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[R.I.P.] President Gerald Ford (11/26/06) Only Unelected U.S. President

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  • madchinaman
    President Gerald Ford dies at 93 From the Associated Press, Times Staff Writer http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 26, 2006
      President Gerald Ford dies at 93
      From the Associated Press, Times Staff Writer

      Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-
      shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected president in
      America's history, has died, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He was 93.

      "My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford,
      our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has
      passed away at 93 years of age," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement
      issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was
      filled with love of God, his family and his country."

      The statement did not say where Ford died or list a cause of death.
      Ford had battled pneumonia in January 2006 and underwent two heart
      treatments -- including an angioplasty -- in August at the Mayo
      Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

      He was the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who
      also died at 93. Ford had been living at his desert home in Rancho
      Mirage, Calif., about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

      Ford was an accidental president, Nixon's hand-picked successor, a
      man of much political experience who had never run on a national
      ticket. He was as open and straight-forward as Nixon was tightly
      controlled and conspiratorial.

      He took office minutes after Nixon resigned in disgrace over the
      Watergate scandal and flew off into exile. Ford famously
      declared, "our long national nightmare is over."

      But he revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting
      Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president. That single
      act, it was widely believed, cost Ford election to a term of his own
      in 1976, but it won praise in later years as a courageous act that
      allowed the nation to move on.

      The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the U.S. during his presidency
      with the fall of Saigon in April 1975. In a speech as the end neared,
      Ford said: "Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed
      before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is
      finished as far as America is concerned." Evoking Abraham Lincoln, he
      said it was time to "look forward to an agenda for the future, to
      unify, to bind up the nation's wounds."

      Ford also earned a place in the history books as the first unelected
      vice president, chosen by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew who also was
      forced from office by scandal.

      He was in the White House only 895 days, but changed it more than it
      changed him.

      Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the presidency of
      Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

      Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a
      nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

      Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for
      Richard Nixon, the transition to Ford's leadership was one of the
      most welcomed in the history of the democratic process -- despite the
      fact that it occurred without an election.

      After the Watergate ordeal, Americans liked their new president --
      and first lady Betty, whose candor charmed the country.

      They liked her for speaking openly about problems of young people,
      including her own daughter; they admired her for not hiding that she
      had a mastectomy -- in fact, her example caused thousands of women to
      seek breast examinations.

      And she remained one of the country's most admired women even after
      the Fords left the White House when she was hospitalized in 1978 and
      admitted to having become addicted to drugs and alcohol she took for
      painful arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck. Four years later
      she founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, a substance abuse
      facility next to Eisenhower Medical Center.

      Ford slowed down in recent years. He had been hospitalized in August
      2000 when he suffered one or more small strokes while attending the
      Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

      The following year, he joined former presidents Carter, Bush and
      Clinton at a memorial service in Washington three days after the
      Sept. 11 attacks. In June 2004, the four men and their wives joined
      again at a funeral service in Washington for former President Reagan.
      But in November 2004, Ford was unable to join the other former
      presidents at the dedication of the Clinton presidential library in
      Little Rock, Ark.

      In January, Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia for 12 days. He
      wasn't seen in public until April 23, when President Bush was in town
      and paid a visit to the Ford home. Bush, Ford and Betty posed for
      photographers outside the residence before going inside for a private

      The intensely private couple declined reporter interview requests and
      were rarely seen outside their home in Rancho Mirage's gated
      Thunderbird Estates, other than to attend worship services at the
      nearby St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.

      In a long congressional career in which he rose to be House
      Republican leader, Ford lit few fires. In the words of Congressional
      Quarterly, he "built a reputation for being solid, dependable and
      loyal -- a man more comfortable carrying out the programs of others
      than in initiating things on his own."

      When Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal in October 1973, Ford was
      one of four finalists to succeed him: Texan John Connally, New York's
      Nelson Rockefeller and California's Ronald Reagan.

      "Personal factors enter into such a decision," Nixon recalled for a
      Ford biographer in 1991. I knew all of the final four personally and
      had great respect for each one of then, but I had known Jerry Ford
      longer and better than any of the rest.

      "We had served in Congress together. I had often campaigned for him
      in his district," Nixon continued. But Ford had something the others
      didn't, he would be easily confirmed by Congress, something that
      could not be said of Rockefeller, Reagan and Connally.

      So Ford it was. He became the first vice president appointed under
      the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

      On Aug. 9, 1974, after seeing Nixon off to exile, Ford assumed the
      office. The next morning, he still made his own breakfast and padded
      to the front door in his pajamas to get the newspaper.

      Said a ranking Democratic congressman: "Maybe he is a plodder, but
      right now the advantages of having a plodder in the presidency are

      It was rare that Ford was ever as eloquent as he was for those
      dramatic moments of his swearing-in at the White House.

      "My fellow Americans," he said, "our long national nightmare is over.
      Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws
      and not of men. Here the people rule."

      And, true to his reputation as unassuming Jerry, he added: "I am
      acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your
      ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers."

      For Ford, a full term was not to be. He survived an intraparty
      challenge from Ronald Reagan only to lose to Democrat Jimmy Carter in
      November. In the campaign, he ignored Carter's record as governor of
      Georgia and concentrated on his own achievements as president.

      Carter won 297 electoral votes to his 240. After Reagan came back to
      defeat Carter in 1980, the two former presidents became
      collaborators, working together on joint projects.

      Even as president, Ford often talked with reporters several times a
      day. He averaged 200 outside speeches a year as House Republican
      leader, a pace he kept up as vice president and diminished,
      seemingly, only slightly as chief executive. He kept speaking after
      leaving the White House, generally for fees of $15,000 to $20,000.

      Ford was never asked to the White House for a social event during
      Reagan's eight years as president.

      In office, Ford's living tastes were modest. When he became vice
      president, he chose to remain in the same Alexandria, Va., home --
      unpretentious except for a swimming pool -- that he shared with his
      family as a congressman.

      After leaving the White House, however, he took up residence in the
      desert resort area of Rancho Mirage, picked up $1 million for his
      memoir and another $1 million in a five-year NBC television contract,
      and served on a number of corporate boards. By 1987, he was on eight
      such boards, at fees up to $30,000 a year, and was consulting for
      others, at fees up to $100,000. After criticism, he cut back on such

      At a joint session after becoming president, Ford addressed members
      of Congress as "my former colleagues" and promised "communication,
      conciliation, compromise and cooperation." But his relations with
      Congress did not always run smoothly.

      He vetoed 66 bills in his barely two years as president. Congress
      overturned 12 Ford vetoes, more than for any president since Andrew

      In his memoir, "A Time to Heal," Ford wrote, "When I was in the
      Congress myself, I thought it fulfilled its constitutional
      obligations in a very responsible way, but after I became president,
      my perspective changed."

      Some suggested the pardon was prearranged before Nixon resigned, but
      Ford, in an unusual appearance before a congressional committee in
      October 1974, said, "There was no deal, period, under no
      circumstances." The committee dropped its investigation.

      Ford's standing in the polls dropped dramatically when he pardoned
      Nixon unconditionally. But an ABC News poll taken in 2002 in
      connection with the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in found
      that six in 10 said the pardon was the right thing to do.

      The late Democrat Clark Clifford spoke for many when he wrote in his
      memoirs, "The nation would not have benefited from having a former
      chief executive in the dock for years after his departure from
      office. His disgrace was enough."

      The decision to pardon Nixon won Ford a John F. Kennedy Profile in
      Courage Award in 2001, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, acknowledging he
      had criticized Ford at the time, called the pardon "an extraordinary
      act of courage that historians recognize was truly in the national

      While Ford had not sought the job, he came to relish it. He had once
      told Congress that even if he succeeded Nixon he would not run for
      president in 1976. Within weeks of taking the oath, he changed his

      He was undaunted even after the two attempts on his life in September
      1975. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles
      Manson, was arrested after she aimed a semiautomatic pistol at Ford
      on Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif. A Secret Service agent grabbed her
      and Ford was unhurt.

      Seventeen days later, Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old political
      activist, was arrested in San Francisco after she fired a gun at the
      president. Again, Ford was unhurt.

      Both women are serving life terms in federal prison.

      Asked at a news conference to recite his accomplishments, Ford
      replied: "We have restored public confidence in the White House and
      in the executive branch of government."

      As to his failings, he responded, "I will leave that to my opponents.
      I don't think there have been many."

      Ford spent most of his boyhood in Grand Rapids, Mich.

      He was born Leslie King on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Neb. His parents
      were divorced when he was less than a year old, and his mother
      returned to her parents in Grand Rapids, where she later married
      Gerald R. Ford Sr. He adopted the boy and renamed him.

      Ford was a high school senior when he met his real father. He was
      working in a Greek restaurant, he recalled, when a man came in and
      stood watching.

      "Finally, he walked over and said, 'I'm your father,"' Ford
      said. "Well, that was quite a shock." But he wrote in his memoir that
      he broke down and cried that night and he was left with the image
      of "a carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about
      the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son."

      Ford played center on the University of Michigan's 1932 and 1933
      national champion football teams. He got professional offers from the
      Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but chose to study law at
      Yale, working his way through as an assistant varsity football coach
      and freshman boxing coach.

      Ford got his first exposure to national politics at Yale, working as
      a volunteer in Wendell L. Willkie's 1940 Republican campaign for
      president. After World War II service with the Navy in the Pacific,
      he went back to practicing law in Grand Rapids and became active in
      Republican reform politics.

      His stepfather was the local Republican chairman, and Michigan Sen.
      Arthur H. Vandenberg was looking for a fresh young internationalist
      to replace the area's isolationist congressman.

      Ford beat Rep. Bartel Jonkman by a 2-to-1 margin in the Republican
      primary and then went on to win the election with 60.5 percent of the
      vote, the lowest margin he ever got.

      He had proposed to Elizabeth Bloomer, a dancer and fashion
      coordinator, earlier that year, 1948. She became one of his hardest-
      working campaigners and they were married shortly before the
      election. They had three sons, Michael, John and Steven, and a
      daughter, Susan.

      Ford was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which
      investigated the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and
      concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

      Clifford, an adviser to presidents since Harry Truman, summed up his
      legacy: "About his brief presidency there is little that can be said.
      In almost every way, it was a caretaker government trying to bind up
      the wounds of Watergate and get through the most traumatic act of the
      Indochina drama.

      "Ford ... was a likable person who deserves credit for accomplishing
      the one goal that was most important, to reunite the nation after the
      trauma of Watergate and give us a breathing spell before we picked a
      new president."
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