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Gerald R. Ford: An Honorable Life Hardcover – April 16, 2013
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When Ford took the office of president following the resignation of Nixon, he was not a well-known political figure outside of the House of Representatives, where his highest ambition had been to be speaker. Cannon, a journalist and former domestic policy advisor to Ford, offers an examination of Ford’s life in politics and how he came to be the nation’s unelected president during the tumultuous Watergate era. He recounts Ford’s early life, law-school years, military service, political career, and marriage as all along he garnered a reputation as a solid, honest person. Cannon chronicles the tense political atmosphere as the Watergate scandal unraveled, Nixon struggled with the decision to resign, and Ford wrestled with the decision to pardon the disgraced president. All the drama of Watergate is here, along with the major players, and Ford is at the center as a sometimes enigmatic figure, acknowledging that he never squarely asked Nixon about his guilt and remained ambivalent about that decision. Cannon portrays a man who, despite the shadow of the Nixon pardon clouding his presidency, maintained an honorable reputation in the often unsavory business of politics. --Vanessa Bush
"This is a first-rate political history and a compassionate biography."
(Publishers Weekly 2013-04-26)
"[T]his insider account persuasively demonstrates that [Ford] was a far better president than campaigner and that, at a particularly low moment in our history, we were perhaps luckier than we knew to have him."
"Cannon portrays a man who, despite the shadow of the Nixon pardon clouding his presidency, maintained an honorable reputation in the often unsavory business of politics."
(Vanessa Bush Booklist 2013-06-01)
—Dr. Henry Kissinger
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Top Customer Reviews
Ford was a good man and a good congressman who probably did compromise his values to replace Spiro Agnew and then ultimately assume the office, but Ford was a fair man. He wasn't an idiot as depicted and he understood Gov to the point where he clearly had the chops to pilot the country. He made few friends with his pardon of Nixon but 40 years later I think an overwhelming majority would say it was the right decision. It did cost him the Presidency though in 1976 which is unfortunate because it set the country up for a listless and craptacular 4 years of James Earl Carter.
My only complaint might be the fast forward through the congressional period of his life. It could have been 50 pages longer with some more details on his life after the Presidency as well.
Clearly though this is the book to read on Ford.
Well, what exactly do we remember about Gerald Ford? It seems that we know more about HOW and WHY he became president as opposed to anything the man actually did – either before or during his presidency. Not surprisingly, a big chunk of this book deals with his predecessor, Richard Nixon, and the Watergate scandal. Although I’ve read an awful lot of retrospectives about Watergate, I didn’t mind hearing about it again here. When one really thinks about it, most Watergate books don’t talk much about Gerald Ford. He’s almost mentioned as a footnote or an afterthought. So it’s interesting to see the tragedy through his eyes as it unfolds.
I found it fascinating, yet at the same time depressing, as to how he ascended to become Commander in Chief. For those that don’t know, Nixon’s Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, was having problems of his own and was actually forced out of office a year before Nixon’s resignation. Most on the inside knew that it was only a matter of time before Nixon would be forced out as well, so Congress decided they needed to pick the “best person” to become the new Vice-President – as this individual would, almost surely, become the next president as well. Think about that for a minute. Never in our country’s history have we “chosen” a president by this process. I mention that this factor was fascinating, yet also depressing. This is because, well, Ford was actually a great candidate for the particular job, and both Republicans and Democrats felt he was the best. Yet, at the same time, Gerald Ford had one of those personalities that would never allow himself to get elected for the office by the people. Forget the fact that he was well qualified, he simply wasn’t “sexy” enough to be a President. The American people place far too much emphasis on style, and not enough on substance.
This book does cover Ford’s entire life, but it wisely doesn’t spend that much time on his early years. We learn just enough about the man to understand his character and how he acts once he’s elected to the House of Representatives. He’s very smart, very calm, has a strong local constituent base, and doesn’t need to do a lot of preening for the camera. Some would say his lack of charisma should be a deterrent for a “leader”, but the current political climate (2016 as I write) has me believing otherwise.
Once he takes over as President in August of 1974, his main job – heal the nation. Not only is the country reeling from Watergate and the first ever resignation of a President, but there are other problems as well – inflation, unemployment, Mid-East tensions, and many other normal things that president’s deal with every day. Ford’s most notable decision was a pardon for Richard Nixon. There are those that argue that this was his worst mistake, and those arguments have plenty of validity. However Ford makes a strong argument. He states that the country has had enough of Watergate and needs to move on. Had he not pardoned Nixon, the spotlight would have remained on Nixon and his travails for several more years. So I agree with Ford. Enough was enough.
The shadow of Watergate can’t escape Ford as he runs for President in 1976. He does an o.k. job during his campaign, but when an unknown governor of Georgia starts smiling a lot and charming the socks off everyone with his enduring southern accent, it proves to be just the antidote that the country needs to forget about Watergate and Vietnam. Hindsight being 20-20, I’m actually surprised how well Ford did – it’s not like he got whooped a la Barry Goldwater or Walter Mondale. The popular vote was rather close.
Of course, we read about his post-presidential life, but there really isn’t anything that exciting, so the author doesn’t devote too much time to that phase of his life either.
You really have to wonder just what type of leader Gerald Ford would have been had he been president for a normal length of time. His entire tenure lasted less than 1000 days, and the majority of that time was either spent cleaning up Nixon’s mess and/or campaigning for the 1976 election. Although, again, he was very smart and even tempered (and not as far right as, say, Ronald Reagan), you have to wonder if his lack of chutzpah may have hindered a four year term.
A great book. Don’t pass up just because you think his presidency was somewhat inconsequential. Dare I say – we could use more men and women like Gerald Ford in leadership these days.
While I did detect a few mistakes in the editing of this book they were not all that significant and not very distracting. Overall this was a great book. Sadly Mr. Cannon was unable to include a bibliography and an index due to his passing. Perhaps future editions will be able to include them.
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