Conservatives in An Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

By James Reichley | Go to book overview

13
Gerald Ford

WITH GERALD FORD, the character and personality of the president returned to the broad range that may be called "normal" for the small class of American chiefs of state. In this respect, therefore, the Ford administration offers a less eccentric base than Nixon's for examining the effects of ideology and other recurring influences on the governmental decisionmaking process.

This is not to say, however, that Ford's presidency was in any way typical or ordinary. The manner of his succession, and the fact that he served without election to any office by the voters outside the Fifth Congressional District of Michigan, were totally unique. His tenure was briefer than that of any but four presidents ( William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Garfield, and Harding), and the shortest among the nine vice-presidents who have filled out the term of a president. Some of the problems he faced--like the Communist overrun of Vietnam, the gathering energy crisis, the most rapid inflation since the 1940s followed by the worst recession since the 1930s, a Congress overwhelmingly controlled by the opposition party, and the low level of public confidence in governmental institutions that was part of Nixon's legacy--were exceptionally severe.

To these challenges Ford brought traits of attitude and character that were in some ways representative of prevailing norms among the upper echelons of the American political community, particularly its more conservative branch. And that in some ways were quite his own.

-265-

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