When the Center Held | Donald Rumsfeld

Summary of: When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency
By: Donald Rumsfeld


Step into the turbulent era of American history following the Watergate scandal with the insightful book summary of ‘When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency’ by Donald Rumsfeld. In this piece, we shine a light on the highlights of Ford’s presidency echoing themes of honesty, integrity, and basic human decency. The challenges ahead were immense as Ford, who had never held an executive position before, strived to calm a nation in crisis and heal divisions with a non-partisan approach. While many remember Ford for granting Nixon a pardon, this summary will offer a broader and more nuanced picture of his presidency.

The Center Holds

Gerald R. Ford was a man of integrity and decency who served his country in many ways. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and spent more than two decades in Congress representing Michigan. When he became vice president, he had never held an executive position. After President Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Ford became the 38th president of the United States. He had never been on a national ballot as a vice presidential or presidential nominee. During his 895 days in office, Ford played a critical role in restoring the public’s trust in government. He was the center of America when the country needed to find its way again. Like the center on a football team, Ford’s contributions were not always visible to the public, but his teammates – in this case, the American people – knew his importance. He was a man of great character who exemplified the values of honesty and integrity throughout his long and varied public service career.

The Leadership of President Ford

President Ford became the leader that America needed in a moment of crisis. Without a mandate or a partisan plan, Ford used his calm and thoughtful nature to heal a nation divided by political turmoil. He earned the trust and admiration of the American people, who appreciated his accessibility and transparency. Despite lacking a clear policy agenda, Ford addressed issues as they arose, including the controversy surrounding Nixon’s pardon, a worsening economy, and his wife Betty’s mastectomy and battle with alcoholism. His personal traits and his prioritization of his wife’s counsel made him a successful and empathetic leader who brought stability to a chaotic time.

The Pardon and The VP Shuffle

The aftermath of Nixon’s pardon and Ford’s nomination of Rockefeller as VP are discussed in this passage.

Richard Nixon, following the Watergate scandal, left office in disgrace. Despite evidence of his involvement in the cover-up, Nixon refused to confess. Gerald Ford, who succeeded him as president, chose to pardon Nixon, believing it was the merciful thing to do. However, the American public reacted negatively. Many people felt that Nixon had gotten away without facing any consequences. Even the journalists who broke the Watergate story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, expressed their disappointment.

As the scrutiny on Ford’s decision intensified, he needed to justify himself. He testified before Congress to prove that he had nothing to apologize for or hide. A Supreme Court case also determined that accepting a pardon meant admitting guilt. Hence, Ford’s decision to pardon indicated Nixon’s guilt without the need for a trial.

After the dilemma caused by Nixon’s pardon, Ford was faced with the task of finding a new vice president. Nelson Rockefeller, the former governor of New York, was chosen for the position. Ford believed him to be an ideal candidate who would assist in running the administration and strengthen the Republican ticket in the 1976 presidential election. However, Rockefeller proved to be challenging to work with due to his controlling demeanor. Ford ultimately replaced him with Sen. Robert Dole in his bid for re-election.

In summary, the outcome of Nixon’s pardon was negative, with the majority of Americans believing that Ford made the wrong decision. The nomination of Rockefeller led to a tumultuous working relationship with Ford, which ultimately culminated in his replacement as VP. This passage explores the aftermath of two significant events in American political history.

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