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Ford weighs presidents

Published January 13, 2007


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - In 25 years of interviews with his hometown paper that could only be released upon his death, former President Ford once called Jimmy Carter a "disaster," and said Ronald Reagan received far too much credit for ending the Cold War. Ford told the Grand Rapids Press that his own negotiation of the Helsinki accords on human rights did more to win the Cold War than Reagan's military buildup.

On Harry Truman

"Look at what he faced. There was the challenge of Korea in 1951. He had no hesitancy using atomic weapons (on) Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He came up with the Marshall Plan, which saved Europe after World War II. ... He deserves high marks."

On Dwight Eisenhower

"The best president of my lifetime. ... The Soviets under Stalin were an aggressive, formidable military operation. NATO, under Ike, stopped them. ... Overall, the economy under him was in pretty good shape for eight years."

On John Kennedy

"He had a tremendous following, but I think the substance of his presidency was not as good as it was professed to be. ... Kennedy would never have gotten the civil rights legislation through."

On Lyndon Johnson

"Lyndon, despite his personal eccentricities, did a lot of good things. ... At times, while he was president and I was (House) minority leader, he was unfair and too tough on me. ... He was caught up in the worst aspects of the Vietnam syndrome. He inherited a policy that started with Kennedy, and he didn't want to break it off. And it kept getting worse."

On Richard Nixon

"On foreign policy, he was the best of (the 20th) century. He was very intelligent and very strong. ... Nixon was a bad president when it came to picking some of his top people - Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Colson. ... Nixon made a few very serious mistakes. He was so stubborn that he would never concede or admit that he had made them. And they steamrolled."

On his own presidency

"It was a very unhappy time in our history. Because of my background, my reputation, we calmed things down and restored confidence in the federal government. That doesn't mean people agreed with me. At least they trusted me."

On Jimmy Carter

In 1981, Ford called Carter "the poorest president in my lifetime." In 1998, he said Carter was "a better president than some comments we hear today. ... He was a very decent, fine individual. There were no major mistakes. There just weren't a lot of exciting results."

On Ronald Reagan

"A great spokesman for attractive political objectives. The American people liked to hear him talk about a balanced budget. They liked to hear him talk about how good America was and how bad communism was but, when it came to implementation, his record never matched his words."

On George Bush Sr.

"A good president. ... He handled the Saddam Hussein conflict very skillfully. ... He didn't realize, or his people didn't realize, that the economy was in trouble. ... By the time the Bush administration woke up, the Democrats had the issue and Bush never got it back."

On Bill Clinton

"Probably as skillful an articulator of politics since Franklin D. Roosevelt. I have grave reservations about his convictions, but when you come to being a salesman, he's about as good as it gets. ... I think he will come out as an average president, overall. ... He never had the substance, the willpower to face up to a crisis."




[Last modified January 13, 2007, 00:58:19]

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