On hearing of the death of former President Gerald
Ford, syndicated columnist Robert Novak – who infamously "outed"
a CIA covert agent in what appears to have been a White House conspiracy, involving
Vice President Dick Cheney, to discredit the CIA operative’s husband, who had
joined the international chorus of those claiming that President Bush had knowingly
invaded Iraq on false pretenses – told CNN he "didn’t think Ford was much
of a President."
The next day, Bob Woodward published
in the Washington Post excerpts from interviews with Ford, conducted
more than a year after that invasion, but "embargoed" at Ford’s request
until his death.
By then Ford – and almost everyone else – knew that the international chorus
had been right; Bush had unconstitutionally invaded Iraq, and on false
pretenses to boot.
Way back in 1991, Saddam had abandoned his attempt to produce
fissile material for nuclear weapons, had destroyed his chemical
weapons and the infrastructure necessary for producing fissile material
or chemical agents or biological agents.
Of course, the CIA and the UN’s Special Commission on Iraq had known that since
1995, as a result of the defection of Saddam’s son-in-law,
who had been in charge of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
Furthermore, on the eve of Bush’s war to "disarm" Saddam, on-the-ground
UN inspectors had reported to the Security Council that Saddam had made no attempt
since 1991 to reconstruct that infrastructure.
However, by the time Woodward interviewed Ford, Bush was no longer
claiming he had launched his war of aggression to keep Saddam from
providing nukes to terrorists. No, he was claiming he had invaded Iraq
to "free" the Iraqi people.
Operation Iraqi Freedom he called it.
"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford
said, but was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the
obligation number one, of what's in our national interest."
Now, isn’t that weird? A man who’s "not much of a President" who
believes his "obligation number one" is acting "in our national
Of course, Ford had never aspired to the Presidency. And when President Nixon
proposed Ford – then the House Minority Leader – to Congress to succeed Spiro
Agnew (who resigned the Vice-Presidency in disgrace in 1973) Nixon did so largely
because Ford was certain to be confirmed.
Election by the House and confirmation by the Senate of Nixon’s reported first
choice – John Connally, protégé of Lyndon Johnson, former Democratic
Governor of Texas, former Secretary of the Treasury under Nixon, an international
wheeler-dealer, a man many people suspect was Lee Harvey Oswald’s intended target
and a man who very much aspired to be President – would not have been easy.
But Nixon – who didn’t realize he was selecting his successor – probably later
wished he had made the effort.
(You might want to reflect a few moments on the real possibility of John Connally
having become the 39th President.)
Ford was essentially unprepared to execute the office of President. He didn’t
have a staff of his own and what was left of Nixon’s staff would hardly do.
So Ford turned to his former colleagues in the House.
Congressman Donald Rumsfeld gave up his seat to become Ford’s Chief of Staff.
But, according to Woodward, Ford said he frequently kept Rumsfeld in the dark.
In particular, Ford decided "on my own" to fire Secretary of Defense
James Schlesinger and to rein in (somewhat) Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
by replacing him as National Security Advisor with his deputy, Brent Scowcroft.
Rein in Kissinger?
The guy with whom Woodward recently revealed
Dubya has been meeting, secretly, on Iraq?
Ford replaced that Kissinger as National Security Advisor with Scowcroft?
The guy who was later National Security Advisor to Bush the Elder?
The guy who was a leading proponent of ejecting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait?
The guy who was Chairman of Bush the Younger’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board?
The guy who wrote "Don’t
Attack Saddam," the August 15, 2002 Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street
Yep, that’s the guy.
Ford next forced Rumsfeld to replace Schlesinger as Secretary of Defense, leaving
young Dick Cheney – who had been a staffer in Rumsfeld’s congressional office
– to serve as Chief of Staff during the latter stages of Ford’s unsuccessful
attempt to be elected President in his own right.
Ford had initially turned to another former colleague in the House, "Bo"
Callaway, Nixon’s Secretary of the Army, to run that campaign. But according
to Woodward, Ford was under "enormous pressure" to dump Nelson Rockefeller
– who Congress had reluctantly allowed to succeed Ford as Vice President – from
the GOP ticket in 1976. Callaway and other southern Republicans were apparently
the source of much of that pressure. So, according to Woodward, when Rockefeller
offered to be dropped from the ticket, Ford took him up on the offer.
According to Woodward, Ford regretted bowing to the pressure to dump Rockefeller. It was "an act of cowardice on my part."
Woodward does not mention it, but at this point James Baker – a John Connally
protégé – then serving as Under Secretary of Commerce, replaced
Callaway as Ford’s Campaign Manager.
The guy who managed Bush the Elder’s unsuccessful campaign for the
GOP nomination in 1980, only to become Reagan’s first Chief of Staff,
and then Secretary of the Treasury?
The guy who managed Bush the Elder’s successful Presidential campaign in 1988, and then became Secretary of State?
The guy who negotiated arms reduction treaties – the Lisbon Accords – with
the Soviet Union and marshaled international opposition to Iraq's invasion of
The guy who managed Bush the Younger’s legal activities with respect to the contested Presidential election in Florida in 2000?
The guy who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group?
Yep, that’s the guy.
Well, it will be interesting to read in Woodward’s next book what else Ford
had to say about Dubya, Rummy, Cheney and the incredible unconstitutional mess
they have gotten us into, here at home, and abroad, especially in Iraq.
Of course, Ford was already 90 years old when Woodward interviewed him.
But it appears that Ford believed unto death that Presidents should take seriously
their oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United