President of the U.S., 1974-1977; Republican Rep. (MI)
1970s CIA assassination efforts led to ban on assassinations
The Obama administration referred to [stepped up] drone attacks as "targeted killing," rather than "assassinations." The euphemism was of legal significance. The 1970s congressional investigations of the CIA had uncovered the American efforts to
assassinate foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro, and in response President Ford issued an executive order that banned assassinations. The order remained in effect in 2009. The administration's formal reasoning for why its overseas killings did not
constitute assassination went like this: Congress had authorized the use of force against al-Qaeda. Therefore, America was at war, and under the law of war, America had the right to defend itself "by targeting persons such as high-level al-Qaeda leaders
who are planning attacks." Since the laws of war permitted targeted killing, the Obama administration argued, therefore the practice wasn't illegal, and "hence does not constitute assassination."
OpEd: Kept FBI informed of Warren Commission activities
After the JFK assassination, Nixon recommended to President Johnson that Ford be put on the Warren Commission. There, Ford served as the FBI's informant about what the commission was up to. This was confirmed long afterward, in an FBI memo stating: "Ford
indicated he would keep me thoroughly advised as to the activities of the commission. He stated that would have to be done on a confidential basis, however, he thought it had to be done."
We also have learned from some handwritten notes of Ford's that
he changed one of the most significant findings in the "Warren Report." A first draft had said that a bullet had "entered JFK's back at a point slightly below the shoulder to the right of the spine." Whoops! That trajectory meant there was no way for the
bullet to emerge from Kennedy's neck and then somehow hit Gov. Connally. No more "magic bullet"! So Ford urged the commission to change the description and put the wound up higher. So Ford had always been counted on to help out in critical situations.
1964: Evaluated Kennedy assassination for Warren Report
Life magazine devoted most of its Oct. 2, 1964, issue to the Warren Report, assigning commission member (and future president) Gerald Ford the job of evaluating it. In 1997, the Assassination Records Review Board would release handwritten noted by Ford,
revealing that he had misrepresented the placement of the president's back wound--raising it several inches to suggest he'd instead been struck in the neck--in order to make it fit the theory that a single bullet had hit both Kennedy and Gov. Connally.
Otherwise, the entire lone-assassin notion would have collapsed.
That same issue of "Life" underwent two major revisions AFTER it went on sale. One of the articles was illustrated with eight frames from the Zapruder film. But Frame 323 turned out to
contradict the Warren Report's conclusion about the shots all coming from the rear. So the issue was recalled, the plates broken and re-set, (this was all pre-computer) and Frame 313 showing the president's head exploding became the replacement.
Give draft evaders opportunity to earn their records back
Q: In granting the pardon to former President Nixon, part of your rationale was to put Watergate behind us. Why does not the same rationale apply to the men who resisted in Vietnam, many of them in exile?
FORD: The amnesty program I recommended would give all draft evaders the opportunity to earn their good record back. We gave them ample time. I am against- an across-the-board pardon of draft evaders or military deserters.
CARTER: Pardon means that what you did, whether it's right or wrong, you're forgiven for it. I advocate a pardon for draft evaders. I think now is the time to heal our country after the
Vietnam War and I think that what the people are concerned about is not the pardon or the amnesty of those who evaded the draft, but--but whether or not our crime system is--is fair.
I wanted my 1976 campaign to emphasize my dedication to 5 central themes: increased freedom for all our citizens from the encroachments of an ever-expanding federal government, the preservation of our free enterprise system,
continued fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, and affirmation of the rights and responsibilities of state and local government.
Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.296
, Jul 9, 1975
Negotiated SALT-II missile limits with USSR
We had agreed on the general framework of SALT II pact. We still had to button down two things: the numbers of launchers and MIRVs permitted each side, and whether to specify equal numbers of these for each country or allow a differential--with the
Soviets to have more launches and the US more MIRVs.
Brezhnev wanted us to stop production of the Trident submarine and cancel our plans to build the B-1 bomber. Our national security, I replied, demanded that we push forward with both.
We simply couldn't rely on our ageing B-52's.
Brezhnev turned to look me in the eye. "This is an opportunity to protect not only the people of our two countries but, really, all mankind. We have accomplished something very significant, and it's our
responsibility, yours and mine, on behalf of our countries, to achieve the finalization of the document. "
"I am optimistic that we can," I said. "We have made so much headway. This is a big step forward to prevent a nuclear holocaust."
Two years alternative service for Vietnam draft dodgers
After the Civil War, Lincoln had offered deserters restoration of their rights if they withdrew support from the enemy and swore allegiance to the Union. He was criticized for being too lenient, but his was probably the right decision at the time.
Draft dodgers, I said, could escape punishment for their offenses if they would agree to 3 conditions.
First, they'd have to present themselves to a US Attorney before January 31, 1975. They'd have to pledge allegiance to the country and agree to fulfill a two year period of alternative service.
Finally, they'd have to complete that obligation satisfactorily.
In 1965, total federal spending topped $100 billion for the first time in history. By 1975 it climbed above $300 billion. Some pundits attributed this dizzy spiral to the war in Vietnam and the hearty appetites of the "big spenders" in the Pentagon.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. In 1959, we were spending 40% of the budget for national defense. By 1974, that figure had declined to 24%, and the sums we were allocating for research and development, the procurement of new weapons
systems, and the restoration of mobilization capacity had fallen to alarmingly low levels.
At the same time, another trend was developing. In 1959, federal payments to individuals accounted for 24% of the budget. By 1974, that figure had climbed to
44%. That was changing the nature of the government's role. In the early days of the Republic, the government's function was to promote domestic order and maintain national security. By 1974, its main function seemed to be the redistribution of income.
In the summer of 1964, the commission staff began work on our financial report. Although we'd heard rumors that linked the FBI and the CIA to the President's death, we hadn't found any connection between those agencies and Oswald himself.
As regards the possibility that the Soviets or the Cubans might have been involved, we checked every allegation to the best of our ability and came up with nothing tangible. We knew about Oswald's trips to
Mexico and his meetings with representatives of the Cuban and Soviet embassies there, but because of the manner in which our intelligence agents had obtained the information (subsequently it was revealed that we had bugging devices in the
Soviet embassy in Mexico City), we decided not to publish the details, and that was a judgment in which I concurred.