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Write It When I'm Gone In 1974 Newsweek correspondent Thomas M DeFrank was interviewing Gerald Ford when the Vice President blurted out something astonishingly indiscreet He then extracted a promise not to publish it “Write it when I’m dead” Ford said – and thus began a thirty two year relationshipDuring the last fifteen years of their conversations Ford opened up to DeFrank speaking in a way few presidents ever have Here the award winning journalist reveals these private talks as Ford discusses his experiences with his fellow presidents the Warren Commission and his exchanges with Bill Clinton during the latter’s impeachment process In addition he shares his thoughts about both Bush administrations the Ira war his beloved wife Betty and the frustrations of aging Write It When I’m Gone is not only a historical document but an unprecedented portrait of a president

10 thoughts on “Write It When I'm Gone

  1. Aaron Million Aaron Million says:

    Written by a journalist who covered President Ford during his brief tenure as Vice President and then as President the bulk of this book concerns Ford's post presidency DeFrank and Ford had basically a handshake agreement that Ford could speak candidly mostly on the record about people and events that normally he would speak of to anyone except close personal friends or his wife But the understanding was that DeFrank could not publish any of the material until Ford died Thinking about how much the media is despised in today's political climate it is somewhat amazing that a former President would trust enough in a reporter to agree to give such non political commentary about his contemporaries That says something about both Ford and DeFrankDeFrank begins with covering Ford's vice presidency from 1973 1974 Ford unlike most other politicians who rise to the top level already remained an unpretentious and amiable Midwesterner who valued honesty and integrity above all else Ford made people feel comfortable about him because he exuded kindness and while not always giving reporters the answers that they were after did not treat them with disdain or disrespect As a result DeFrank and the others who covered him came to have a great deal of respect and admiration for Ford while being able to maintain professional objectivity when reporting about him Ford did not like everything that these journalists wrote about him but both sides kept disagreements civil But the interesting parts of the book have to do with Ford's real unvarnished thoughts on other Presidents that he knew especially Nixon and Reagan as well as people such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney Ford could not stand Reagan and basically blamed him for his loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976 Ford remained loyal to Nixon even though Nixon clearly misled him on Watergate and did not treat Ford particularly well once Nixon resigned DeFrank also includes Ford's thoughts on Bill Clinton and both Bushes Since George W Bush was in office when Ford died and when the last several interviews took place uite a bit of the discussions revolved around his administration and the handling of the Ira war Privately Ford was critical of Bush's handling Publicly he supported the President and his administration It is interesting now to read Ford's thoughts on Hillary Clinton He accurately predicted that she would run for President one day and she would be the Democratic nominee although he did get the year wrong Still he had been around politics for a long time and he could see from her personality that she was highly ambitious Part of the book also deals with Ford's activities as an ex President Unfortunately he does not come off looking particularly well here as he basically made a ton of money flying around the country giving paid speeches and spending time on Boards of large corporations Of course he did charity work as well and that cannot be counted out But DeFrank points out that even some of Ford's friends winced at some of the things that he didDeFrank despite his vocation does not put together a particularly well written book The time period jumps around uite a bit and he has a tendency to repeat things that he mentioned in previous chapters Only later in the book does it move chronologically But it is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in Ford or former Presidents in general

  2. Anthony Bergen Anthony Bergen says:

    Review originally posted on Dead PresidentsWrite It When I'm Gone  Remarkable Off the Record Conversations with Gerald R FordBy Thomas M DeFrankHardcover  2007  258 pp  PutnamAs I mentioned prominently in my review of Bob Greene's Fraternity what interests me primarily about the Presidents and the Presidency is not policy politics or administrative accomplishments but the personality of the individuals who have held the most powerful office in the world  All of those other things DO interest me but I enjoy digging deeper into the personal aspect of each of the Presidents and it is difficult finding books that really are a home run in that department  It takes the rare combination of understanding access and interest by the author to reach beyond the politics of a President and illuminate what he is as a personReporter Thomas M DeFrank not only possessed those abilities but took the study of a Presidential personality to the next level in 2007's Write It When I'm Gone  Remarkable Off the Record Conversations with Gerald R Ford  As a correspondent for Newsweek in 1974 DeFrank was assigned to cover Gerald Ford Vice President at the time and clearly destined for the Presidency due to the Watergate scandal hanging over President Richard Nixon  When Ford made a verbal slip during an interview with DeFrank and said something he shouldn't have he grabbed DeFrank by the tie and wouldn't let the young reporter leave until he promised not to publish the remark  Write it when I'm dead said the Vice President sparking a 32 year long conversation between Ford and DeFrank which culminated in this fascinating bookFord became President upon Nixon's resignation on August 9 1974 and served until 1977  A lifelong Congressman from Michigan Ford's career goal was to become Speaker of the House not President  When Nixon's first Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace in 1973 Congressional leaders responsible for confirming the President's new Vice President practically forced Nixon to nominate Ford  Easily confirmed and sworn in as Vice President in December 1973 Ford took office as Nixon's attempts to defend himself against Watergate began to fall apart amongst and evidence implicating the President in the scandal's cover up  Just eight months after becoming Vice President Ford was sworn in as President of the United States the only man to hold the office without winning a national electionOur long national nightmare is over Ford said minutes after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House  However the nation was far from healed and the Executive Branch had been wounded severely by Nixon's criminal activities  Ford may have cost himself election as President in his own right by pardoning Nixon just one month after taking office  An extraordinarily unpopular move at the time history along with most Americans and most politicians on both sides of the aisle has vindicated Ford for the pardon which helped make the scandal of Watergate a thing of the past rather than an ongoing struggle and saved the nation the ordeal of a criminal trial and possible prison sentence for a former President of the United States  Ford lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter but even upon leaving office he was already seen as succeeding at helping to heal the divisions created by Nixon and WatergateWrite It When I'm Gone is DeFrank's record of embargoed off the record conversations with Ford during Ford's time as Vice President President former President happy retiree and elder statesman  By allowing DeFrank to release his book only upon his death Ford was able to allow himself to drop his defenses and speak candidly about nearly every topic imaginable from contemporary politics and current events to memories of earlier life and the philosophy of getting older to thoughts on politicians and Presidents that he had known and continued to meet  Ford doesn't pull any punches but he's honest and straightforward in the genial respectful manner that Gerald Ford always came across as to the American publicWhile it is interesting to listen to Ford reveal the inside details of the last days of Nixon's Presidency his own thoughts leading to the pardon of Nixon and his timely and thoughtful discussions of the issues of the day as the 32 year long conversation progresses to me two things stand out most in Write It When I'm GoneFirst of all I was fascinated by Ford's opinions on the Presidents that he knew best particularly those who followed him  Although disappointed in Nixon's failures Ford seemed to treasure the friendship he shared with a man not well known for his friendly ualities and had an unwavering belief that Nixon was the best President for foreign policy in Ford's long lifetime  Ford's relationship with his 1976 opponent Jimmy Carter evolved from frosty during and shortly after Carter's single term in the White House to an extremely close friendship in Ford's later years  At times it is easy to see a major disconnection and frustration between Ford and Ronald Reagan and Ford wasn't high on Reagan's ability to understand the job of President  Any animosity though was no longer important when Ford always forgiving let things pass as it became clear that Reagan was ailing with Alzheimer's Disease  George HW Bush was Ford's CIA Director and a potential Vice Presidential nominee and they seemed to have a strong friendly relationship  Bush's son George W Bush the 43rd President came along late in Ford's life and an aging Ford claimed not to know him very well yet he makes interesting observations on the War in Ira and the role of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld two of the Bush administration's powerhouses who both served as Chief of Staff to President FordMost interesting of all of his comments about Presidents and former Presidents is his forthright assessment of Bill Clinton and the sex scandal that resulted in Clinton's impeachment  Ford makes it clear that he liked Clinton personally and appreciated his abilities calling him the best politician I've ever seen yet he was confused and disappointed by some of Clinton's character issues and worriedly told DeFrank The President's sickhe's got a sexual addictionand it affects his judgment  These are the types of frank sincere observations that makes Write It When I'm Gone a completely different form of Presidential biographyThe other thing that stands out in Write It When I'm Gone is poignant  The longest living President in American history Ford's last interviews with DeFrank were in the 93rd year of his life prior to his death on December 26 2006  Ford was in spectacularly good health until he turned 90 and continued the athletic pursuits he loved throughout life until his body forced him to stop skiing golfing and finally swimming  There is something moving about DeFrank's descriptions of the former President in the last years of his life as his health finally began to fail him and his incredible resources of energy finally began to deplete  The reader is heartbroken when we find out that Ford and his beloved wife Betty will never be able to revisit their longtime vacation home in Vail Colorado again and DeFrank's very brief final visit to a bedridden Ford just a month prior to the former President's death is a tearjerkerIn some way or another we feel like we know our Presidents because they are constantly covered  Even Presidents who lived and died long before we were born are familiar to us in some way because history is a perpetual and constantly evolving and revolving form of the media  As a recent President we know Gerald Ford better than most of our Presidents but in Write It When I'm Gone Ford becomes than the guy who became President without being elected or the guy who pardoned Nixon or the guy who stumbled down the steps of Air Force One or the guy who survived two separate assassination attempts in California by two different women in two weeks during September 1975  DeFrank's concept for Write It When I'm Gone doesn't simply point to an official White House portrait and begin telling us That was Gerald Ford this is what he did; it tries to tell us Here is Gerald Ford this is who he was  DeFrank may have needed to wait until Ford died before bringing this story to us but by doing so he ultimately succeeded in bringing Gerald Ford to lifeHighly recommendedA

  3. Lukasz Pruski Lukasz Pruski says:

    the simple ground rules we'd already established nothing he said could be printed until after his deathThomas DeFrank the author of Write It When I'm Gone 2007 was a Newsweek correspondent and journalist when in 1973 he was assigned to cover Vice President Gerald R Ford At that time it was gradually becoming clear that Mr Ford might soon become the 38th President of the United States The relationship between the author and Mr Ford something than a professional acuaintance perhaps even friendship lasted for one third of a century until the politician's death in 2006 The book based on 16 years of interview sessions that had begun in 1991 is a memoir of Mr Ford's political career viewed through the prism of his conversations with the authorTo me absolutely the best aspect of the book is that the only unelected Vice President and the only unelected President of the US comes across the pages as a real person Not an accident prone bumbler as portrayed in press and comedy SNL but indeed a most remarkably guileless political figure While not gifted with a commanding intellect charisma or communication skills Mr Ford appears to be a fundamentally honest and surprisingly warm person of goodwillThe reader will learn a lot about Mr Ford's short presidency troubled by his pardon of RM Nixon and ended by his defeat to Jimmy Carter in 1976 We also read about Mr Ford's withdrawal from the 1980 presidential race One should not expect to find any earth shattering revelations in the book for example I have found only two fragments that surprised me Mr Ford makes a strong point to stand by the Warren Commission report he was a member of the Commission and seems to claim that all conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination are absurd yet at the same time he forewarns that the report so far unreleased in its entirety contains stories that can be harmful to some people How's that for euivocation? The other surprise is the extreme dislike that Mr Ford had for Ronald Reagan moderated only by the decency with which the half term president talked about the two term president at the time when the latter was dying of the Alzheimer diseaseTwo items of personal interest several conversations with Mr Ford occurred when he was over 90 years old Although physically frail and perhaps not too elouent he was still in full command of facts This should be a huge source of hope for us geezers The other tidbit is just a tiny personal connection at one point the book mentions the 1996 presidential debate which took place in the building that I sometimes lecture in and in preparations to which I participated albeit in a totally minuscule wayWell written interesting book certainly worth a read I'm including two strong uotes after the ratingThree and a half stars He was an ordinary guy in the noblest sense of the term a steady solid Michigander whose old fashioned virtues were the perfect antidote for a nation desperate for stability and civilityHe considered Reagan a superficial disengaged intellectually lazy showman who didn't do his homework and clung to a naïve unrealistic and essentially dangerous worldview

  4. Joe Joe says:

    Book Twenty Seven of my presidential challengeI'm a Ford not a Lincoln Gerald FordSometimes you just have to take one for the team Gerald Ford knows that than most In the wake of the Watergate scandal someone needed to step in and calm the country down Ford was that guy The perfect guy for that really He wasn't showy or flashy he was a horrible public speaker and he was clumsy like insanely clumsyFord's first major act as President was to unconditionally pardon Richard Nixon Ford thought this would put the issue to rest Instead it woke it back up and everybody freaked out It instantly doomed his presidency and is literally the only thing that people remember about the man Until his dying day he maintained that he'd been correct in this decision but who knows what he really thought in the still of the night with only his thoughts to keep him companyThis book doesn't cover much of Ford's Presidency not directly that is Rather it is a series of interviews that Thomas Defrank had with Ford spanning Ford's vice presidency until Ford's death The majority of the interviews were given on the condition that they not be printed until Ford diedThe book loses something with this approach because it mostly just becomes a bitchfest technical term for Ford I think it's safe to say Ford was a bad judge of character He never really got upset with Nixon and doesn't hold a grudge years later even when Nixon clearly thought Ford was an idiot and never properly thanked him for what he did Ford also loved Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney two of the largest douchebags who ever graced the American government I can say that with authority now that I've read many many books on presidential historyWho did Ford dislike? Carter At least at first He only made up with Carter when they decided it would be better if they both just hated Reagan I love a good friendship based on hate Ford respected Clinton as a politician but couldn't get over Clinton's sexual indiscretions Ford is probably the only President other than Carter in modern history who didn't cheat on his wife but Ford was clearly obsessed with sex and brought it up constantly only to show that he wasn't obsessed with it Riiiigggghhhhtttt Paging Dr FreudI ultimately just feel bad for Ford He was put in a tough situation and did poorly Then he had to go and live for over 30 years and think about the mistakes he'd made He took one for the team The fact that the Republican party even still EXISTS is a testament to Ford so thank you I guess?

  5. Emily Emily says:

    Sadly this book is not the undisclosed look into the private thoughts and opinions of Ford For three decades of interviews there wasn't much substance Ford must have been a very honest politician because didn't give the author much than he gave the rest of the world The book felt like a collection of short essays and not one flowing book The chapters kept referring back and repeating information that was only printed a few pages beforeUnless you're a huge Ford fan I'd pass on this one Folks just curious about Ford should find another book this assumes you know the main players and issues of his presidency

  6. Kelly Kelly says:

    I would actually give this 35 stars It's been sitting on my shelf for months because I wasn't eager to tear into it I was surprised that it was such an insightful read I thought that it was going to be about Ford's presidency While it did touch on the NixonFord years the book was of a series of interviews about his political observations over the years Sort of a People Magazine for political junkies I was also touched by Ford's convictions He wasn't a partisan hack While I didn't agree with a lot of his ideas I was touched by his desire to do what was he thought was right for the country rather than looking out for his party first and foremost

  7. Mara Mara says:

    For the first two chapters of this book I thought it was kind of a breezy superficial romp with Ford by a journalist who clearly adored the man Jerry Ford is a human being cum laude a down to earth earnest genuinely likable guy with an infectious laugh and not the slightest hint of pretentiousnessThere was some nice narrative style analysis of the uniue position in which Ford found himself including a nice little tidbit from William Safire totally forgot that he had a career in politics prior to his On Language eraHe Ford must be at once loyal and independent; both his own man and the president's man; a defender uncorrupted by the defenseIt was interesting to read an insiders view of how Ford reacted to his two attempted killer ladies within 17 days and Ford seemed like a genuinely laid back guy with the press which definitely couldn't have been said of his predecessor Sure I started to uestion author Thomas M Defrank's characterizations a bit when he portrays Dick Cheney as a sort of merry prankster while on the road with Gerald Ford and his cadre of journalists but I wasn't looking for a hard hitting piece of journalistic investigation here Nb Yes it isGerald with a G and Jerry with a J The chapter Jerry Ford Inc was a fine defense as to why and how Ford turned being an ex president into such a hot commodityHowever it's in Tom's subseuent interview chapters that this book devolves into kind of a hot mess by the way you never forget his name is Tom as he leaves that in to almost every line of Ford's responses to his uestions Things are just poorly organized and the author fails to give us even the briefest of backgrounders re the situationsrelationships that Ford is discussing By chapter 11 Defrank even admits to doing thisAs every write understands sometimes useful insights and vignettes that help illuminate a person's life don't neatly fit into a chapterWhat follows then are random human glimpses including some of my favorite moments with Ford that deserve a better home than the cutting room floorSorry Tom I'm gonna have to disagree with you on that assessment of where you should have put those tidbits I get it We all are going to get old and I'm sure I'll be just as if not annoying to listen to in my golden years than your average nonagenarian but here are just a few of the topics of discussion that I'm not so sure were journalistic gold1 Details regarding Ford's latest trip to the urologist I don't know what PSI and PSA are I'm pretty sure the P stands for prostate and definitely don't want to hear anything about the 38th presidents colonoscopy 2 Joint replacements I get it really I do I've had knee surgery too but multiple knee replacements how long a shoulder replacement is going to keep you out of your golf game etc definitely can be scrapped from at least every other conversation3 You young people and your fandangled computer machines Anyone who was born in the 80s with a grandparent knows this scene all too well This really doesn't count as a remarkable off the record conversation as far as I'm concerned 4 Tuesdays with Fordie Dying is sad Seeing people who were once vibrant and alive slip away is hard but the way that the author captures this part really just told me that maybe he needed to wait a little longer for the dirt on the grave to settle before considering this book edited and ready for print Seriously Ford died in December of 2006 and the book was on the shelves in the Fall of 2007 I don't know much about publishing but that seems like a pretty uick turnaroundAnyway I'm sure Ford was a hoot and a genuinely nice guy this just wasn't the window into his take on his life in politics that I hoped it would be It gets an extra star for the first two chapters being non terrible and for being mercifully brief

  8. Gary Anderson Gary Anderson says:

    When Newsweek reporter Thomas DeFrank was assigned to cover newly appointed Vice President Gerald Ford he knew there was a good chance his beat could be the advent of a new presidency Vice President Ford was an easy going fellow with his press contingent and DeFrank and Ford forged a relationship based on mutual trust and respect which continued during Ford’s eventual presidency The “remarkable” conversations referenced in the subtitle began in Ford’s post presidential years when he granted interviews to DeFrank several times a year with the understanding that none of it would be published until after Ford’s death Little did either man know that Ford would become the longest living ex president in American history with the longest post presidency although his longevity has now been surpassed by George H W Bush and the span of Ford’s post presidential years has now been surpassed by Jimmy Carter’s During their wide ranging discussions Ford was candid about his complex attitudes toward Presidents Carter Reagan Bush 41 Clinton and Bush 43 along with other prominent politicians including John McCain Hillary Rodham Clinton and Dick Cheney among others Ford was also forthcoming with opinions about all kinds of issues not published elsewhere the direction of the country foreign relations the role of ex presidents and the guilt of O J Simpson Ford died in 2006 and this book was published in 2007 Interestingly there is no mention of Barack Obama who was elected president in 2008 DeFrank’s book is full of insightful perspectives from one of the most interesting American citizens of the last half of the Twentieth Century but the chronology became confusing at times as Ford occasionally talked about parallel events that occurred decades apart I was also a little put off by the borderline lugubrious detail about Ford’s physical and mental deterioration in his final months as the nonagenarian former president continued to meet with DeFrank even though his stamina and ability to engage were slipping away At first I wasn’t sure how much to trust a writer who extensively uoted someone no longer living but DeFrank is a well respected journalist and this book is one of only a few titles on sale at the Gerald R Ford Museum in Grand Rapids Michigan which I consider an endorsement of a kind

  9. srdjan srdjan says:

    Pretty terribly organized book whose insights are minimal and dissappointing The books title grossly exaggerates a relationship between author and subject that seemed little than 'cordial' while Gerald Ford comes across as a plain jane jockfrat boy who lacked depth At 1230 in the morning he exited the press room I thought he looked like a man with the world's weight still on his broad shoulders Just before he disappeared into the residence he turned to an aide and posed a uestion A couple days later I caught up with the aide and asked about his uery Ford had merely asked 'Say does anyone know who won the Bullets game?'I walked away with a sense that he was a man who was both deceptively crafty and at the same time fundamentally decent but not enough of either to be really compelling He certainly made the most of his hand but at the end you feel like you watched a guy play 10jack really well commendable but not engrossing You dont walk away dying to talk to Ford In fact you wonder how long you could hold the conversationThe second half of the book is an eye opener about aging and the part of the book that salvaged the second star of my rating DeFrank captures Ford's slow decline in a way that makes you want to swim travel ski and fuck while you still canAnyway he seemed like a kind man who served his country well so rest in peace

  10. Sara Sara says:

    Never knew a whole lot about Pres Ford but after reading this I have a lot of respect for him Ford was a dedicated public servant who brought dignity back to the White House after the turmoil of Watergate I never knew that he was criticized so harshly for the money he made after being in office His successors owe him for paving the way in the post presidential speaking circuit Also I didn't know how Ford really felt about Reaganthe political life isn't always fun Really liked the easy style of this book as opposed to the stuffy bios of former presidents You kind of feel like a fly on the wall as Ford speaks off the record about everything from raising money for his Presidential Library to his opinions about OJ Simpson Interesting stuff I'll never forget watching Ford's funeral a few years ago a lovely service for a great guy Our country could use people like Gerald R Ford

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