THE PRESIDENT by John Hersey


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Three busts flank Gerald Ford's desk: Washington, Lincoln, Truman. Hersey knows that Ford is a modest man (as the old saw says, he has a lot to be modest about); it is Truman with whom he would like to be compared, though he lacks Harry T's feisty spirit and sympathy for the little fellow. Instead, Ford impresses Hersey, whose job it is to birddog him through one work week, with his relaxed, calm approach to the duties of his office--there is no cursing in Gerald Ford's White House. There is a tight schedule of briefings, conferences, special audiences--with Miss America (Ford: ""My wife and I watch the Miss America contest all the time. We really enjoy that on TV ""), with Miss Cotton Maid of 1975. Hersey has access to all these sessions, but each time foreign affairs are to be discussed he is excluded. Hersey is piqued. It is just prior to the Khmer Rouge victory and Ford is still trying to squeeze money for Cambodia from a recalcitrant, stony-faced Congress. Hersey registers a certain concern that whereas in domestic affairs Ford has an entire consortium of advisers, when it comes to foreign policy there is ""only Henry."" This and the fact that when reviewing the sagging economy, the President's ""only interest is in keeping spending down"" which is as close to criticism as Hersey ever gets. He first published this piece as a special Sunday New York Times Magazine supplement. On the whole what comes across here is Hersey's attempt to impart a certain gravitas to the Ford presidency. Alas, the effect is one of pomposity despite the little human interest touches--every day the President eats a scoop of cottage cheese bathed in A-1 sauce for lunch. Hersey has unwittingly produced a PR report in reverse for the White House.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopf