November 02, 2004

Grace under pressure

I don't suppose anyone would associate those words with Gerald R. Ford, but I've always been amazed by this tale about the 38th President one November night in 1976. Here it is in Ford's own words:

By two-forty the election had come down to four states. Four million residents of Ohio had gone to the polls and I had a lead of 2,000 votes. In Hawaii, the situation was reversed. I was trailing by 4,000 votes. Mississippi was a possibility. And then there was Wisconsin. Although the networks had given the state to Carter, Bob Teeter insisted that the late returns could put me over the top. But no one could say when -- or if -- that would happen. I was bushed. It was three-twenty in the morning and there wasn't a darn thing I could do, so I went to bed.

He went to bed. I've heard a version of the story in which Ford says "I think I won" before going to bed.

Ford's going to bed seems to me to be so at odds with the all-consuming nature of politics... A tremendously human gesture. In his shoes, how many of us could have done the same?

Posted by Ideofact at November 2, 2004 09:04 PM

This is very interesting.

It adds another item to the list of reasons why Ford was such an unusual President.

Besides his position as "selected, not elected", and being the only President born in Michigan, I can't remember a major, traumatic event in his Presidential career.

If I read the White House History Page right, Ford handled the Middle East tensions well, worked to curb inflation and avoid a recession, and generally worked to restore the public's faith in the Presidency.

His mark on history seems to be typified by this little story. He did what he could, and when that was done, he quietly let things play out.

Posted by: steve h at November 3, 2004 07:56 PM

Um, fall of Saigon? That was pretty major.

Posted by: Mitch H. at November 4, 2004 11:31 AM

True. I couldn't remember where the fall of Saigon went with respect to Nixon/Ford.

My thought was that Ford wasn't the kind of person to make waves when he couldn't do something. Fall of Saigon fits into that category, I think.

Of course, I'm depending on history--I don't remember this stuff happening.

Was Ford blamed for the fall of Saigon? Did it stick, if he was?

Posted by: steve h at November 4, 2004 11:55 AM