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Jerry Ford and His Flying Circus: A Presidential Diary

It is a high good time. Ford is bouncing around like a kid, and when the bidding on the first football reaches $500, he grabs the microphone and says: "Double it and I'll center it to you." Which is exactly what the center of the 1934 Michigan team does—after moving around when he suddenly realizes three dozen camera lenses are focused on what his quarterback used to see. Finally, an auto-parts dealer pays $1,100 for the chair Ford had sat in for a moment.

Salt Lake City, Utah. Nov. 2.
Radio and television are waiting, of course, when Ford arrives at Salt Lake City International Airport at 10:35 A.M. Howard Cook of KSXX Radio sees it this way:

"The president of the United States is not just President Ford, a Republican. He is an institution. He is the most powerful man in the world. You say what about the Russians? They have the same power we have, but there it takes more than one man to pull the trigger. Here we're set up so that one man can do the job. He would never dream of doing it, of course, but it's within his power."

The man with the power is introduced to 8,000 people at the University of Utah by Jake Garn, the mayor of Salt Lake City and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, who tells a charming and revealing story of a meeting between fourteen mayors and Ford just five days after he succeeded Nixon:

"We were just standing around talking and somehow the president slipped into the room and came up behind me and said, 'Hi, Jake, how are things in Salt Lake City?' Then he walked around the room, shaking hands and saying, 'Hi, I'm Jerry Ford.'. . . When the meeting was over, someone asked, 'Is there anything we can do for you. Mr. President?' He said: 'Go home and pray for me. This is a very big job.' "

". . . On November 17, Ford will take the road show overseas. 'Wait till the Russians get a load of this,' someone says . . ."

Grand Junction, Colorado. Nov. 2.
I don't think there is a reporter traveling with Ford who does not personally like the man. But this has not been an inspiring month, and the talk is getting brutal. A first-timer on the Ford trail asks an important White House correspondent, "Hey, Nixon was 'Searchlight'; what's Ford's Secret Service code name?"

"Dummy!" says the senior man.

His fellow travelers are routinely calling the president "Bozo" or "Bozo, the Clown." On the flight to Grand Junction, an important political reporter almost shouts: "I can't believe this. There is no way I can get what's going on into the paper. He's Lennie. I'm telling you he's Lennie in Of Mice and Men. I can just hear him at the hospital with Nixon—'Tell me again about the rabbits, Dick.' "

Driving into Grand Junction, we see two little girls in pigtails, standing on a rise with a pony. Between them, they hold a long sign that says, PARDON, BAH!

Speaking to about 5,000 people and twenty high-school bands in the Lincoln Park Baseball Field, Ford runs into trouble as soon as he crowns Diane Poster, a pretty twenty-year-old blonde, the new Mesa College homecoming queen, and gets a laugh by pretending to write down her phone number. It's time for farm talk, and as he often does in steer country, he begins by talking about cows: "I suspect there are a few dairy farmers in this group. How many are here?"

One guy yells out.

Then the president starts talking about the unfairness of American farmers' having to compete with foreign farmers who are subsidized by their governments:

"We will challenge him on the open fields, head to head, and we will do all right. Some of the foreign governments in Western Europe have been doing, by what they call countervailing duties, subsidizing dairy products in their countries. We won't stand for it and if they are going to do that, we will challenge them, head to head.

"In the meantime, Japan, Western Europe, Canada has imposed arbitrary limitations on the export of American products to those countries. I will say to you, they are not going to limit our imports, and we are going to hold the line on exports to the United States."

To a city boy, the message finally got through: no country but the United States has the right to subsidize farmers or limit imports. And, food prices are going to keep going up. It would probably be going too far to infer that we would invade Canada if it doesn't shape up.

Finally, he winds up by saying that electing Democrats to Congress would create a "legislative dictatorship" and closes with a civics lesson that has Freudian overtones: "You know we have three great branches of this government of ours. . . . We have a strong president, supposedly, in the White House. . . ."


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