January 13, 2007

Ford did more to end the Cold War than did Reagan.

According to Gerald Ford in old interviews The Grand Rapids Press is now free to release.
Ford said Reagan, who challenged him unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in 1976, was "a great spokesman for attractive political objectives" such as a balanced budget and defeating communism, "but when it came to implementation, his record never matched his words."

Reagan was "probably the least well-informed on the details of running the government of any president I knew," Ford said. In a separate interview, he said Reagan "was just a poor manager, and you can't be president and do a good job unless you manage."

Ford contended his own negotiation of the Helsinki accords on human rights did more to win the Cold War than Reagan's military buildup. Other key factors were the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe after World War II and the establishment of NATO, he said.
He also said Carter -- who challenged him successfully in 1976 -- was "a disaster." Who did he like? Eisenhower. And Nixon wasn't so bad.

28 comments:

ShadyCharacter said...

Decent old man to bitter old crank. His legacy would have been better served if he had refrained from venting his spleen to reporters for post-mortem point scoring...

Joe said...

Reagan's pressure definitely speeded up the demise of the USSR. Carter micromanaged the details of governing and yet may be the worst president of the last century. I question Ford's criteria.

Fritz said...

Helsinki was essential and Reagan used it like a club. Gorbachev said that he knew the end of the Soviet Union was near when the Polit Beuro was discussing panty hose production, while the White House was discussing the Strategic Defense Initiative.

These revelations are a good reason why the proper protocol of former Presidents not to speak during their successor's Administrations. Too bad the last two Democrats lacking legacies feel the need to comment.

Rey said...

So now we know that President Ford was delusional. Negotiations in Helsinsky? Who was he kidding? "Yeah, my great negotiating skills ended the cold war. The fact that the Soviet Union didnt actually begin to collapse until years after my brilliant negotiating skills means nothing. Oh yeah, and my speeches captured Saddam, cure rosecia and show promise in curing cancer in lab rats"

Anonymous said...

If only we had realized the genius that Gerald Ford was! Woe is us!

Gahrie said...

You must read President Ford's comments with the knowledge that he and President Reagan were bitter rivals, and Ford never forgave Reagan for running against him for the 1980 nomination.

AllenS said...

Since Ford's death, he's managed to rip both Bush and Reagan. He's become more popular now, than when he was alive.

Pogo said...

His conclusion about the fall of the Soviet Union displays a colossal misunderstanding of history.

Reagan may have been overpraised, and Ford underappreciated, but that's no cause for faulty interpretations like this.

hdhouse said...

Ford is probably quite right. Reagan would not have succeeded unless there was a Gorbachev to lead. Remember that it was 6 years of nothing until he came to the fore.

Reagan wasn't a bad sort but I do remember better than the legend.

Mark Daniels said...

Reagan is given far too much credit when it comes to ending the Cold War. He was the beneficiary of the policy of containment put in place by Truman and solidified by Eisenhower, who wisely got us out of Korea.

Other reasons for Soviet Communism's demise were its inherent moral bankruptcy and the financial bankruptcy it engendered through decades of guns and butter policies. The Evil Empire simply could not be sustained.

I believe that, except for his shameful insensitivity to the call for civil rights and a few other things, Eisenhower was the best president of the last half of the twentieth century and one of the best ever. The release of his papers a few years ago demonstrate how hands-on he was and how good he was at keeping this nation at peace at the height of the Cold War, no small achievement. So, I think Ford was right in his assessment of Eisenhower.

If he was somewhat bitter as he looked at Reagan, I don't think he was entirely inaccurate either. Presidents with good runs are often the beneficiaries of luck. Reagan was extremely lucky, as Bill Clinton later would be.

And as to Ford's assessment of Reagan--"'a great spokesman for attractive political objectives' such as a balanced budget and defeating communism, 'but when it came to implementation, his record never matched his words'--how can any of that be denied? Reagan allowed unconscionably high deficits to accumulate in spite of his supposed principles? It was for such an insensitivity to the federal debt that Reagan rightly excoriated Democrats for decades. But after he took the oath of office, they became acceptable...and to this day his apologists defend him for this dangerous hypocrisy.

The fact is that when it came to federal spending and the size of the federal government, Ford was a conservative and Ronald Reagan was not. Ford knew the federal budget and what was going on in the government and Reagan clearly did not. Those are facts.

Now, as to whether Ford's negotiations at Helsinki were more significant in bringing about the demise of the Soviet Union and an end to the Cold War than what Reagan did, I disagree.

In fact, beyond the obvious factors for the Soviet Bloc's end mentioned above, I have always believed that the prayers of those within and outside the Soviet sphere were far more significant than any military or political policies. Important as such policies are, I agree with Tennyson, who said, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

Mark

The Drill SGT said...

ShadyCharacter said...
Decent old man to bitter old crank. His legacy would have been better served if he had refrained from venting his spleen to reporters for post-mortem point scoring...


I have no problem with "oral history" projects done by historians using a format that doesn't provide leading questions. I'm always a bit jaundiced about reporter interviews. After all, they are not interested in the unbiased truth, but rather for salacious quotes that can drive readership.

when were these done? sometime in the last 25 years. well if it was at 69, that is one thing, but the acuity of a 94 y/o might not hold up to a reporter's questioning. I'll give him some slack.

Anonymous said...

In fact, beyond the obvious factors for the Soviet Bloc's end mentioned above, I have always believed that the prayers of those within and outside the Soviet sphere were far more significant than any military or political policies. Important as such policies are, I agree with Tennyson, who said, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

Wow, I haven't read a bigger pile of gibberish on this blog in...hell, I don't know when! What, did all those people praying in the early '40's that the Nazis wouldn't come and run them over, did they screw it up somehow? Maybe they shouldn't have prayed to St.Wehrmacht, patron saint of Panzer Divisions! It's absolutely galling to hear people take credit for their sanctimonious blather when things go well, but when they turn sour? Oh, not us, don't hold us responsible! P-tui! P-tui, again! I have to spit the bad taste out of my mouth on this one! Even people who admire prayer should be revulsed by this.

vbspurs said...

"a disaster."

By all accounts, Gerald and Betty Ford had new best friends in their old age: Jimmy and Rosalind Carter.

Of course, at least he didn't say anything nasty about Jimmeh. It was just an opinion on his presidency, shared by millions.

Since Ford's death, he's managed to rip both Bush and Reagan. He's become more popular now, than when he was alive.

LOL!

Cheers,
Victoria

Fritz said...

hdhouse,
Brilliant! You Wrote: Reagan would not have succeeded unless there was a Gorbachev to lead. Remember that it was 6 years of nothing until he came to the fore.

6 years of trying to compete with our military buildup, mounting economic problems for the Soviet Union lead to his accession to leadership. The Soviets gave us someone that would act in good faith. If only your Euro friends would put the same economic screws to Iran & Syria, perhaps they might also bring such a person to the fore.

vbspurs said...

Mark Daniels wrote:

Reagan was extremely lucky, as Bill Clinton later would be.

And Truman-Kennedy, VERY unlucky ones.

With the exception of Truman, to say the least, these were all very charismatic men.

Sometimes it is no so easy to overcome genuine problems outside our own making.

But a lot can be said about projecting a winning personality, which at least is seen as able to cope and lays the atmosphere for change.

Later historians scoffed at King Edward VII, saying that people who thought he was the mastermind behind one of the greatest political alliances of all time (The Entente Cordiale), were dead wrong.

They were. But King Edward was able, by dint of his personality and mindset ALONE, to project a sea change in tone between England and France.

This is what Reagan did for America, and its foreign policy after the crucially debilitating Vietnam war.

Yes, Ford healed the country by his calm helmsmanship after the Watergate fiasco.

But Reagan's attitudes primed a change in the WORLD.

Cheers,
Victoria

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Mark Daniels: Regarding President Eisenhower--would you agree that his "Atoms for Peace" program was a pretty big blot on his tenure? In exporting nuclear technology for power, he gave fissionable material as a biproduct and thus allowed non-superpowers to gain nuclear weapons [India comes to mind]. I might even say that has devastating consequences to us today as rogue states and terrorists have more places to obtain nuclear weapon capabilities.

Gahrie said...

hdhouse:

There wouldn't have been a Gorbachev without Reagan. If we had continued with detente, the Politboro would have chosen another Brezhnev or Andropov.

Mark Daniels:

Those "unconscionably high deficits" that Reagan ran up, were what finally forced the USSR's "financial bankruptcy it engendered through decades of guns and butter policies" to actually take effect. It was the USSR's inability to keep up with Reagan's increased defense spending on weapons and research that forced them to try and reform their economy.

Fritz said...

...and another thing. The CIA had installed interceptors in a Soviet harbor. When NATO was practicing war games, the posture of the Soviet fleet was shown to be defensive rather than offensive. It indicated that they wanted survival, we could deal with this bunch.

One little known Reagan policy was to take advantage of Soviet theft of our technology. Since we knew they would steal it, we helped them. Giving them some but not all the parts to the puzzle. They would spend billions on flawed projects. One natural gas line flaw resulted in a massive explosion that was so large, that it was first thought of as a nuclear test. When they discovered that they could no longer trust what they were getting, they stopped. These little hidden nuggets, Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy!

Mark Daniels said...

Gahrie: That is often said of the Reagan deficits, but where's the proof?

Ron: As to my "pile of gibberish," you obviously didn't read the rest of what I wrote or simply ignored it. I acknowledged the role of policy and of course, I feel great gratitude to those--led in Europe by Eisenhower--won World War Two and to others who have gone to battle for freedom.

But to simply ignore the role played by prayer in the end of the Cold War is to ignore some intriguing data.

For years, Saint Peter's Church in Berlin, close to the wall, hosted a Tuesday prayer gathering. They prayed for an end to Soviet dominion. The numbers involved grew and grew, accelerating and growing as the Soviet bloc began to crumble. When the wall crumbled, hundred gathered close to the church, demonstrators holding up signs that said, "Thank you, church." That was reported in the media.

Several years ago, my son, who has degrees in History and Philosophy, did a paper on "Germany as a Pawn in the Cold War." At one place in it, as I recounted on my blog three years ago, he gave a "...description of the Church's role in the collapse of Soviet tyranny in Germany. He'd interviewed a German emigre to this country who had described some of the long-standing weekly prayer gatherings that took place in East Germany during the repressive post-World War Two era. Those prayer gatherings gave hope to people, connecting them to God and acting as conduits by which God's forgiveness, healing, and hope came to a nation which in preceding decades had been the epicenter of so much evil."

I also personally knew a group of junior high kids who, in the mid-1980s, took it on themselves to begin praying daily for the end of the Cold War.

Tennyson, I believe, was right. So was the English archbishop who said that people dismissed his "answered prayers" as coincidence. "But I have found," he said, "that the more I pray, the more coincidences happen."

Back in my atheist days, I thought such things were gibberish. I really did. But I don't think that Reagan or Ford saw evidence of the efficacy of prayer as gibberish, even though their faith was also matched by work. They had a hardnosed commitment to praying as though everything depended on God and working as though everything depended on us. This is the attitude that JFK voiced in the speech he gave at Fort Worth just before he was assassinated in Dallas. He quoted Psalm 127:1: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain."

Mere presidential rhetoric? Maybe. But I believe that it's true.

Mark

The Exalted said...

And as to Ford's assessment of Reagan--"'a great spokesman for attractive political objectives' such as a balanced budget and defeating communism, 'but when it came to implementation, his record never matched his words'--how can any of that be denied?

whoa whoa whoa, this thread is a fact free zone fella. check these at the door. anyone criticizing the Great Leader Reagan is per se delusional/and or insane/liberal.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mark, I'm ignoring nothing! I'm saying this line of blather is gibberish! I'm very, very, very aware of the countless times when people invoke their particular spin on how religious commitments of any flavor lead to positive results. And while I also have degrees in History and Philosophy, I've never once seen the devout take any responsiblity for when their intense faith leads to nada! Zip! Negative! Nothing! Sure, site all the happy results you want, hell, Tennyson too! Doesn't mean a thing, not when you take credit for things that happen afterwards! If I was a Greek Orthodox White Russian praying and praying and praying for the Holy Czar to return...well, what about him? Or the good German Catholic who prayed that Adolf Hitler would lead them all to a Blessed Place? (say, didn't the German Synod of Bishops say that, after Jesus, Hitler was "God's man on earth?" )

This has nothing to do with atheism at all; in fact, I would encourage all Christians to dump this embarrassing line of "reasoning," cause it makes you look like posuers and front-runner.

Sorry, Mark, gibberish it is.

pablo H said...

Reagan allowed unconscionably high deficits to accumulate in spite of his supposed principles? It was for such an insensitivity to the federal debt that Reagan rightly excoriated Democrats for decades. But after he took the oath of office, they became acceptable...and to this day his apologists defend him for this dangerous hypocrisy.

The fact is that when it came to federal spending and the size of the federal government, Ford was a conservative and Ronald Reagan was not. Ford knew the federal budget and what was going on in the government and Reagan clearly did not.


What complete nonsense. Ford with all his so-called knowledge never balanced the budget or even came close to it.

Reagan faced a hostile media and Tip O'Neill. He had to cut taxes to get the economy moving and increase defense spending because of the Soviets. The Democrats refused to cut Domestic Spending. Thats why no budget was balanced.

Ford, OTOH, trusted the Soviets and wanted to continue Detente. He would never would have cut taxes or balanced the budget.

Yes, I'm sure Ford a better "Manager" than Reagan. I'm sure he was hard worker, loved his dog, never told a lie, and knew all the details.

He just was wrong on all the important stuff, like taxes, defense spending, dealing with the Soviets, mobilizing Public opinion, and appointing conservative Judges to the SCOTUS.

Gahrie said...

Mark Daniels:

Gahrie: That is often said of the Reagan deficits, but where's the proof?

Well the most obvious one is the fact that the USSR doesn't exist any more. After that, I guess we'll just have to rely on all the former Soviet officials who have said so.

hygate said...

Reagan is given far too much credit when it comes to ending the Cold War. He was the beneficiary of the policy of containment put in place by Truman and solidified by Eisenhower, who wisely got us out of Korea.

I seem to recall being stationed in Korea while in the 80s. There are still around 30,000 US servicemen there today. In what way did Eisenhower get the US "out" of Korea?

hdhouse said...

Just a point of fact my little silli-can friends.

Never, ever, have tax cuts resulted in a balanced budget. You can blame spending or you can blame the tax cuts and you can blame both but at no time in our history has tax cuts spurred the economy to the extent that it was revenue positive.

Further, you all overlook the trickle down effect that tax cuts have. Under Reagan they shifted services to the States and local communities resulting in (wait for it) higher spending levels to keep services AT THE SAME LEVEL and SECOND, state income tax tables are generally dependent on the federal tax matrix. Cutting national tax revenues automatically cut state revenues.

The silli-cons refuse to remember the crisis Reagan caused at the state and local levels. They refuse to remember voo-doo economics.

Now to the topic:

I doubt many if any of you spent the entire Reagan years inside the Soviet Union. I doubt that any of you worked on US-USSR trade and economic issues from the entraprenuerial level through the trade commissions. Did Reagan's policies play a part in the breakup? Yes. Some. Emphasis on some. If you knew Russians in the 80s and the people's deep and abiding admiration for the United States (governments aside) then you would know that what happened there was inevitable.

hdhouse said...

ohhhh and rey...its helsinki not helsinkey 'key?

Mark Daniels said...

I've been busy this evening and so have been unable to respond to some of what's been said here.

As to the Atoms for Peace proposal offered by Eisenhower, it was never accepted by the Soviets. So the dire consequences cited here never ensued. Nuclear proliferation happened as a result of other factors. A proposal which Stephen Ambrose called "the best chance mankind [sic] has had in the nuclear age to slow and redirect the arms race" was only matched for its breathtaking vision by Reagan at Reykjavik. It's sad that Atoms for Peace never was implemented.

I accused no one of turning this into a conversation about atheism. I simply recalled that in my atheist days, I considered all discussions of prayer to be pure hooey. I don't any longer.

Just because the Soviet Union disbanded after Ronald Reagan's term doesn't prove that Reagan was the major instrument of that eventuality. He pursued the policy of containment in his own way--one that was superior to that of say, Lyndon Johnson. He deserves credit, along with every President from Truman to Bush the Elder.

By the way, many analysts believe that the Soviet venture in Afghanistan was the camel that broke the Evil Empire's back. (Reagan was right in pinning that epithet on the Soviet Union, I believe.) The expenditure of money necessitated by the war there was a huge drain on a system that was going nowhere.

As to the deficits under Ford and Reagan, respectively, it is true that a big deficit existed during Ford's tenure. But no President used the veto more to combat deficit spending than Ford did. He was often overridden by a Democratic Congress. Reagan worked with a Democratic Congress to bring an unprecedented explosion to the federal deficit.

As always, I could be wrong in all of this. But those are the facts as I see them.

Mark

The Exalted said...

the afghanistan debacle was a HUGE factor in the USSR's implosion. i recently read a story suggesting that carter's team helped convince the soviets they needed to invade -- stunningly cynical move from mr. peanut!