many critics see as the death of his credibility.

It was on September 8, 1974, when he pardoned Richard Nixon for all his offenses against the United States that he had done or may have done while being President of the land. Ford said that it is not the ultimate destiny of Richard Nixon that he was worried about but the immediate future of the USA.

Many observers have said that the unprecedented pardon would have been the result of blackmail wherein it was alleged that if not pardoned, Nixon would publicly report that Ford agreed that he would grant the pardon if the presidency was handed over to him.

The pardon effectively repealed any criminal prosecutions to which Nixon might have confronted thereafter were it not for the pardon.

But Ford did appear voluntarily before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives on October 17 to explain his decision. This was the first time that an incumbent President made a formal testimony before a Congress committee.

Ford also ruffled some feathers within the Republican Party when he named former New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, a liberal-minded party mate and a prominent member of the Eastern Establishment, as his Vice President.

The First Lady Makes An Impact

Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, the First Lady, more popularly known as Betty Ford, was fond of dancing to disco music and was pretty good with The Bump dance style. She also chatted on CB radio under the call name First Mama. B

ut she could also be serious and talk about equal rights for women, divorce, abortion, and drug abuse. She eventually established the Betty Ford Center For Addiction after the Fords left the White House.

Gerald R. Ford’s Foreign Affair Thrusts

Ford wanted to maintain US prestige and power on the world stage even though Cambodia and South Vietnam collapsed to adversarial ideologies. He wanted the US to still exert influence in the Middle East and prevent a new war from erupting there. He gave aid to both Israel and Egypt, which had been at odds with each other. And he negotiated with the two countries to be agreeable with an interim truce agreement.

An easing of the USA’s strained relationship with the Soviet Union was achieved during Ford’s administration. Both he and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev introduced new limitations with regards to nuclear weapons.

When the Vietnam War was nearing its end in March 1975, Ford ordered for the airlift of 237,000 anti-communist Vietnamese refugees from the city of Da Nang. Most of them started new lives in the USA.

Two months after that, the American cargo ship Mayaguez was seized by Cambodia. Marines were sent in by Ford to recapture the ship. They succeeded in saving the 39 ship crew members, but they also lost 41 Americans and incurred injuries on 50 others as a result. The rescue operation was launched from a base in Thailand despite objections from the Thai government. This soured the diplomatic relationship between the US and Thailand.

Assassination Attempts and the NYC Bankruptcy

Twice in the space of 1 month in September 1975, Ford was targeted for assassination. In the first attempt, Secret Service agents were able to intervene even before shots were fired. The second attempt was by an individual who fired one shot at Ford but missed badly by several feet.

In October 1975, New York City was on the brink of fiscal collapse but Ford refused to grant loans to save it. With headlines in the newspapers that announced that Ford was saying to New York City to “drop dead” plus also the economic and moral implications of not saving the premier city of the USA becoming clearer, Ford realigned his position in favor of assisting NYC to get back on its feet.

But NYC and New York state never forgot the stinging refusal of Ford to grant help to the city until he was pushed in a corner to give in later. New York state gave the presidency to Jimmy Carter when he battled with Ford for the presidency in 1976 by virtue of its precious 41 electoral votes.

The Presidential Elections of 1976

Gerald R. Ford won the Republican Party’s nomination in August 1976, shouldering off the challenge posed by Ronald Reagan, the former California governor. Then, Ford became the first sitting president to agree to public debates against his challenger, who was Jimmy Carter, the nominee of the Democratic Party.

Ford was significantly behind in surveys since the start of the campaign because of the negative perception wrought by the Nixon pardon and also because of the general public’s perception with regards to his perceived faulty wisdom.

From his decision-making in the Vietnam War, the Mayaguez cargo ship recapture, the NYC bailout indecisiveness, and largely due to the infamous Nixon pardon, he fumbled along the way.

During the debate with Carter, he made a grave error with historical perspective when he said that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. His physical clumsiness was also well documented by the media like hitting his head while going down a plane, entangling himself in the leashes of the pet dogs of his family, and falling into the snow while skiing.

Just like that, less than 3 years as US president, Ford was defeated by Carter in the November 1976 election. He received only a popular vote of 39.1 million as against 40.8 million and an electoral vote of 240 against 297.

On Inauguration Day, President Jimmy Carter thanked Gerald R. Ford for his contributions to healing the USA.

Life After The Presidency

Gerald R. Ford happily spent 3 decades more of his life after he retired from public service. He golfed and skied to his heart’s delight and also worked in numerous corporations as a member of the Board of Directors.

In the presidential race of 1980, he was offered by Republican candidate Ronald Reagan the vice-presidential post but he declined the offer.

A Time To Heal, his autobiography, was published in 1979.

He passed away on December 26, 2006, at Rancho Mirage, California.


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