Gerald Ford As President
When Gerald Ford became President upon Richard Nixon's resignation, he pledged to be "the President of all the people." To fill the vacant vice presidency, Ford named Nelson Rockefeller, himself a two-time contender for nomination as presidential candidate and a prominent former governor of New York State; Congress registered its approval by convincing votes in both Houses.
In world affairs, the new President pledged continuation of the widely endorsed policies of his predecessor. Ford reaffirmed United States commitment to the nation's traditional allies and announced plans to visit the People's Republic of China as well as the Soviet Union. In November 1974, he flew to Vladivostok to confer with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The two men reached tentative agreement on limiting the number of both countries' strategic nuclear delivery systems. Negotiations on a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (known as SALT II), which began in 1972, were continuing between the two powers well into 1979. On August I, 1975, Ford, Brezhnev and the leaders of 33 other Eastern and Western nations signed the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Participants pledged to respect each other's sovereign equality and to cooperate in the field of human rights, for their own citizens and those of other nations.
While carrying out the nation's responsibilities in the world community, and acting to restore people's confidence in their government, President Ford gave priority attention to the serious economic problems confronting the country.
On January is, 1975, in his first State of the Union address, he forthrightly told the American people: "the State of the Union is not good," and charted a new course for the United States. Ford asked the Congress to join with him in establishing a broadranging economic program which would generate more economic activity and reduce unemployment, continuc the Administration's efforts against inflation, and help reduce American depen- dence on foreign sources of energy.
Having taken office in the midst of a serious recession, with both unemployment and inflation reaching unacceptably high levels, the President understandably concentrated on economic matters. He engaged in a running battle with what he referred to as .he spendthrift Democratic Congress," and argued forcibly for reduced government spending.
By November 1976, when the next presidential election was held, the President could argue that the economy was in better shape than it had been when he took office. However, this accomplishment was not enough to satisfy a majority of the electorate, who, perhaps angered by Ford's decision to pardon former President Nixon, voted for the Democratic nominee for President, Jimmy Carter, a former governor of the State of Georgia.
Despite his rejection at the polls, and this by only a slim 2 percent of the vote, it seems clear that Gerald Ford will be remembered as the President who restored the trust and confidence of many Americans in their institutions and government, at a time when scandals such as the Watergate incident, had caused a heightening of public cynicism and apathy.