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President Ford polls fairly low among scholars and even lower among the general public due to his association with President Nixon and his pardoning of him.
Presidency of Gerald Ford
On August 9, 1974, Vice President Ford took the oath of office as the 38th President of the United States. Three days later, he spoke to a joint session of Congress regarding inflation. A week later, he selected former Governor Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President. After about a month of speculation, President Ford made his most controversial decision, to give former President Nixon a full presidential pardon. This action caused his approval ratings to drop significantly to 49%.
Afterward, he announced that there would be clemency for draft evaders and military deserters stating that they could earn their service by performing alternative services. On September 30, he formed the Economic Policy Board, which would oversee all aspects of economic policy. On October 8, he spoke to a joint session of Congress calling for temporary 5% tax hike, cuts in federal spending, and the creation of a voluntary inflation-fighting organization known as "Whip Inflation Now" (WIN), he formally announced his anti-inflation campaign on November 11. He later signed the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, the most significant attempt at campaign finance reform since the 1920s. In November 1974, the Democrats were victorious all over the country, they gained 43 House seats, 3 Senate seats, gaining them a majority in both houses. They also gained 4 governorships. Ford became the first president to visit Japan while in office. Though the Freedom of Information Act is vetoed by President Ford and majority vote in Congress overturned it. Ford did sign the Privacy Act of 1974 on January 1, 1975, ensuring the right of Americans to individual privacy.
On January 4, 1975, President Ford announced the creation of a presidential commission to review abuses by the CIA, to be known as the Rockefeller Commission. That month, he proposed during his State of the Union address that there be a $16 billion tax cut. In March, the North Vietnamese were closing in on South Vietnamese and President Ford ordered the evacuation of remaining Americans and troops from Saigon. A couple days later, he reluctantly signed the Tax Reduction Act of 1975, which called for a $22.8 billion tax cut. In April, the American unemployment rate rose to 8.7%, the highest since 1941. Ford addressed the nation on America's energy policy on May 27 while the unemployment reached its highest point of 9.2%. Despite this, President Ford launches the President Gerald Ford Committee to run his 1976 nomination for the presidential election and on July 8, he officially announced his candidacy. Later that month he left to Europe to sign the Helsinki Accords on European security and cooperation. On August 10, First Lady Betty Ford spoke candidly on "60 Minutes" about topics such as extra-martial and marijuana and admits to strongly favoring the Supreme Court's ruling to make abortion legal.
In 1976, Ford ran successfully, for a second term of office. After Ohio and New York swayed his way.
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He was chosen as Vice President by President Ford after he vacated the position to assume the president after President Nixon resigned in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Rockefeller was unhappy in his position as Vice President. Even his confirmation was fraught with difficult, but he was never the less confirmed by the House, 287-128. On September 5th, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme assassinated President Gerald Ford, causing Rockefeller's ascension to presidency. At first, Rockefeller was in shock that the unthinkable happened to Ford and that fate finally put him where had always wanted himself to be, as President of the United States. Though Ford was not universally liked, the tragic death of a President proved to still be a traumatic experience for the American people and Rockefeller helped guide Americans through the grieving process. On October 29, Rockefeller approved a federal economic aid package to New York City, a headline of the New York Daily News read: "Rockefeller-Help is on the way." Rockefeller fires his director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense and goes against the wishes of many to have Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney assume any positions in his cabinet and fires them. On the same day, Rockefeller had thought that his chances of winning the presidency were higher than they had ever been and announced his candidacy to seek the Republican nomination for president. Perhaps in response to this, former California governor Ronald Reagan announces his challenge for the Republican nomination on November 20. Toward the end of the year, Rockefeller signed the Energy Policy Conservation Act.
On January 30, 1976, the Supreme Court rules on former President Ford's signature of FECA. On February 7, the Labor Department reports that the unemployment rate dropped substantially from 8.3 to 7.8. President Rockefeller asserts that the government's intelligence community will undergo reorganization. At the end of the month, Rockefeller beat Reagan in the New Hampshire primary, winning 54% of the vote. Rockefeller decides against a proposal to build up the United States strategic oil reserve. During the first quarter of 1976, the GNP rises to 7.5% and inflation is at 3.7%. Rockefeller denies congressional revision of FECA and signs a treaty with the Soviet Union to limit underground nuclear tests. Rockefeller speaks at Valley Forge and Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the Bicentennial of the nation's founding. The inflation rate dropped from 12.2 in the latter months of 1974 to 4.6 in the first six months of 1976. The Labor Department announced that employment had risen by 3.8 million since 1975. After a hard fought battle against former Governor Reagan, the RNC nominated incumbent President Rockefeller as its presidential nominee and selecting a former supporter of his 1968 presidential in Governor Daniel J. Evans for his running mate. Rockefeller approves government funding for a prototype electrical automobile engine. The debates during the presidential election were often quite antagonistic, as Carter attempted to paint Rockefeller as too much of an insider while Rockefeller used his record as Governor and his few achievements in office to justify his campaign and attempting to portray himself as a man of results not talk. On November 2, Rockefeller won New York and Ohio and subsequently the presidency against Governor Carter in a very close election. On New Years Eve, a government report states that inflation holds steady at 4.8%, the best in four years but high unemployment persists.
President Rockefeller was inaugurated as President on January 20, 1977, and is said to have been one of the happiest days of his life. Rockefeller began drawing up plans and requesting experts to show up with as many graphs and tables as they could muster. His newfound idealism proved to be a benefit and a hindrance for many American and party leaders. The day after his inauguration, he pardoned Vietnam War draft evaders. Congress passed the Emergency Natural Gas Act which would deregulate natural gas prices due to a shortage in supply, in response to this, President Rockefeller announces the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Energy. Rockefeller's justification for his energy conservation program lies in "being good stewards of this Earth and ensuring that we do not fall under foreign influence." Rockefeller maintains a cool but still pretty anti-communist position and but remains undecided on the fate of the B1 strategic bomber. Rockefeller appoints a Secretary of State that can help influence greater partnerships among the nations.
Rockefeller sides with the union of a coal miner strike and forces the company to pay for benefits. Rockefeller found great difficulty compromising with the Republican party which was beginning to trend slightly more conservative but found it somewhat easier to manage the Democratic party. Rockefeller facilitated the signing of the Camp David Accords to ensure a "just and durable peace" between Israel and Palestine. Congress passes a revised energy bill eighteen months after Rockefeller proposed it. Congress also passes the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill. The Rockefeller administration grants full diplomatic status to the People's Republic of China.
On Friday, January 26, 1979, President Rockefeller collapsed in the Oval Office and was pronounced dead. An autopsy would suggest that his death was caused by a heart attack. Immediately after the news of Rockefeller's death was made public, Vice President Evans assumed the presidency. The legacy of the president was a noble one and one that helped turn the party toward a more libertarian platform.
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After the death of President Rockefeller on January 26, 1979, Vice President Evans was immediately given the oath to assume the presidency. Evans was in shock as he did not believe the news and even more that he would now be the most powerful man in the world.
Under the wishes of President Rockefeller, Evans oversaw the official signing of the peace treaty in March 1979, between Israel and Palestine to ensure a "just and lasting peace." Though not the initial architect, he is perhaps credited with the most significant breakthrough of any American president dealing with Middle East affairs, and established a precedent for future high-level negotiations over these issues. Evans continued Rockefeller's "phase two" energy plan calling for conservation and phasing out price controls on oil. Evans approves the development of the MX missile for general combat use. He also signed the SALT II with the USSR. The Senate doesn't ratify the treaty, but both sides comply with the terms of the agreement. Evans' approval ratings top out at around 61% for around eight months, the longest streak of high approval of any president. Evans signs a bill establishing the Department of Education stating that "it was something Rocky would've wanted." On November 4, 1979, Iranian students take sixty-six hostage at the American embassy in Tehran. About a month later, Evans officially announced his candidacy for election in defiance of the Republican establishment who wanted to nominate former Governor Ronald Reagan.
On January 3, 1980, the Soviets invade Afghanistan, Evans asks the Senate to reach a diplomatic solution while there are some in both parties that suggest the possibility of boycotting the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The SALT II talks remain on hold while Evans supports attendance in order to send a message to the Soviets of defiance, claiming that "they want us not to attend and we shouldn't give them that satisfaction." In March, Evans announced a proposal to create a balanced budget for fiscal year 1981. But despite everything, Evans announces that the economy was in recession, with inflation rates hitting 10% and interest rates climbing to 18%. On April 22, the US Olympic Committee votes to attend the Moscow Olympics, supporting President Evans in defiance of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On April 25, Evans announces that a rescue team sent to recover the Iranian-held hostages had failed and resulted in the deaths of several American military personnel. By June, Evans' approval ratings reached the lowest mark of any president since 1945. In July, Evans signed Presidential Directive 59 advocating a strategy for fighting a "limited" nuclear war. On November 4, Evans lost re-election to Robert Pearson, winning 335 to Evans' 203.
On January 20, 1981, Robert Pearson was inaugurated President, and Evans left Washington D.C. and returned home to Washington state. On September 1, 1983, former President Evans was killed in the KAL 007 incident, which resulted in one of the most tense moments of the Cold War and resulted in an escalation of anti-Soviet sentiment, particularly in the United States. The opposing points of view on the incident were never fully resolved; consequently, several groups continue to dispute official reports and offer alternative theories of the event. Despite his achievements as President, he is largely thought of by modern historians, as a forgotten President.