Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Jerry Ford and His Flying Circus: A Presidential Diary

David Murray of The Chicago Sun-Times files this lead: "President Ford came to Sioux City today to tell Iowa farmers what he is not going to do to relieve their economic problems."

Los Angeles, California. Oct. 31.
At 7:16 P.M., Nessen announces that the president has just telephoned Mrs. Richard Nixon in Long Beach and said: "I don't want to push, but would it help if I came down there?" Nessen said Ford was checking to see if his schedule allowed him time—in fact, there has always been a suspiciously blank spot on the schedule for the morning of November 1.

After meetings with Governor Ronald Reagan and a couple of cocktail parties, the president goes to a $250-and $500-a-plate Republican dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel. It's a rather classy affair and as I walk into the hotel, a man in a Cadillac asks, "Do you park the cars around here?"

The president sits on the dais for an hour and 38 minutes listening to a succession of local Republicans, Bob Hope, and the music of Manny Harmon, who says Ford asked him to play the songs from Oklahoma!

Hope is very funny, perhaps closer to the truth than he knows: "The president and Henry Kissinger are both early risers. Whoever gets to the airport first gets the plane." The press, at least, are absolutely convinced that Ford is traveling to avoid being president. Nessen, battered by questions about who's running the country, says, "Look, he enjoys this. He's having a good time." Ford himself adds that he enjoys the food at political dinners.

Los Angeles, California. Nov. 1.
At 8:15 A.M., Nessen announces that Ford will leave at 9:35 to visit Nixon. In talking later about the visit, Ford always refers to Nixon as "the president."

Fresno, California. Nov. 1.
There are worse public speakers than Gerald Ford—Representative Robert Mathias is one. It's shattering for everyone who remembers Bob Mathias of Tulare, California, winning the decathlon in the 1948 London Olympics, but Congressman Mathias is reading slowly when he says: "I'm proud to be your representative. Frankly, I'm anxious to get back to work. . . . Please get out and vote."

Ford follows that with an inadvertent double entendre: "This big valley . . . to serve its people in Congress it produces big men, mentally and otherwise, in Bob Mathias."

Anyway, Mathias still looks terrific at 44 and the signs in the airport crowd are creative: U.S. GET OUT OF NORTH AMERICA. . . PARDON ME, PINHEAD. . . FOLLOW YOUR PRESIDENT: STARVE . . . I'M BORED WITH FORD.

The president is having even more trouble than usual with the language. He says judgment as "judge-e-ment," almost with an Italian accent; athlete becomes "ath-e-lete," with the same accent; seance becomes "see-ance," and the capital of California is someplace called "Sacer-emento."

"This guy's going to Vladivostok?" says George Murphy of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Portland, Oregon. Nov. 1.
The president's staff is furious when Air Force One lands in Portland—Ford has been taken by someone named Diarmuid O'Scannlain.

O'Scannlain is the Republican candidate for Congress in Oregon's First District and he appeared in Fresno to hitch a ride north on Air Force One. He then wanted to talk to Ford, and did, for a couple of minutes—then he ran back to the press section of Air Force One and said he had just told the president of the United States that he was wrong to pardon Nixon and wrong to propose a 5 per cent income-tax surcharge.

On the flight, Ford also looks over a cable from Kissinger outlining the secretary of state's speech next week to the World Food Conference in Rome. The president does not review all Kissinger speeches, Nessen says, but he does see "major" ones, and the press secretary says the incident is proof that the president is the president no matter where he travels.

At the Benson Hotel, the president meets with six representatives of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and receives a $10 beef gift certificate, which someone says he can use to buy bacon.

"I love beef," the president says. "I'm a great advocate of it. But I don't know about breakfast."

"There is such a thing as beef bacon," a cattleman says.

"Really?" Ford answers. "Is it a special part of the cattle?"

After the usual round of Republican receptions, Ford heads for the annual auction of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, a black-tie fundraising affair in the Portland Coliseum. Boats and even airplanes are being auctioned off to a handsome, champagne-drinking crowd that seems pretty recession-proof. The president is there 25 minutes—he autographs two footballs that bring $2,700 each; one pair of his cuff 'links goes for $11,000 to a lumber dealer, and another goes for $10,000 to a food distributor.


Related:

Advertising
Current Issue
Subscribe to New York
Subscribe

Give a Gift

Advertising