During one of the darkest days of the Watergate scandal, Nixon secretly confided in Ford, at the time the House minority leader. He begged for help. He complained about fair-weather friends and swore at perceived rivals in his own party. "Tell the guys, goddamn it, to get off their ass and start fighting back," Nixon pleaded with Ford in one call recorded by the president's secret taping system.Woodward pushes forward the question whether Ford really was chosen as VP simply because he was objectively the best person for the job and whether Ford really did pardon Nixon for the stated reason of moving the country forward. These are dark and critical questions that Woodward is now free to raise. We're honoring the dead President this week, and that is fitting, but historical understanding is more important. What should we really think of President Ford?
And Ford did. "Anytime you want me to do anything, under any circumstances, you give me a call, Mr. President," he told Nixon during that May 1, 1973, conversation. "We'll stand by you morning, noon and night."...
"You've got a hell of a lot of friends up here," Ford told him, "both Republican and Democrat, and don't worry about anybody being sunshine soldiers or summer patriots."
"Well, never Jerry Ford," Nixon replied. "But if you could get a few congressmen and senators to speak up and say a word, for Christ's sakes."
Ford was played a copy of that tape in 2005. Although the existence of Nixon's secret taping system had been publicly disclosed in 1973, no such tapes of Ford had come to public attention, and the former president seemed stunned. "I remember vividly that," he said, recalling how Nixon often turned to him to get things done on the Hill. He added that he considered himself to be Nixon's "only real friend."
December 29, 2006
Bob Woodward reveals information he characterizes as showing that Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were closer friends than we'd thought: