An insider’s account of a neglected but significant moment in American presidential history.
Soon after Richard Nixon’s landslide electoral victory in 1972, his administration was beleaguered by scandal. Nixon’s hand-picked vice president, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign in disgrace after pleading no contest to federal tax evasion, and Watergate eventually brought Nixon’s presidency to the point of collapse. When Nixon, too, was forced to resign in 1974, he tapped Gerald Ford, then House minority leader, and a staunch opponent of Democratic policy, to replace him and to issue a pardon for his crimes. But according to the 25th Amendment, when both the presidency and vice-presidency are vacated, the Oval Office becomes occupied by the Speaker of the House, then Congressman Carl Albert. However, Albert, who actually participated in the drafting of the 25th Amendment in 1963, not only didn’t pursue the office, but even made a series of decisions that made it likely Ford would be successfully installed. Carter (I Hear JFK’S Death Shots, 2013, etc.) and Lefebvre (President or Precedent, 2017) assess why Albert, who seemed both fit and prepared to assume the office, would abjure it. They consider several reasons and discuss the political ramifications of Ford’s ascendancy. Additionally, they ponder an alternate historical universe if Albert had, in fact, become president. At the time of the event in question, Carter served as press secretary for Robert Strauss, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and was also a friend of Albert. This brief historical portrait is admirably exhaustive despite its brevity, and it searchingly considers all the possible solutions to this unresolved mystery. Also, the authors paint a vivid, personal picture of Albert, who emerges as a complex individual known for his bipartisanship, competence, and civility, especially notable during a particularly divisive period in American politics. There are some small errors in the book; for example, the authors sometimes state that Albert nearly became the 35th American president and sometimes the 38th.
An intelligent, rigorous analysis of a political mystery.