A ""happy accident"" is the most apt phrase terHorst can find to characterize President Gerald Ford. And while that may not be the kind of high praise Chief Executives crave it seems to represent a generous assessment on the part of this old friend who -- if he has any axe to grind over his resignation as Ford's press secretary -- has not allowed it to affect his overall assessment. (The book has been updated to cover terHorst's appointment and resignation.) Certainly the most striking thing about this outline of Ford's political life and leadership is its utterly banal brevity; digressions on Ford's all-American boyhood and long-suffering wife Betty float to the foreground simply because the issues, the ideas, even the criticisms of opponents are so thin. Ford, originally elected as an internationalist and supporter of European reconstruction, apparently saw himself from the first as a House career man and turned down opportunities to mn for higher office. His increasing conservatism, according to terHorst, sprang from a desire to reflect the majority sentiments of his ""immediate constituency,"" the House Republicans. Similarly, Ford supported Nixon's policies out of both personal and party loyalty despite his dismay over the shift from cold war rhetoric to detente. Not one insight or new interpretation is presented here and even timeworn suspicions -over Ford's intelligence and the behind-the-scenes role of crony Melvin Laird -- are repeated only as unconfirmed opinion and rumor. This is the popularly paraded view of Ford as a man who is a genial mediator at best and gullible at worst -- a man whose highest achievement in the Presidency might be, as terHorst hopes, the shoring up of the Republican Party. The odd result of this friendly, supportive assessment is that Gerald Ford evaporates before our very eyes -- confirming the baldest jokes of the cartoonists and pundits.