Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States. He served office from August 9, 1973, to January 20, 1977. Gerald Ford was born on July 14, 1913, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Though he had a promising start in his career as a worship leader and teacher at a local college, his professional aspirations were curtailed due to financial constraints in his early life.
His father’s failing business necessitated the construction of a new home and that too with loans that Ford’s father could not afford to pay back. Later on, some debts contracted for the construction of a school for the children of the Ford family also proved to be too much for Ford’s parents.
The new home was sold to compensate for one debt and another one was taken over by friends who promised assistance in case of need but never fulfilled their promise. It was an unfortunate phase in Ford’s life as it forced him to resign from a well-paying job when things started turning sour for his family financially.
Little did he know that this would come as a blessing in disguise later on down the road. Ford married Kathryn Cline Bouslog on March 2, 1942, and they went on to have five children together; two girls and three boys; Susan, John, Steven, Michael and Christiana. Kathryn died four days after giving birth to their first child Susan at age 32 leaving Gerald heartbroken with four young children under five years old at home alone while his wife struggled with
How did Ford enter politics?
Ford may have had several setbacks in his early life, but they did not stop him from pursuing his life’s ambition. He left his job to enter politics and start a political career. He was encouraged in his decision by his wife and his eldest son Steven.
Ford was eventually elected to public office as a Republican from Michigan. He won the position of mayor of the city of Grand Rapids in 1945 after losing the position of Congressman in the previous election. He was handpicked by the Republican leadership to stand for the election and win the mayor’s office after a long time when Republicans tried to win the post and failed.
He was elected to the position for the second time in 1951. The same year he returned to Congress after a brief break from public office. He was a Congressman for nearly three decades and served his country as a leader of his party. Ford was a rare breed of politician who could bridge the gap between the Old Guard Republicans and the New Guard Democrats.
His service in the House of Representatives and Congress was marked by several controversies. He was reprimanded three times for his conduct and was accused of misusing his privileges as a member of the House.
The most serious allegation against Ford was that he tried to stop the investigation into the Watergate scandal and protect the Nixon Administration officials involved in the scandal. He was accused of obstructing the investigation and was reprimanded for this act by the House of Representatives.
The Watergate scandal and its impact on Ford
When Ford was elected to the office of President, he was angling to end the war in Vietnam with a peace treaty that would grant the South Vietnamese government more control over its own country. His Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara had a different plan and they wanted to expand the war in Vietnam by sending more military troops and spending more money on this war.
Ford was against this plan and supported the peace treaty. He was opposed to the Kissinger-McNamara plan and wanted to implement a different strategy to end the war. Ford had a hard time making his decision because both Kissinger and McNamara were strong supporters of the President.
This conflict between Ford and the powerful government officials in the State and Defense Departments eventually spilled into the public domain and created a major controversy. The media dubbed the war in Vietnam the “Ford war” and this infuriated Ford who was against the war in Vietnam and supported the peace treaty.
It was the Kissinger-McNamara strategy for expanding the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal that incurred the wrath of the Ford administration. The Watergate scandal was a political scandal that involved a conspiracy to obstruct the investigation of the burglary in the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1972.
Nixon’s administration was suspected of this conspiracy as they were trying to cover up their misdeeds with the help of high-ranking government officials. The investigations into the Watergate scandal were conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Due to the secrecy surrounding the investigations, the public only came to know about the scandal through the media coverage that suggested that Nixon’s administration was involved in the conspiracy to cover up the misdeeds of their officials. The Watergate scandal significantly influenced the electoral results of the 1972 presidential election.
Nixon lost the election to the Democratic challenger, Senator George McGovern. This election result was a political setback for Nixon and his party as they lost a significant number of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Presidency of Gerald Ford: A time of challenges
In the year 1974, the Watergate scandal erupted into a major crisis for Gerald Ford’s presidency. The media published several leaks that suggested that the Nixon administration was involved in the cover-up conspiracy. The administration was furious with the media leak and they tried to put a stop to the media publication of these leaks.
The administration got wind of a plan by a few officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to publish the leaked information in the newspapers and create a media sensation. The administration got a hold of the plan and started an official investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The administration did not stop at this.
They also filed a lawsuit against the F.B.I. for publishing the leaked information in the newspapers. The administration was furious with the F.B.I. for leaking these details as it may have been done with the help of a few officials in the bureau. In the midst of all this, Ford decided to pardon former President Richard Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
He decided to pardon Nixon despite the opposition of Congress and the American people. Ford pardoned Nixon without knowing the contents of the transcripts of the White House tapes that would reveal Nixon’s involvement in the cover of the conspiracy.
End of the Cold War and the rise of the Heritage Foundation
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world witnessed the end of the Cold War and the emergence of new power centers in the world. One of these centers was the Heritage Foundation, one of the most influential think tanks in the United States.
The Heritage Foundation was established in the year 1973 and its headquarters was established in Washington, D.C. Heritage Foundation had a significant influence on the Republican Party and led them towards their modern-day ideas. The Heritage Foundation is known for its support for privatization, the reduction of the role of the Federal Government in the economy, and the idea of small government.
Final days in office: The pardon controversy and the resignation
During his presidency, Ford’s popularity was at its lowest in the polls. His image as a simple man with a strong personality was not helping him in the polls. His decision to pardon Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal also made him unpopular in public opinion.
Trump and his supporters were actively campaigning against Ford when he decided to run for the office of the President again. Ford lost the election to the incumbent president Jimmy Carter and announced his decision to resign on December 29, 1978. Three months later he was granted a full pardon by the Carter administration at his request.
Ford did not enjoy much love among the American people during his presidency. There were many incidents during his presidency that made him unpopular, including the pardon of Nixon, the decision to shut down the Ford PSA factory, and the end of the Pinto gas tank dumpling controversy.
Legacy of Gerald Ford as President
The Ford administration was marked by several challenges but it also had a few achievements that have shaped modern American society. One of the most significant contributions of the Ford administration was the establishment of the EPA which protects the environment from industrial and commercial activities.
The Ford administration also established the Office of Personnel Management, Social Security, and the Department of Energy. The Ford administration also had a significant role in the Panama Canal Treaty that created a canal zone in Panama and gave the United States access to the canal for the first time since 1903. The Ford administration also supported the Equal Rights Amendment and passed several laws protecting the rights of women.