Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.: The 38th Retrospective
After escorting the Nixons to their helicopter on their way out of the White House, Gerald Ford would then walk back into the White House and take the oath of office. He walked into a house of turmoil. There was the still-pending criminal indictment of former President Nixon, an American public that felt betrayed by Washington, and a Congress eager to reclaim the power they felt had been usurped by the executive branch.
Ford was open and honest with a history of consensus building. He was viewed as the right person for the time.
Upon taking office, he quickly became frustrated with an inability to preside over business of the nation. Over half of his time was spent dealing with issues of Watergate. He decided to pardon Nixon absolutely. While Ford may have been correct in claiming it would consume his presidency, the lack of consultation, preparation, and legitimacy led many to question his ability to make that determination.
Complicating matters would be North Vietnam breaking the peace accord by launching an offensive into South Vietnam. President Ford requested military and economic aid but Congress refused, knowing nothing of the private commitments Nixon and Kissinger made to the South Vietnamese President about guaranteed U.S. intervention should North Vietnam break the accord. On April 19, 1975, Saigon fell to the communists.
It was clear that as well intentioned as Ford may have been, he did not have the support of the nation behind him. While he just wanted to leave the country better than he found it, the 1976 election found Americans wanting Watergate and Vietnam to be left behind and a true “outsider” to emerge … It is difficult to look at this presidency by itself with the specter of Watergate looming over it.
If you’re bitching about government officials being above the law, then Ford might not have been the president for you. Other than that, in a way Ford was another victim of Watergate though he had nothing to do with it.
Jimmy Carter would follow him.
Richard Nixon would precede him.
It all started with George Washington.