Robert Novak

So, Ford tried to depict himself as an ordinary guy in the White House who toasted his own muffins for breakfast. His public support soared, but a weak president cannot maintain his popularity for long. He often seemed feckless (as in his WIN campaign to Whip Inflation Now) or powerless (as when Congress ended the Vietnam War with a Communist victory by cutting off funds to South Vietnam).

Ford's years in power were turbulent and discordant. After his pardon of Nixon saved the nation the tribulation of a former president in the criminal dock, the country repudiated Ford in midterm elections where Democrats stretched their lead in the House to 145 seats. That guaranteed the Republican challenge by Ronald Reagan that nearly succeeded and gave Jimmy Carter a huge lead in the general election campaign.

Ford as president was burdened by a White House divided into feuding factions and by bad advice. He seemed more like Nixon than Ford in snubbing Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn because Henry Kissinger contended that the great Russian novelist threatened U.S.-Soviet detente. Ford never connected with the anti-communist, tax-cutting and religious conservative ideology that soon would make Republicans the majority party for a generation.

A president whose reputation exceeded his record, Ford was more comfortable and popular during 30 years of retirement than in his 895 days in the Oval Office. He is fondly remembered not for his failed presidency, but for not becoming another Nixon as Nixon's appointed successor.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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