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

By James Reichley | Go to book overview
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14
The Ford Team

A PRESIDENT raised to the White House through the normal election process has an eleven-week period between election day and inauguration during which he may recruit key personnel, as well as plan a legislative program and determine administrative priorities. Having just passed through a prolonged campaign, nowadays requiring almost as large and multiskilled a staff as that needed to run the White House itself, he is surrounded by experienced aides and advisers, most of whom are eager for government service. Even those presidents succeeding from the vice-presidency because of the death of an incumbent usually inherit active operations able to carry on current business while the new administration is finding its bearings.

Gerald Ford possessed none of these advantages when he entered the presidency on August 9, 1974. The White House for many months had been obsessed with Watergate and the threat of impeachment. Members of the White House staff, including many who had in no way been touched by Watergate, were viewed by much of the public as tainted through association with Nixon. Some members of the cabinet were tired and ready to leave. Others, particularly James Schlesinger at Defense and William Simon at the Treasury, had established their departments as almost autonomous baronies during the period of Nixon's political weakness, and seemed unlikely to welcome the reassertion of White House authority under the new president. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state as well as director of the National Security Council since July 1973, had achieved a national

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