The arc of Gerald Ford’s career is unique and strange—following the resignation of Spiro Agnew from the vice-presidency in 1973, Ford was bumped from House minority leader into the second most powerful office in the land. And after Nixon stepped down, Ford stepped up, though he couldn’t keep his footing—he lost the election in 1976 that would’ve made him president via the traditional route. Cannon (Time and Chance: Gerald Ford’s Appointment with History), who served as Ford’s domestic policy adviser, presents his former boss’s life in this expertly crafted biography as one unbroken expression of “ability, integrity, and trustworthiness”—from football star in Grand Rapids, Mich., to career congressman and on to the Oval Office—though the book is not without incisive criticisms (“Lacking guile himself, rarely saw it in others”). His portrait benefits greatly from intimate contact with Ford, as well as from numerous interviews conducted post-presidency, when Ford candidly assessed his time in office in “plain words and flat Midwestern voice.” Cannon’s treatment avoids any overt political bias (though it is consistently favorable) and illuminates an oft-derided president who made up for a lack of showmanship with intelligence, understanding, and dedication. This is a first-rate political history and a compassionate biography. 17 b&w photos. (June)
"Cannon portrays a man who, despite the shadow of the Nixon pardon clouding his presidency, maintained an honorable reputation in the often unsavory business of politics."
"The life of this honest and plain-spoken man...will delight historians and general readers alike."
—Dr. Henry Kissinger
Cannon was a longtime journalist who became an aide to New York governor Nelson Rockefeller and then, when President Gerald Ford chose Rockefeller as his vice president in 1974, a domestic-policy adviser in the Ford administration. His authorized biography of Ford, Time and Chance, was published in 1998. After President Ford’s death in 2006, Cannon set out to present a completed and revised biography of him. Cannon had not quite finished it when he died in 2011; Scott Cannon, the author’s son, contributes a short afterword. There is considerable overlap between this book and Cannon’s earlier biography, not surprisingly, especially with regard to Ford’s early years. Furthermore, both books cover Ford in much the same fashion as Ford’s autobiography, A Time To Heal (1979), and neither adds a great deal to our knowledge or understanding of this “least celebrated of recent presidents,” a man whom Cannon, among other writers, considers a highly decent man who restored integrity to the presidency after Watergate.
Verdict As the complete edition of Cannon’s biography, this will have value for presidential biography collections beyond the earlier edition. General readers who know little about Ford will find this a satisfactory, if somewhat plodding, introduction to Ford’s life, but it’s not crucial for collections owning the previous books.Robert Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY
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An advisor to President Gerald Ford (1913–2006) pens an admiring biography of America's most anomalous and, possibly, most underrated chief executive. In 1974, America was led by a president and vice president for whom no one had voted. The first in our history appointed to the vice presidency by means of the 25th Amendment, Ford became president when Richard Nixon resigned, as Vice President Spiro Agnew had before him, in disgrace. Throughout the course of his administration, Ford faced a country torn by the Watergate scandal, exhausted by the war in Vietnam and mired in an economic depression. Still, even with Congress in the hands of the Democrats, Ford managed to reassure the nation and restore some measure of trust in government. Cannon (Apostle Paul: A Novel, 2005, etc.) moves swiftly over Ford's early life, education and legal practice, even his distinguished 25-year congressional career. Nor, except for a brief treatment of Ford's 1980 flirtation with joining the Reagan ticket, is there much about the Michigander's 29-year post-presidency. Cannon focuses on the Constitutional crisis that brought Ford to high office, the man's exceptional character, how he dealt with the major issues and how he managed the presidency, particularly the members of his Cabinet. Although Cannon has Ford confessing to a few political sins--a misguided crusade during his congressional years against Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, the cowardly dumping of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller from the '76 ticket--and faults him for failing to win election in his own right, this insider account persuasively demonstrates that the man was a far better president than campaigner and that, at a particularly low moment in our history, we were perhaps luckier than we knew to have him. Prior to his career in government service, Cannon (who died at 93 in 2011) spent years as a journalist, and that training shows in this smoothly readable account.