rotten > Library > Biographies > Presidents > Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford

aka Leslie Lynch King, Jr.

Thanks mainly to Saturday Night Live reruns, most people remember Gerald Ford as the klutzy fool who indefensibly pardoned Nixon. Maybe that's why nobody seems to recall his hand in Indonesia's genocidal campaign against East Timor. Or his membership in the Warren Commission, which determined that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone perpetrator of the JFK assassination.

First things first: Gerald Rudolph Ford was probably the greatest natural athlete who ever assumed the Presidency. Yes, he tripped on the Air Force One staircase in Salzburg, Austria. Everyone knows he tumbled down the stairs in full view of press and local dignitaries. What most people forget is that Ford managed to land on his feet and shake the hands of the reception committee without missing a beat. Try doing that when you're 64 years old.

Took over for Spiro T. Agnew.

I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances never before experienced by Americans. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.

[...]

As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.

In the beginning, I asked you to pray for me. Before closing, I ask again your prayers, for Richard Nixon and for his family. May our former President, who brought peace to millions, find it for himself. May God bless and comfort his wonderful wife and daughters, whose love and loyalty will forever be a shining legacy to all who bear the lonely burdens of the White House.

Took over after Richard M. Nixon went off the deep end. Then he pardoned Nixon for no defensible reason.

On September 8, 1974 President Ford issued 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.

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 Indepdendence of the United States the one hundred and ninety-ninth.

In a televised address to the nation, President Ford announced the pardon and clarified his rationale:

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.

[...]

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.

Essentially gave the green light to Indonesian dictator Suharto to commit genocide against the peoples of East Timor.

SUHARTO: We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.
FORD: We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.
KISSINGER: You appreciate that the use of U.S.-made arms could create problems.
FORD: We could have technical and legal problems. You are familiar, Mr. President, with the problems we had on Cyprus, although this situation is different.
KISSINGER: It depends on how we construe it -- whether it is in self-defense or is a foreign operation. It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly. We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens happens after we return. This way there would be less chance of people talking in an unauthorized way. The President will be back on Monday at 2:00 PM Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly, but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.
FORD: It would be more authoritative if we can do it in person.
KISSINGER: Whatever you do, however, we will try to handle in the best way possible.
FORD: We recognize that you have a time factor. We have merely expressed our view from our particular point of view.
KISSINGER: If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home.

Ron Nessen Papers
5/28/75-6/3/75 - Europe: Falling Incident - Salzburg

Minutes from the Cabinet meeting of June 4, 1975:

In Austria the President indicated he tumbled into Austria, but that he really felt that Betty had tripped him, then ran away and left him to get to his feet all by himself.

Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan offered Ford the Vice Presidency in 1980. Ford declined, and the offer went to George HW Bush.


Gerald Ford's Presidential Pardons

Iva Toguri D'Aquino Pardoned for a crime she didn't commit.
Richard M. Nixon Pardoned for any and all crimes committed between January 20, 1969 and August 9, 1974 (including Watergate).
Clyde Wilson


Timeline

14 Jul 1913 Gerald Ford born, Omaha NE.
Nov 1927 16-year-old Gerald Ford of Troop 15 is awarded the rank of Eagle Scout in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
1934 In a Chicago v. Michigan college game, Ford tackles Jay Berwanger, who later becomes a Heismann winner. "When I tackled Jay in the second quarter, I ended up with a bloody cut and I still have the scar to prove it."
30 Sep 1949 In Grand Rapids, Michigan, future President Gerald Ford joins Malta Lodge No. 465, becoming a Mason.
6 Dec 1973 Congressman Gerald Ford is sworn in as Vice President of the United States, after Nixon's Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, resigns over a tax evasion scandal.
9 Aug 1974 Finally bowing to pressure from Senator Barry Goldwater and RNC chairman George Bush, President Richard M. Nixon resigns from office. His successor, Gerald Ford, assures the American people that their "long national nightmare is over."
8 Sep 1974 President Gerald Ford pardons Richard M. Nixon, out of respect for Nixon's 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."
8 Sep 1974 After one month as President Ford's Press Secretary, Jerald terHorst resigns over the Nixon pardon. He later explains: "In good conscience, I could not defend his position as a spokesman in a credible manner."
27 Sep 1974 President Gerald Ford appoints Donald Rumsfeld his Chief of Staff.
31 May 1975 President Gerald Ford flies to Spain and meets with Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
1 Jun 1975 In full view of local officials and the international press, President Gerald Ford slips on the staircase while deplaning Air Force One in Salzburg, Austria.
5 Jul 1975 President Gerald Ford meets with Suharto at Camp David.
21 Jul 1975 President Gerald Ford publicly apologizes for the death of Dr. Frank Olson, who died in 1953 after unwittingly getting dosed with LSD by the Central Intelligence Agency.
5 Sep 1975 Manson Family member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme almost assassinates President Gerald Ford with a .45 automatic in Sacramento, California. But Fromme is tackled by a Secret Service agent before she can remember to rack a round into the firing chamber.
22 Sep 1975 In front of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore pulls out a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver and points it at Gerald Ford. Before she can assassinate the President, a bystander named Oliver "Bill" Sipple grabs Moore's arm. Sipple, a closeted gay man, is later outed by the press. The spotlight on his personal life causes him to complain: "My sexual orientation has nothing to do with saving the President's life."
2 Oct 1975 Emperor Hirohito of Japan visits President Gerald Ford at the White House.
Nov 1975 President Gerald Ford appoints Dick Cheney his Chief of Staff.
2 Nov 1975 President Gerald Ford fires CIA Director William Colby and replaces him with George HW Bush.
2 Dec 1975 President Gerald Ford flies to China and meets with Chairman Mao.
6 Dec 1975 During a state visit to Indonesia, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reassure dictator Suharto that his impending invasion of East Timor will not be opposed by the United States.
Dec 1975 President Gerald Ford flies to the Philippines and meets with Ferdinand Marcos.
17 Feb 1976 Issues an order instructing individuals subpoenaed by a U.S. House subcommittee to not comply with those subpoenas, under the doctrine of executive privilege. Among those who were to not comply were officials of Western Union, who actually are not government employees at all. These orders cited "most sensitive national security information." What exactly was this "information"? It was the fact that the United States was illegally intercepting all cable traffic entering the United States, at the point of entry. James Bamford.
4 Oct 1976 Earl Butz, President Ford's Secretary of Agriculture, is forced to resign after newspapers print a comment he made regarding race relations: "I'll tell you what the coloreds want. It's three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit."
6 Oct 1976 During a televised debate, President and candidate Gerald Ford states that there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. He is not elected president. [Ford and Dan Quayle should do lunch.]
19 Jan 1977 President Gerald Ford pardons Iva Toguri D'Aquino ("Tokyo Rose").
8 Jun 1977 Former President Gerald Ford makes a hole-in-one from 157 yards on the 5th hole of the Celebrity Pro-Am competition in Memphis.
26 Jan 1979 70-year-old multibillionaire Nelson Rockefeller is stricken by a massive heart attack while fucking his 27-year-old research assistant, Megan Marshak. The former Vice President dies during the ambulance ride. Rockefeller's will leaves Marshak $50,000 and the deed to a Manhattan townhouse.
31 Jul 1996 For a fee, former President Gerald Ford delivers a speech at the Inaugural World Convention of the Family Federation for World Peace -- a group sponsored by Sun Myung Moon.
4 Oct 1998 In a New York Times opinion piece, former President Gerald Ford declares that President Clinton should "accept full responsibility for his actions, as well as for his subsequent efforts to delay or impede the investigation of them... No spinning, no semantics, no evasiveness or blaming others for his plight."


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