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Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with… (2007)

af Thomas M. DeFrank, Gerald R. Ford

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307865,664 (3.82)18
In an series of private interviews, conducted over sixteen years with the stipulation that they not be released until after his death, the 38th President of the United States reveals a profoundly different side of himself: funny, reflective, gossipy, strikingly candid. In 1974, journalist DeFrank, then a young correspondent for Newsweek, was interviewing Vice President Gerald R. Ford when Ford blurted out something indiscreet, came around his desk, grabbed DeFrank's tie, and told the reporter he could not leave the room until he promised not to publish it. "Write it when I'm dead," he said--and that agreement formed the basis for their relationship for the next 32 years. During that time, they talked frequently, but from 1991 to shortly before Ford's death, the interviews became unguarded conversations in which Ford talked in a way few presidents ever have.--From publisher description.… (mere)
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Great anecdotes about Gerald Ford during his vice presidency through post presidential life. Ford was much more impressive than most ever gave him credit for. Did you know he swam laps every day, even when he was President?
The stories are told in an interesting and engaging way, however, the author seems to skip around quite a bit which I find a little disconcerting.
Definitely worth the time to read or listen to. Gives great insight into the times as well as a good portrait of Ford's character. ( )
1 stem Caspaulding | Aug 23, 2013 |
Best I can figure, the unholy combination of the discovery of political satire, a teacher’s ability to make our country’s history and the workings of our republic exciting (Thanks, Mrs. Henderson!), and the unceasing desire of a semi-literate adolescent boy to be a smartass, converged to give me my admiration of President Gerald R. Ford. “Write it when I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford by Thomas Defrank only confirmed and deepened that esteem.

Regardless of any political disagreement one might have with President Ford, his decency as a human being is unquestionable. Knowing what the country needed, as well as knowing that by answering that need he was all but certainly destroying any hope he might have of winning re-election, President Ford stepped in from of America and the world to say “our long national nightmare is over.”

In an age when finding a politician who actually believes in something is about as likely as Bill Clinton becoming a Jesuit, President Ford’s words and deeds demonstrated what belief in a principle, an ideal – no matter the cost – looks like.

The most poignant moments, when the ability of Michigan All-American Center begins to falter, are described by Mr. Defrank with such compassion and earnestness that rather than feel sorrow for President Ford, I began to share Defrank’s grief for such a mentor and great man. Defrank did this by subtly repeating Ford’s comments, and reflecting the slight loss of memory experienced as one ages.

Ford’s concern and compassion for others is easily seen in two examples from late in his life. As the war in Vietnam came to it’s conclusion, Ford kept the American embassy open as long as possible. The iconic image of that time became the thousands who climbed the ladder on top of the embassy and onto helicopters that offered freedom and safety. Today that ladder is the center piece of President Ford’s library and is something Ford took great pride in. The other example is his treatment of Ronald Reagan. Ford was no fan of Ronald Reagan, and to his dying day believed that Reagan ultimately cost Ford re-election. If ever Ford had an enemy, it was Reagan. That all changed when President Reagan’s Alzheimer’s was made public in 1994. From that moment until his death, President Ford stood by his rival in every way possible. President Ford knew that the most important aspect of leadership, regardless of all other variables, is the care, empathy and genuine love of one’s fellow man. ( )
  lanewillson | Mar 4, 2013 |
Interesting and helps to understand what was going on in our country at a time when I wasn't paying attention!
  NancyJak | May 8, 2011 |
Thomas DeFrank was a Newsweek reporter assigned to cover newly appointed Vice-President Gerald Ford, who later joined the White House press corps after Ford became President. As one of the few permanently assigned to the vice-presidential entourage, he developed a close relationship with Ford which lasted until Ford's death.

Beginning in 1991, DeFrank met periodically with Ford for a series of candid interviews that would be published after Ford's death, the goal being that Ford could offer frank opinions without suffering repercussions. "Write It When I'm Gone" is the result of these interviews.

The book contains a motley assortment of stories related to the key players in American politics, particularly presidents, from Nixon to Bush 43. Some are interesting, but very few are terribly earth-shattering. Despite its professed openness, other political books, like Bob Woodward's decision-making process histories or George Stephanopoulos memoir, are much more revealing.

This is not to say that there is no benefit to the book. It is helpful to hear Ford's own assessments, particularly of his own legacy, as they develop over the years. There's also a melancholy quality to the book, as it loosely documents the gradual fading away of someone who once was the most powerful many in the country, if not the world.

Still, I was troubled by the book. As obvious as the mutual affection for Ford and DeFrank is, and this somewhat mollifies my criticism, I had the nagging sense that DeFrank misrepresented his intent for this book to Ford and maybe is revealing things beyond their original agreement. Perhaps it was a fleeting thing, and I cannot put my finger definitively on this, but I've never felt this way in reading similar books. ( )
  ALincolnNut | Dec 13, 2010 |
I think calling Thomas DeFrank's conversations with Gerald R. Ford 'remarkable' is a bit of hyperbole. But regardless, his unconventional biography comes off as an affectionate portrait, and is effective in shedding some perspective on Ford's role in politics, the presidency, and journalism. The more I read, the more I liked Jerry Ford, and wished I'd paid more attention when he was in the public spotlight. ( )
  y2pk | Oct 26, 2010 |
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In an series of private interviews, conducted over sixteen years with the stipulation that they not be released until after his death, the 38th President of the United States reveals a profoundly different side of himself: funny, reflective, gossipy, strikingly candid. In 1974, journalist DeFrank, then a young correspondent for Newsweek, was interviewing Vice President Gerald R. Ford when Ford blurted out something indiscreet, came around his desk, grabbed DeFrank's tie, and told the reporter he could not leave the room until he promised not to publish it. "Write it when I'm dead," he said--and that agreement formed the basis for their relationship for the next 32 years. During that time, they talked frequently, but from 1991 to shortly before Ford's death, the interviews became unguarded conversations in which Ford talked in a way few presidents ever have.--From publisher description.

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