Image and the Gerald Ford Presidency

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Francis Marion University

Scott Kaufman is a Board of Trustees Research Scholar and chair of the Department of History at Francis Marion University, where he teaches such classes as “U.S. Military History” and “The Vietnam War.” He is the author, co-author, or editor of twelve books on American military, diplomatic, and presidential history, including Project Plowshare: The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Explosives in Cold War America, and Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party: A Political Biography of Gerald R. Ford.

 

 

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July 14, 2022, 4:00 pm

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President Gerald Ford is oftentimes viewed as a caretaker president who entered the Oval Office through an unprecedented series of events, whose only significant act was to pardon Richard Nixon, and who could not win a presidential election in his own right. What contributed—and continues to contribute—to this assessment is image. When Ford fell down the stairs of Air Force One, it gave way to a popular depiction of him as physically unsteady.  Furthermore, several of his initiatives and comments–whether they be the Nixon pardon, the Whip Inflation Now campaign, the “Halloween massacre,” or his gaffe in his second debate with Jimmy Carter–lent credence to the notion that there was a connection between his apparent klutziness and a lack of intelligence. A closer look reveals that such assessments are unfair. Ford had some significant accomplishments, even though he had to contend with a Republican Party and a country in a period of transition.

 

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