A memoir of the presidency of Gerald Ford (1913-2006) as seen from the point of view of Ford’s chief of staff and secretary of defense.
When Ford became president on Aug. 9, 1974, writes Rumsfeld (Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, 2013, etc.), he inherited a nation on “the brink of civil and political collapse.” In his latest book, the author convincingly argues that Ford successfully restored trust in the presidency and held the country together. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ford played center for the University of Michigan football team, studied law at Yale, and fought in World War II before his entry into politics. He served almost 25 years as a Michigan congressman before rising to the vice presidency in 1973. With Richard Nixon’s resignation, Ford, who had never run on a national ticket, became president. Although his brief term in office included controversies and missteps such as his pardon of Nixon, the abortive “Whip Inflation Now” campaign, and the appointment of Nelson Rockefeller as vice president, Rumsfeld asserts that Ford oversaw a revival of what had been a moribund economy, responded strongly to the Khmer Rouge’s seizure of the U.S. container ship Mayaguez, and contributed to the birth of the modern human rights movement via his signing of the Helsinki Accords. Above all else, Ford’s honesty, integrity, and decency helped the nation recover from the Watergate crisis. The author also recalls several forgotten chapters of Ford’s presidency, including a Far East trip that featured the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to Japan and a turnout of 2 million people to welcome Ford to Seoul, South Korea. Rumsfeld occasionally confuses dates, and he oversells several of Ford’s accomplishments (the Helsinki Accords being a prime example).
A few flaws aside, this is an engrossing and informative tribute to a man whom Jimmy Carter rightfully thanked in his inaugural address “for all he has done to heal our land.”