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Ford's star rising,
This review is from: Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations With Gerald R. Ford (Hardcover)
For those of us who came of age during Watergate and the Nixon and Ford administrations, Gerald Ford's death last December at ninety-three was a particularly sad event. Nostalgia abounded for our nation's thirty-eighth president, who was always looked upon as a man of high moral character and one who had assumed the presidency under the most unusual and difficult circumstances. It was with great anticipation, therefore, that I bought Tom DeFrank's new book on President Ford, "Write It When I'm Gone", and the good news is that DeFrank, who knew the president intimately for many years, presents a terrific portrait of Ford....his own presidency and vice presidency, his views on other presidents, his remembrances of courageous decisions he had to make and those things that guided him through life. It's a wonderful book and one that only a reporter like DeFrank could have written.
The title of the book refers to a comment that slipped from Ford's lips when he served under Nixon. Keeping his word not to reveal that comment for more than thirty years, DeFrank soon became a close contact with Ford and the trust that they built up is evident as DeFrank writes glowingly about his subject. The most intriguing chapters, to be sure, are the ones where Ford talks about Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and the two Bushes. They all come under scrutiny but Ford seemed to despise Carter and Reagan the most. It's understandable as a political rival that Ford would feel that way about his successor but as for Reagan...Ford blamed Reagan's challenge for the GOP nomination in 1976 as the main reason for his (Ford's) defeat to Jimmy Carter that year. One of the best lines in the book comes when Ford is quoted in a public statement shortly after Reagan's death. He said that Reagan "was a first-class president, and I treasured my relationship and association with him". "Baloney", DeFrank counters, uncharacteristically. And Ford and his wife Betty disliked Nancy Reagan even more than they did Ronnie.
DeFrank knows his own place in history when it comes to his friendship with the president. They had met in the infancy of Ford's becoming Vice President and the author saw Ford through to the end of his life. That access could only be matched by a very few. One might look at "Write It When I'm Gone" as borderline hagiography and certainly the last chapters of the book are devoted to saying good-bye to his famous friend in a lengthy, spun out manner. But DeFrank never gets overly maudlin about Ford and there's enough good, simple reporting to give this book lift and honesty.
As historians recast their ideas about Gerald Ford after his death, the consensus is that Ford's star is on the rise. I have no doubt it is, and this book helps to explain why. Tom DeFrank has given us a look at a man unique to the presidency and whose circumstances for attaining that high office are not likely to be seen again in our lifetime. "Write It When I'm Gone" is a wonderful read. I highly recommend it and thank the author for this lasting contribution in helping us better to understand President Ford.