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“a Ford, Not A Lincoln”

February 2024
1min read


ONE PLEASURE IN A rather uncomfortable rereading of my book on Gerald Ford and the events of 1974 and 1975 was a kind of “Where Were They Then.” A few examples:

One of President Ford’s early problems was getting Nixon’s men out of the White House. The most tenacious of them was a junior speechwriter who for nine long weeks ignored requests and demands to leave. He was Father John McLaughlin, a Jesuit priest, who is now among the greatest of television’s political stars.

“He’s the smartest guy in Congress, but he insists on voting his conscience instead of party,” said Ford in rejecting John Anderson of Illinois as his successor as House Republican leader. Six years later Anderson rejected the party and ran for President as an independent.

“No politicians know anything about economics,” a Republican congressman told me in an interview, emphasizing the first word of that sentence. That was Barber Conable, named president of the World Bank in 1986.

“Campaigning gives them the chance to seek and receive attention—all in a worthy cause,” said a Georgetown professor I interviewed about politicians. Her specialty was women in state legislatures, and her name was Jeane J. Kirkpatrick. She became a politician herself for a time.

Much of the secret Nixon-Ford transition papers was written by a young staffer, a Democrat, in the White House Office of Telecommunications. His name was Brian Lamb; he went on to more or less invent C-SPAN cable television and become its president.

—R.R.

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