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Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations With Gerald R. Ford Hardcover – October 30, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Longtime Newsweek correspondent DeFrank was an untested reporter when he was placed on what seemed like a hard-luck beat: covering Vice President Gerald Ford. After all, what could be less thrilling than reporting on the doings of the congressman from Michigan who had been appointed to replace Spiro Agnew as Richard Nixon's veep? DeFrank was given an unprecedented scoop early in his job, when Ford let spill that he believed Nixon's presidency was doomed, but the reporter agreed to put a lid on it: "Write it when I'm gone," Ford told him. Brick reads dramatically, with fitful stops and starts, giving the patina of history to some of the less fondly remembered elements of 1970s politics. His reading conveys some of DeFrank's sincere fondness for Ford and the friendly relationship they struck up while Ford was vice president and in the White House. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover.
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“Sheds new light on the nation’s only unelected president, his turmoils, and candid thoughts.”

Los Angeles Times

“Ford’s comments are always fascinating… Political junkies will love this book.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Gives the world some juicy, posthumous candor.”
Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons; First Edition edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399154507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399154508
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wesley Mullins on October 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Tom DeFrank and Gerald Ford had a secret relationship for over thirty years. Ford accidentally told the 28-year-old writer for Newsweek in 1974 that Nixon's presidency was doomed, and after the young writer agreed not to print the slip, a trust was formed that gave DeFrank access to three decades of thoughts of the 38th President of the United States. Ford spoke to him without prejudice not just on Nixon and Watergate, but on other major issues of the past quarter century, often providing opinions that rivaled what Ford himself entered into the public record in his memoir or in interviews. This unparalleled access given to DeFrank came with one condition from Ford:

"Write it when I'm gone."

DeFrank presents Ford as a politician to the end, a man who realized the true Gerald Ford and the one given to the world were at odds with each other. Ford preferred that the inevitable clash between the two occur only after he was dead. Ford felt an obligation to have his true feelings and remembrances appear in the alterable history of the country, but he did not want to deal with the fallout. Now that the truth is in print, readers can compare it (or at least as much as was given by DeFrank) against what Ford himself carefully allowed himself to say during his lifetime. With these new insights, Ford now seems to be a more complicated and shrewd craftsman than the popular image of him during his life.

And so, what are some of the new insights given by the book?
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Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom DeFrank has written a fine memoir of his 30-plus years of covering Gerald Ford. Read this volume with DeFrank's caveat in mind: this slender work is neither a definitive biography of Jerry Ford, nor an authoritative history of the Ford presidency. Rather, it is an account of DeFrank's reporting on Ford, much of it derived from off-the-record conversations recounted here for the first time.

The Gerald Ford who emerges from the pages of Write It When I'm Gone is an acute and prescient observer of matters political. He is privately critical of the intellectual laziness of his long-time rival, Ronald Reagan, but concedes Reagan's outsize communications skills. He predicts difficulties in justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the dubious basis of weapons of mass destruction, recommending instead that George W. Bush base the rationale for invasion on the dangers embodied in the unstable person of Saddam Hussein. As this advice suggests, Ford remains, throughout his retirement, an avid and astute consumer of the intelligence briefings to which he is entitled as a former President.

Especially interesting is Ford's take on Bill and Hillary Clinton. He admires Bill Clinton's communications and campaigning skills, putting Clinton above even Reagan in this regard. But it is Ford's assessment of Hillary Clinton that seems especially prescient. In an interview conducted before the end of the Bill Clinton presidency, Ford terms Mrs. Clinton tougher than her husband and predicts that she will earn a place on the Democratic ticket in 2004 or 2008.

Ford also emerges as a shrewd businessman who works hard during his retirement, earning substantial wealth for his family.
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