Reading this 442 page hardback is now like reading a history book of that trying time and as I have come to admire Gerald Ford over years, reading this in his own words, gave me a breadth of understanding that I never had before of the turmoil he faced. He was a very decent man, honorable and never dreamed of being president, in fact his aspiration was to become Speaker of the House. He describes his political battles while in Congress, and his long hours as House Minority leader. There is a small part about his very early years and how his natural father appears when he is 16 years old, the hard times the family went through, and his struggle to be accepted by the Yale Law school. Ford was never given the credit he deserved as a man who rose to guide a tattered country. Page 156 describing the growing entitlements and how by 1974, the role of government was shifting from promoting domestic order and maintaining national security to redistribution of income on a massive scale. " More and more people who worked were transferring more and more money to people who didn't work. ...I couldn't abolish those entitlement programs but I could try to put the brakes on their rate of growth."
I had long forgotten that he tried early on to deal with rising crime (pgs. 269-270) adopting the theories of Harvard Professor James Q Wilson, who advocated that crimes should be punished, that the purpose of prison is to punish not to rehab. "The certainty of having to spend a specified time behind bars after being convicted of a serious offense, Wilson maintained, was more important as a deterrent than almost anything else. Finally Wilson worried that the nation's opinion leaders were focusing their concerns on the criminal and not on the victims of criminal acts."
Page 346, "In many respects I had all the liabilities of an incumbent President and few advantages. ..Occasionally in making up my mind whether to sign or veto a bill I had appeared to be indecisive. The Common Situs Picketing bill was a perfect example." This struggle with labor unions, congress, and members of his cabinet makes fascinating historical reading now. Yet how far the country has traveled down the downward slope since Ford's presdency. Reading this book shows how history becomes predictable. Page 346, " "A great nation cannot escape its responsibilities. Responsibilities abandoned today will return as more acute crises tomorrow." Flash forward today with the wreck Obama is continuing to make of this country, especially with the Iran nuclear deal, creating absolute crises and likely nuclear war in the future.
I rate this book 4 stars, some details are tedious but my depth of understanding of governmental operations, policy implications and legislation handily contributed to my appreciation of the work. Once again my 34 years career in state government is beneficial. Still one could skim some of the detail and still appreciate the history conveyed, written then but enjoyable reading now.