In the wake of Watergate, it seemed the United States was coming apart. America had experienced a decade of horrifying assassinations; the unprecedented resignation of first a vice president and then a president of the United States; intense cultural and social change; and a new mood of cynicism sweeping the country—a mood that, in some ways, lingers today.
Into that divided atmosphere stepped an unexpected, unelected, and largely unknown American—Gerald R. Ford. In contrast to every other individual who had ever occupied the Oval Office, he had never appeared on any ballot either for the presidency or the vice presidency; he had issued no policy statements nor had he ever run for national office. Now, he was being thrust into a chaotic environment in which our very future as a functioning democracy was being seriously questioned.
Gerald Ford simply and humbly performed his duty to the best of his considerable ability. By the end of his 895 days as president, he would in fact have restored balance to our country, steadied the ship of state, and led his fellow Americans out of the national trauma of Watergate. And yet, Gerald Ford remains one of the least studied and least understood individuals to have held the office of the President of the United States. In turn, his legacy also remains severely underappreciated.
In When the Center Held, Ford’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld candidly shares his personal observations of the man himself, and provides a sweeping examination of his crucial years in office. It is a rare and fascinating look behind the closed doors of the Oval Office, including never-before-seen photos, memos, and anecdotes, from a unique insider’s perspective—essential reading for any fan of presidential history.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Author's Note xi
1 The Long National Nightmare 1
2 "Give Me Hell" 17
3 The Pardon 35
4 Public Enemy Number One 59
5 Choosing Rockefeller 77
6 Morning Coats and Wolf Furs: Ford Abroad 89
7 Neither Confirm nor Deny: The Glomar Explorer and the Crisis in the CIA 107
8 The Reagan Shadow 125
9 The Fall of Vietnam 141
10 Ford at the Helm: The SS Mayaguez Crisis 167
11 Commander in Chief 179
12 Assassins' Target 195
13 The (So-Called) Halloween Massacre 213
14 Rumble from the Right 225
15 Last Campaign 245
List of Illustrations 317