I have to give it to Gerald Ford on this. He did an embargoed interview in July 2004 with Woodward that Ford said “could be published anytime after his death” according to WaPo. There is some strangely deft elegant touch particular to this man considered the team player, that he finally have his last word…
On Bush and Iraq
“I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said a little more than a year after President Bush had launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford’s own administration.
“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”
“Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,” Ford said, referring to Bush’s assertion that the United States has a “duty to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what’s in our national interest.” He added: “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
“I don’t think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly,” he said, “I don’t think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.”
“He was an excellent chief of staff. First class,” Ford said. “But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious” as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell’s assertion that Cheney developed a “fever” about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. “I think that’s probably true.”
Most challenging of all, as Ford recalled, was Henry A. Kissinger, who was both secretary of state and national security adviser and had what Ford said was “the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew.” SNIP
“I think he was a super secretary of state,” Ford said, “but Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend.”
“Over the weekend, any one of 50 weekends, the press would be all over him, giving him unshirted hell. Monday morning he would come in and say, ‘I’m offering my resignation.’ Just between Henry and me. And I would literally hold his hand. ‘Now, Henry, you’ve got the nation’s future in your hands and you can’t leave us now.’ Henry publicly was a gruff, hard-nosed, German-born diplomat, but he had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew.”
Ford added, “Any criticism in the press drove him crazy.” Kissinger would come in and say: “I’ve got to resign. I can’t stand this kind of unfair criticism.” Such threats were routine, Ford said. “I often thought, maybe I should say: ‘Okay, Henry. Goodbye,’ ” Ford said, laughing. “But I never got around to that.”
What will they say of Gerald Ford tomorrow?