Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald Ford

Overview

In an extraordinary series of private interviews, conducted over sixteen years with the stipulation that they not be released until after Ford's death, the thirty-eighth president of the United States reveals a profoundly different side of himself: funny, reflective, gossipy, strikingly candid -- and the stuff of headlines.

In 1974, award-winning journalist and author Thomas DeFrank, then a young correspondent for Newsweek, was interviewing ...
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Overview

In an extraordinary series of private interviews, conducted over sixteen years with the stipulation that they not be released until after Ford's death, the thirty-eighth president of the United States reveals a profoundly different side of himself: funny, reflective, gossipy, strikingly candid -- and the stuff of headlines.

In 1974, award-winning journalist and author Thomas DeFrank, then a young correspondent for Newsweek, was interviewing Vice President Gerald R. Ford when Ford blurted out something astonishingly indiscreet related to the White House, came around his desk, grabbed DeFrank's tie, and told the reporter he could not leave the room until he promised not to publish it. "Write it when I'm dead," he said -- and that agreement formed the basis for their relationship for the next thirty-two years.

During that time, they talked frequently, but from 1991 to shortly before Ford's death in 2006, the interviews became something else -- conversations between two men in which Ford talked in a way few presidents ever have. Here is the real Ford on his relationship with Richard Nixon (including the 1974 revelation that, in DeFrank's words, "will alter what history thinks it knows about the events that culminated in Ford's becoming president"); Ford's experiences on the Warren Commission; his complex relationships with Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter; his startling, never-before-disclosed discussions with Bill Clinton during the latter's impeachment process; his opinions about both Bush administrations, the Iraq war, and many contemporary political figures; and much more. Here also are unguarded personal musings: about key cultural events; his own life, history, and passions; his beloved wife, Betty; and the frustrations of aging.

In all, it is an unprecedented book: illuminating, entertaining, surprising, heartwarming, and, in many ways, historic.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Longtime Newsweek correspondent DeFrank was an untested reporter when he was placed on what seemed like a hard-luck beat: covering Vice President Gerald Ford. After all, what could be less thrilling than reporting on the doings of the congressman from Michigan who had been appointed to replace Spiro Agnew as Richard Nixon's veep? DeFrank was given an unprecedented scoop early in his job, when Ford let spill that he believed Nixon's presidency was doomed, but the reporter agreed to put a lid on it: "Write it when I'm gone," Ford told him. Brick reads dramatically, with fitful stops and starts, giving the patina of history to some of the less fondly remembered elements of 1970s politics. His reading conveys some of DeFrank's sincere fondness for Ford and the friendly relationship they struck up while Ford was vice president and in the White House. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Four months before President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, Vice President Ford blurted out to DeFrank, a young Newsweekreporter, that Nixon would be forced out of office. Realizing that he would lose credibility if this remark were made public, Ford grabbed the shocked reporter and made him promise not to quote him until after his (Ford's) death. So began a close personal and professional relationship. DeFrank (Washington bureau chief, New York Daily News; coauthor, with James A. Baker III, The Politics of Diplomacy) and Ford met 30 times from 1991 to soon before Ford's death a year ago, their talks serving as the core of this engaging account. DeFrank remembers Ford as a likable guy and down-to-earth president who actually enjoyed reporters. Ford claimed that the Nixon pardon was his greatest policy achievement, necessary to getting the nation moving again, although it likely cost him the 1976 election. Even his notable political enemies, especially Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, became Ford's personal friends. Ford retained his loyalty and fondness for his two chiefs of staff, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, despite his misgivings about the Iraq War. This book radiates the warmth between Ford and DeFrank and contains enough enlightening and gossipy stories to maintain the reader's interest. A fine selection for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ7/07.]
—Karl Helicher

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399154508
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/30/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

THOMAS M. DEFRANK is the Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News, and was Newsweek's senior White House correspondent for a quarter-century and deputy chief of the magazine's Washington bureau for twelve years. He is also the coauthor of three books, including James A. Baker III's The Politics of Diplomacy and Ed Rollins's Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms. In 2006, he won the Gerald R. Ford Prize for distinguished reporting on the presidency.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    Nothing Remarkable

    In these pages reveals a man frustrated with aging, his party's crumbling political struggle, and a man as humbling as we needed during those tumultuous days after Watergate. Ever the loyalist, he never criticizes Rumsfeld or Cheney for their despicable cowardice. Of course, I think in his last years of life he wasn't really cogent in thought, so I won't go far in his summations of people. I got tired of Mr. DeFrank's almost slathering accounts of Ford's largesse in mutual funds, corporate sharings, and board membership on CITIgroup and other companies. When can America learn that money is not everything, not even the Great Depression taught us that? One thing that was insightful was his loathing of Reagan and his grudging admiration of Senator Clinton, who he said 'would make a helluva candidate.' I couldn't agree more. Farewell, old friend. You stirred the ship of State at its most perilous times since Lincoln or maybe now. I know the angels are forever routing for the Wolverines for you.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting

    Write It When I¿m Gone Thomas M. DeFrank Putnam, Nov 2007, $25.95 ISBN: 9780399154508 This is an interesting look at the late President Ford through his off the record discussions with reporter Thomas DeFrank over the three plus decades. The book is more anecdotal than a biography, but remains prescient as the audience obtains how Mr. Ford saw the direction of the country, Nixon and Watergate, being an unelected president, his political party, and the presidents that followed him. The latter is the most fun as Mr. Ford blames Reagan not Nixon and the pardon for his loss in 1976 when the then California governor attacked him giving Carter and the Democrats some strong ammunition Mr. Ford bitterly pointed out that the famous Reagan eleventh commandment was created when the great communicator became the star attraction front runner. He admitted that he admired the incredible communications skills of Reagan and Clinton, especially the latter¿s ability to grasp and explain complex issues Reagan he felt was to lazy to bother beyond a sound bite. The best moments to this reviewer are his prediction that Bush II will have problems justifying the Iraq invasion on WMDs and during the Clinton presidency predicted that Hilary will be on the national ticket in 04 or 08. It is interesting to read how one president evaluated his living exclusive club members and those who failed to win entry like Perot, WRITE IT WHEN I¿M GONE proves that LBJ was wrong about Mr. Ford he obviously wore a helmet when he played center at Michigan. ---- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted January 16, 2009

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    Posted November 19, 2008

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