<b>A former president's candid words</b>Thomas M. DeFrank was a young reporter for <i>Newsweek</i> when, in the fall of 1973, he was assigned to cover Richard Nixon's newly appointed vice president, Gerald Ford. During DeFrank's first few months on the beat, it became apparent that the mushrooming Watergate scandal would probably sweep Nixon from office. But it was while DeFrank was getting to know Ford as the dutiful vice president that he developed a high level of respect and affection for him.
Ford, in turn, liked and trusted the reporter and later agreed to do a series of no-subject-barred interviews. The proviso was that his answers would not be published until after his death, thus the title of this book, <b>Write It When I'm Gone</b>. Those interviews, which generally took place at Ford's homes in Palm Springs, California, and Beaver Creek, Colorado, stretched from 1991 until the fall of 2006, less than two months before he died.
Even off the record, Ford was never vengeful or petty, DeFrank reports. He was congenitally too fair-minded and amiable for that. But he did hold grudges that were not easily neutralized. He disliked Jimmy Carter, who beat him out for the presidency in 1976, although the two eventually became friends. He blamed Ronald Reagan for failing to support him in the '76 election and thought that Reagan took credit for policies his Republican predecessor had launched. Ford's loyalty to friends was just as strong as his sense of political propriety: It held rock-steady for his former protÅ½gÅ½s, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, even as he watched them plummet in public favor. DeFrank, who's now Washington bureau chief for the <i>New York Daily News</i>, assiduously documents Ford's enthusiasms, high among which were his wife Betty, making lots of money from his past political prominence, daily swims, the University of Michigan football team and golf. The picture that finally emerges is of a warm and decent man who valued relationships over policies and who always seemed slightly surprised that other people fell short of his own standards.