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Learning to Lead

The secret journal of Gerald Ford

August 10, 1974

And here’s another thing Nixon never told me: the kitchen here at the White House is open twenty-four hours. I want a bologna sandwich at 4:00 am, I get one, with or without mustard. It’s entirely up to me.

August 26

Some bad news already on my watch: The Partridge Family is being cancelled. Betty counsels that now is not the time to “call in my chips” with the network. Still, I feel so damn impotent!

October 1

I’m feeling the heat for pardoning RMN. What choice did I have? If the public knew the threats he made against the entire Michigan football program—varsity and JV—they’d understand that I acted in the best interests of the Big Ten and surely the American people as well.

January 3, 1975

You know, Rockefeller loaned me five bucks a week ago and has been on me like white on rice ever since to pay him back. Payday’s the fifteenth, Nellie. Maybe he’s a little miffed that I pointed out his so-called great art collection doesn’t have any Norman Rockwell. You could tell by the frozen look on his face, he knew I had him.

On a kinder note, I think he’s the best vice president this country’s had since Spiro Agnew.

May 28

Yale Law has asked me to go and speak about my handling of the Mayaguez incident and its impact on international torts. I enjoyed my graduate years in New Haven, but I’m in no hurry to return. I still owe a paper to Professor Atkins, and if somebody wants to learn about torts they can just go buy one like anyone else. There’s a nice Italian bakery on Chapel Street, for heaven’s sake.

August 29

Met the president of France today, Valerie Giscard d’Estaing. Can you imagine going through life with that first name? What were his parents thinking?

I suppose the song “A Boy Named Sue” has special poignancy for him. I hope he’s heard it, because a song like that might make him realize he’s not so alone.

December 14

Brezhnev keeps calling and wanting me to send a few more Lincoln Continentals for him to tool around Moscow. I guess I can use my contacts in Detroit to find out what’s available, but Leonid’s given me no list of options or even colors he’s interested in. I’m assuming he wants leather. Eight-track? Who knows. I’m flying blind and frankly it makes me feel a little used.

January 4, 1976

The Bicentennial year is here at last. It’s hard to imagine this great nation of ours is almost 750 years old.

April 27

Thank goodness for the kids—they keep me young. Susan and Steve have turned me on to a quartet called Foghat, and my, how they set the toes a-tappin’! Betty and I haven’t rocked this hard since the Captain & Tennille played the Kennedy Center.

July 1

My press secretary, Ron Nessen, thinks we need to prepare a statement regarding the upcoming Viking I landing on Mars. What if it detects the presence of aliens? Ron’s obviously out of the loop about what’s going on in Roswell, New Mexico.

The latest update from the Air Force: the creatures ask incessantly to meet George Clinton of a band called Parliament/ Funkadelic. Apparently, it was his song “Mothership Connection” that drew them to our planet in the first place.

September 8

This Carter guy has me worried. I’d rather run against anybody than a peanut farmer. This country loves peanut farmers.

Maybe I can point out in a debate what the price of Skippy is these days. But that might only alienate the Peter Pan aficionados.

Nobody said politics was going to be easy.

November 3

Well, everything will be clear tomorrow. Win or lose, I have a remarkable legacy to be proud of … inoculating pigs against the swine flu … millions of fire hydrants proudly painted the colors of Old Glory—a tradition that will outlive us all, I bet … a renewed faith in the dignity and judgement of the Oval Office … and Foghat at #1 three weeks in a row.

A country can’t ask more of its President than that.