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Gerald Ford Remembered; Firestorm Erupts Over Saddam Execution

Aired January 02, 2007 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Our live coverage continues in the NEWSROOM for the memorial services of late President Gerald Ford. It's where he grew up, and it's where he will be laid to rest.
After a long journey and numerous tributes, former President Gerald Ford is finally -- finally -- heading home. He is finally home to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And our Jeanne Meserve is there.

Plane down just a short time, wheels down, as they say, Jeanne.


And we're told that, before it landed, while it was in the air, it did a flyover of the University of Michigan football stadium, where Mr. Ford was a star center. He was so good that the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers both offered him contracts after he graduated from school. He opted out of that, instead going to Yale Law School, and then eventually on to Congress.

Congress -- from this community, from Grand Rapids, 13 times he was elected, and, then, of course, tapped by President Nixon to become his vice president, and, then circumstances being what they were, ascended to the presidency of the United States -- people here immensely proud of him.

They are turning out already. As of last evening, about 50,000 people had stopped by this museum to sign the condolence book. I can see them beyond the cameras here, lining up on the roadsides to pay their respects, as the motorcade comes here to the museum.

This is where the family and the cassette casket and the friends will come. They are expected here in about an hour-and-a-half. They will come into this museum, which is all about Gerald Ford and his life and his times.

I had a chance to go through it last night. There are mementos from his childhood, his Boy Scout merit badges, his -- his Eagle Scout badge, his football helmet, but, also, of course, things a little bit more troubling about American history. There are in there some of the tools used in the Watergate break-in, complete with evidence tags still on them.

There is in there a tape recorder, part of the recording system that was in the Oval Office that caught Richard Nixon implicating himself in the Watergate scandal, the incident, of course, that brought Gerald R. Ford to the presidency.

There will be a ceremony in here this afternoon. It will be fairly modest in comparison to what happened in Washington today, great pomp and pageantry, as the casket was moved out of the United States Capitol, where it has lain in state for several days, taken up to the National Cathedral -- a number of speakers there, including Henry Kissinger, including the first President Bush and the current President Bush.

Here is a bit of what he had to say.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Amid all the turmoil, Gerald Ford was a rock of stability. And, when he put his hand on his family Bible to take the presidential oath of office, he brought grace to a moment of great doubt.

In a short time, the gentleman from Grand Rapids proved that behind the affability was firm resolve.


MESERVE: And you will hear more words of praise of Gerald Ford and his presidency. He will be praised often, and has been praised often, as the man from Grand Rapids. And Grand Rapids is very glad to have him home -- Don.


And it was the first time, you know, I heard anyone talk about exactly what is inside of that library, Jeanne. It must be really interesting, considering the time he took over in office, a very tumultuous time in our history. Vietnam has just -- had just -- was about to end, the end of that. And, then, of course, you had Watergate, very interesting. That must be at least one of the most interesting presidential libraries.


I -- I have not been in a lot of the presidential libraries, but I remember the Ford presidency. And I remember this history. And it was fascinating for me to see, for instance, the staircase that was used to help evacuate people from the embassy in Saigon at the end evident Vietnam War, to see the wheel from the Mayaguez. This was the merchant ship which was taken captive by the Cambodians.

President Ford sent Marines in. He freed that crew. And the crew gave him the wheel, which he kept in the Oval Office. There is an entire replica of the Oval Office in here, as well as a replica of the Cabinet Room, and, as I say, a lot of just very personal things that relate to the Ford family history, including clips of interviews with President Ford and Mrs. Ford.

And there are some photographs of her in her younger years. You may recall that Mrs. Ford was a dancer with Betty -- Graham. And there's quite an exotic photo of her on the floor in a satin dress, clearly part of a dance performance, a way I have never seen a first lady before -- so, quite a fascinating museum here.

LEMON: All right, Jeanne Meserve, we will continue to check back.

And you're looking at the Ford Presidential Library, and then live picture of some of the dignitaries, some of the people on the plane -- the people who were on that plane -- getting off now. In a short time, they will follow the parade procession down to the Nixon -- I'm sorry -- to the Ford -- pardon me -- Presidential Library and museum there in Grand Rapids.

And, of course, we will have live coverage throughout the day right here on CNN.

And our coverage continues right now -- Melissa.


Want to remind you that flags are lowered today. And many offices are closed on this national day of mourning for the 38th president. That includes most federal buildings and courthouses, also post offices. So, you won't be getting any regular mail delivery today.

The New York Stock Exchange, other financial markets in the U.S., are closed as well. They have been shuttered four days now, including the New Year's holiday weekend. That does make it the longest stretch since right after 9/11.

And a reminder: You can get more on the life and legacy of Gerald Ford in a special report on our Web site, You can see his life in pictures. You can also tell us how you will remember the former president in a CNN I-Report, again, online,

And, of course, we have continuing coverage from Grand Rapids, Michigan, as the casket carrying of Gerald R. Ford is taken to its final resting place.

LEMON: We turn now to the other big story that we have been following here on CNN: Saddam Hussein taunted and mocked in the final moments of his life, his fellow Sunnis outraged by the former dictator's unseemly demise.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad with the very latest for us.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the modest grave site of Iraq's once terrifying leader, tears flow freely, grief, which turned into outrage, with the all-too familiar chants of, "With our blood and our souls, we will sacrifice for you, Saddam."

In front of the glistening golden dome of the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shia shrines, the image Saddam Hussein displayed by angry Sunni demonstrators -- crowds here carried a mock coffin and photos of their former leader, parading through the courtyard of the shrine still showing scars left by a bombing back in February, an attack by Sunni extremists that catapulted sectarian violence to a new level.

In the days after Saddam's death, outrage is only increasing, as more details of what really happened in that execution chamber come to light. The day of the execution, Iraq's national security adviser, who was present as Saddam tumbled to his death, told CNN.

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There was absolutely no humiliation to Saddam Hussein when he was alive and when -- and after he -- he was executed.

DAMON: But then this cell phone video appeared on the Internet, uncensored images fully portraying the chilling scene at the gallows, showing Saddam being taunted in his final moments by cries of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada," a reference to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia cleric whose Mahdi militia is believed to be behind much of the sectarian violence -- the images confirming Sunni fears that the execution of Saddam by Iraq's Shia-led government was a sectarian affair.

A U.S. warning to Iraq's government that it avoid giving the perception of a rush to judgment fell on deaf ears, with an aide to Iraq's prime minister that Nouri al-Maliki was determined to put Saddam to death before the end of the year.

The government said it has launched an investigation as to how the cell phones were snuck into the gallows and footage was shot obviously in plain view of the authorities who were present.

Munqith Faroon, perplexed and disturbed by what happened, was one of the 14 people present in that room.

MUNQITH FAROON, CHIEF PROSECUTOR (through translator): We were searched one by one before going into the room. They had a box to place phones in. How these phones were snuck in, I don't know.

DAMON: A mistake the government is already paying for.

(on camera): With Shia chants defining Saddam Hussein's last moments turning his execution into an act of Shia revenge, Saddam's death risks driving even moderate Sunnis farther away from a Shia-led government that they already have little faith in and, rather than uniting Iraqis, seems to be only further dividing them.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


LONG: Two men died on a bridge in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina, this bridge. Sixteen months later, seven New Orleans police officers turn themselves in to face charges -- the details ahead in the NEWSROOM. LEMON: And West Virginia's Sago coal mine still in business, but not today. We will look back on a somber anniversary just ahead in the NEWSROOM.

LONG: And we are remembering the late President Gerald R. Ford at this hour -- the Carters arriving now in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the president will be interred at the presidential museum there in Grand Rapids, his hometown.

The president, as you know, passed away last Tuesday at the age of 93. And we are remembering the late Gerald Ford this hour in the NEWSROOM.


LONG: We are remembering the late President Gerald R. Ford this hour.

This is a live picture from Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- the aircraft from the presidential fleet touching down within the last 15 minutes in Grand Rapids.

As you know, the president passed away the day after Christmas at the age of 93 at his most recent home in Rancho Mirage, California. And now the late president is home once again in Grand Rapids to be interred at the museum and library there.

LEMON: Mmm-hmm.

And, as you look at this, you see the -- the military personnel. You see the bands and the honor guards. And you see the folks there waiting. You can't help but wonder about all the pageantry, even though the Fords are simple folk, as they like to say and wanted this to be a very simple service, remembrance for the late president, all the services, at least.

But there is still pomp and circumstances and pageantry surrounding all this.

And standing by at the Ford Presidential Museum and Library, our very own Jeanne Meserve.

And, Jeanne, I don't know if you can see from your vantage point, but, I mean, there are throngs of people lining the street, waiting for this procession to come by.

MESERVE: There are.

We can see them. If I look both to my right and my left, I can see portions of the motorcade route. And there are people lined up all along there waiting to see this motorcade come by after it leaves the airport here. You can see it on this shot -- shot.

The people have come out to pay their respects to this man, who was probably the most famous person that Grand Rapids has produced. And they love this guy. I have been talking to a few people in the vicinity where we're staying, and they're extraordinarily proud of this man and what he accomplished, and that he was put into the White House under such irregular circumstances, and, yet, performed so admirably at the task.

The delay at the airport, undoubtedly, because they have to get Mrs. Ford off of the aircraft. I know, at Andrews Air Base, the decision was made, instead of bringing her down the staircase, to unload her on the opposite side of the plane, away from the cameras, because she is 88 years old.

And the ceremonies there will not get under way until she is in place.

You mentioned the pageantry. This is a state funeral. The military rehearses these things regularly a couple of times a year. They go through the drill, just so they are absolutely ready to execute this perfectly if and when these sorts of events occur.

Here, we see a couple of limousines moving across the tarmac. I'm not at that location, but I would guess that Mrs. Ford is in that limo and being brought around. And she...

LEMON: Yes, Jeanne, we're told that Mrs...

MESERVE: ... will likely stand...

LEMON: Yes, we're being told that Mrs. Ford is actually in the limo here, and someone getting out there.

And I mentioned that they're going to quickly follow whomever is going to follow this procession. Sorry to jump in there, but I just wanted to tell you that there she...


LEMON: We're being told that she is actually -- there she is, clear shot of her sitting in...


MESERVE: You have the good information.


LONG: Jeanne, you mentioned something interesting a little earlier, that the aircraft that brought back the casket circled over the University of Michigan's football stadium.

MESERVE: That's right. That's because President Ford played there. He played here in Grand Rapids. In 1930, he played center on the state championship team, went on to the University of Michigan, where he also played center, his senior year, was named to the all Big 10 team, didn't make All-American, but still performed well enough -- here, you see a great picture of him in his football gear -- performed well enough that the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions both offered him a contract. But the money in those days just wasn't attractive enough. And he had other ambitions. So, he went on to law Yale school -- law -- Yale Law School instead, but -- but, obviously, loved the game of football. And, as I mentioned earlier, some of the surviving members from his high school team are going to be here today.


LONG: A unique part of this ceremony, as well, we will hear the University of Michigan fight song, "Hail to the Victors and the Yellow and Blue..."

LEMON: Right.

LONG: ... in honor, of course, of his years on the football team.

LEMON: And, Jeanne, we have been looking at...

MESERVE: That's right.

LEMON: I'm sorry.

We have been looking at pictures of Mrs. Ford. She got out of the limo, and -- and, really, all weekend long. And, you know, she's getting up there. And one wonders about how she is holding up in -- in all of this, just watching how strong she has been since we found the news after Christmas, the day after Christmas, that her husband had died.

MESERVE: Well, by all accounts, they had an extraordinarily close marriage. And I'm sure it has hit her extraordinarily hard.

Here, we see the casket moving.

You mentioned the University of Michigan band being here. They were, yesterday, at the Rose Bowl, and -- which the University of Michigan lost, I might add -- and then flew in overnight, so they could be at the airport today for this ceremony.


And you're looking at it, at the body there being -- being lowered to the -- the ground by military personnel, and, then, will very shortly proceed to the hearse -- just an amazing -- amazing pageantry to watch here, and watching earlier the events that took place in Washington.

We're going to pause now.



LONG: You have been watching the arrival ceremony in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at Gerald R. Ford International Airport -- Betty Ford, herself, inside the motorcade now, which will proceed to the museum and library.

A lot of people have amassed along the motorcade route in order to pay their respects to the 38th president, who moved to Grand Rapids very young, at the age of basically 1 in 1914. He was born in another state and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has really been his hometown.


And you know what, Melissa? No matter how many times you hear it, when you hear "Hail to the Chief," it just -- you know, you can't help but take pause...


LEMON: ... that.

LONG: Stand straight.

LEMON: You stand straight, and you think about it.

But, also, listening to that Michigan fight song, you think about what a -- an incredible athlete Gerald Ford was. And you think about what a man who -- of really non-ego, you know, even though he was the president of the United States, and, according to people who knew him, instilled that in his children and in his family.

You're watching live coverage of the memorial services for the late Gerald R. Ford, live pictures on the right of throngs of people waiting for the procession to go by, the hearse and the motorcade carrying the late president.

And then you're looking at live pictures there from Gerald R. Ford International Airport -- on the left, Mrs. Ford in the back of that limousine.

We will have continuing coverage coming up after a short break. You're in the CNN newsroom.


LEMON: The CNN NEWSROOM today with continuing coverage of memorial services honoring the late President Gerald R. Ford, 38th president of the United States -- live pictures now from Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The motorcade -- we saw the first lady, former first lady, get into a limo just a short time ago, and is headed in a procession to the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Earlier, I said it's the museum and library. This is one of the only presidential museums that is not connected to a library. They are both the same thing, but the museum is in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the library is in Ann Arbor. I stand corrected on that one.

But there about to head there now. And then later on this evening, there will be a memorial service there with several dignitaries, including the governor of Michigan and other folks who will be there to honor the late president. We'll have continuing coverage of this throughout the day and the throughout evening right here on CNN.

LONG: And we do want to make sure are up-to-date on the other news stories today as well.

Seven New Orleans police officers turned themselves in today, five days after they were indicted in the deaths of two men. The killings were in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and whipped up quite a storm of their own.

But as Sean Callebs reports the so-called Danziger Seven have as many supporters as they do critics.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The way the six current officers and one former officer surrendered to authorities speaks volume about the way this case is perceived here in New Orleans. The street was lined with hundreds of New Orleans police officers and their supporters. The seven were greeted with chants of heroes and NOPD as they made their way to the sheriff's department to be fingerprinted and photographed.

Now, as if this case wasn't highly charged enough, race has become an issue. The Reverend Al Sharpton issued a statement saying he is believes that it is racially motivated. Now, the attorneys involved in the case representing the defendants say that is simply laughable.

FRANK DESALVO, KENNETH BOWEN'S ATTORNEY: Four of the seven officers are black. Reverend Sharpton can't count or he can't see color.

CALLEBS: The shootings happened September 4th, 2005 in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If you remember, looting was going on, there were random gunshots being fired. The seven police officers responded to the Danzinger Bridge and calls of an officer allegedly down.

When they arrived they said there was shooting going on, they shot and killed two individuals, 19-year-old James Brisset (ph), and 40-year-old Ronald Madison who was mentally retarded.

Madison's brother Lance was arrested and has now filed a civil charge against the authorities saying the killing was unjustified.

LANCE MADISON, BROTHER KILLED BY POLICE: The story they made up, alibis to cover themselves. I didn't have no weapon at all. The brother didn't have no weapon. We were just trying to get rescued.

CALLEBS: That interview was done with CNN's Drew Griffin sometime ago. Madison is no longer talking about the case because of his civil suit. Now, a district attorney has also run afoul of the New Orleans police department because he has been aggressively prosecuting this case. Now, in it, Eddie Jordan went on to say the police cannot be turned loose to shoot down their citizens like rabid dogs.

The police were very offended by that, the superintendent calling it simply an unwarranted statement. The charges are severe. If the four charged with first-degree murder are convicted, they could be executed.

Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans.


LEMON: Still snowbound and also in the dark. From the Oklahoma panhandle to Nebraska, utility crews are struggling to restore power to tens of thousands of homes.

The snow and ice from last week's blizzard brought down hundreds of miles of power lines and it could be next week before all of the lights are back on.

Humvees and planes are being used to reach snowbound cattle and to search for stranded travelers. Colorado National Guard activated twice in one week is bringing supplies to residents and drivers who are isolated are either stuck.


MAJ. GEN. MASON WHITNEY, COLORADO NATIONAL GUARD: There were some truckers that had some pretty expensive cargo and they were very reluctant to leave that according owe, so they had food and water and they could survive with their trailers that they had on the truck.

So, obviously, we made sure that they were well taken care of and we would check back with them to make sure they were still there but, yes, as a matter of fact, there were some folks that didn't want to be rescued.


LEMON: At least 12 deaths have been blamed on the snow.


LONG: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, West Virginia's Sago coal mine is still in business, but not today. We will reflect on a somber anniversary ahead.

Oprah Winfrey cuts the ribbon on her state-of-the-art school in South Africa. Ahead in the NEWSROOM, how education might transform the lives of some of the world's poorest children. You're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LONG: Today marks the one-year anniversary of West Virginia's Sago mine tragedy. One miner, as you know, was killed in an underground explosion, 11 others died of carbon monoxide poisoning and just one miner, Randy McCloy survived.

CNN's Randi Kaye has been following the story over the past year and joins us live from New York. Hi Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Melissa. After 12 miners died at Sago, there were promises to improve mine safety on both the local and the federal level. And last June, President George Bush signed what he called the most sweeping overhaul of federal mine safety laws in nearly three decades.

So we wanted to know what has really changed in the year since Sago and it looks like not much. The miner's act of 2006 promises to provide an extra hour of oxygen for each miner through those rescue packs that we became very familiar with during the Sago tragedy. Well those rescue packs have been ordered. There are purchase orders for them, but they are still not in the miners hands where they need to be.

The problem according to Dennis O'Dell, with the United Mine Workers is a backlog with the manufacturers, but it does look like the mines are complying because they have the purchase orders to prove the packs have been ordered.

Another key failure according to O'Dell is two-way communication and electronic tracking systems that were supposed to help people on the surface locate those trapped underground. Well apparently the mining companies have three years to get those in working order. Three years is too long, he says.

And remember the safe room in Sago where the miners barricaded themselves, hoping to seal off the bad air? Well the miners act of 2006 requires the companies to build safe rooms or rescue chambers at each work station. This is very expensive. And now the companies are actually asking the government to study this before they spend the money. So nothing done there yet either.


DENNIS O'DELL, SAFETY DIRECTOR, UNITED MINE WORKERS: Every new law or regulation that's written in this industry has to come on the blood of a miner and that is unacceptable. That should not be the way of the future. We shouldn't have to kill miners to get new regulations or new laws put in place to give better health and safety protections for our miners.


KAYE: O'Dell says production is the priority and safety now seems to be secondary. Last year, 47 miners died, more than double those killed in 2005. But Bruce Watzman with the National Mining Association told me today, quote, "They are reinstilling into the industry a culture of prevention and that people expected too much about how quickly the industry would be able to get new technology underground."

Be sure to tune in tonight at 10:00 for "A.C. 360." We'll have much more on this in our "Keeping them Honest" segment. Back to you.

LONG: We'll be watching tonight, thank you, Randi.

LEMON: Oprah Winfrey proves talk isn't cheap. Winfrey promised, designed, paid for and today dedicated the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, a state-of-the-art school for underprivileged girls in South Africa. CNN's Jeff Koinange is there.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oprah has been coming to South Africa for the past several years, determined to fulfill a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela or Mediba to most here.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: So, I said to Mediba, I would like to build school and I would like to commit $10 million dollars. This was five years ago, and he said, yes.

KOINANGE: And just like that, the two broke ground for a girl' school just outside Johannesburg. And what began as a $10 million project. It's since grown from $40 million dollars and counting.

WINFREY: The dream for me was to create a school that I would most want to attend. So from the very beginning, I sat down with architects and I said we have to have a library and a fireplace so that the girls can, it can be a place for learning as well as living for them.

We have to have a theater because this is a school for leaders and in order to be a leader, you have to have a voice. In order to have a voice, you need oration. So the idea for the school came about based on what I felt would be an honor for the African girls.

KOINANGE: And all of this for free. Free uniforms. Free books. Free meals. Everything is free at Oprah's school.



KOINANGE: Oprah insisted on personally interviewing all the perspective students from schools around the country. The requirements are simple. The girls had to have better than average grades and they had to come from under privileged homes, much like she did.

WINFREY: I look in their faces and I see my own. With girls who came from a background just like my own. I was raised by a grandmother, no running water or electricity. But yet because of a sense of education and learning, I was able to become who I am.

And I want to do the same for these girls. And so, I think there's no better place than Africa because the sense of need, the sense of value for education and appreciation for it, could not be greater.

KOINANGE: And in true Oprah fashion, she invited all the finalists to what was supposed to be an informal get-together and dropped this bombshell.

WINFREY: I brought you all here today to tell you that you will be a part of the very first class of the Oprah Winfrey School.

KOINANGE: And just like that, 150 young lives were transformed in an instant.

(on camera): What does this mean, this moment right now? What does it mean?

WINFREY: Oh, it is a complete full circle moment in my life. It is, I feel like it's what I was really born to do and that is what all of that fame and attention and money was for. It feels like the complete circle of my life.

CROWD: We love you, Oprah!

KOINANGE (voice-over): Jeff Koinange, CNN, Johannesburg.


LEMON: I'm sure they do. At one point today, a South African reporter asked Oprah Winfrey about the racial makeup of the student body.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was some bit of people who were not happy that you're only choosing black girls. What are you saying to appease the white people of this country about their own white girls?

WINFREY: I don't think I have to appease the white people of this country, first of all. But this school is open to all girls who are disadvantaged. All girls, all races, who are disadvantaged.


LEMON: And Winfrey says her school includes White, Indian and Native American students of varying faiths.

LONG: You're looking at a live picture now of the route for the motorcade which will lead to of course the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We're continuing to follow the life and legacy of the 38th president of the United States this afternoon in the NEWSROOM.


LONG: Thousands of people along the motorcade route trying to stay warm this afternoon as they wait for the motorcade to pass by en route to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, which is in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, the casket will lie in public repose until Wednesday afternoon, when the casket will be taken to Grace Church for a funeral service.

And, of course, as well, the president's casket will be interred inside that museum. And when the museum itself was constructed, that was kept in mind years ago.

A live picture right now of the motorcade route from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Earlier, we heard from Jeanne Meserve, who is also in Grand Rapids. she said some 50,000 people have signed the condolence book in the presidential museum. Obviously, Mr. Ford, such an important part of the community there, having served in Congress, elected 13 times to Congress, to the House of Representatives representing people in Michigan and Grand Rapids.

LEMON: Yes. And you saw the people who were coming -- streaming in and out of Washington in the rain, waiting overnight. And you saw the pictures from last week, the people in California waiting. And now the people here, all waiting to pay their respects to the president.

You know, in life, Gerald Ford wasn't big on pomp and ceremony. In death, he is surrounded by it. The 38th president is being honored on a national day of mourning.

Here, if you missed it, excerpts from Mr. Ford's funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very sight of Chief Justice Berger (ph), administering the oath of office to our 38th president, instantly restored the honor of the Oval Office and helped America begin to turn the page on one of our saddest chapters.

As Americans, we generally assume notions of the indispensable man and, yet, during those traumatic times, few, if any, of our public leaders could have stepped into the breach and rekindled our national faith as did President Gerald R. Ford.

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Historians will debate a long time over which president contributed most to victory in the Cold War. Few will dispute that the Cold War could not have been won had not Gerald Ford emerged at a tragic period to restore equilibrium to America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance. He knew who he was and he didn't require consultants or gurus to change him.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On the day he became president, he told the nation, "I am indebted to no man and only to one woman, my dear wife."

By then, Betty Ford had a pretty good idea of what marriage to Gerald Ford involved. After all, their wedding had taken place less than three weeks before his first election to the United States Congress. And his idea of a honeymoon was driving to Anne Arbor with his bride so they could attend a brunch before the Michigan/Northwestern game the next day. And that was the beginning of a great marriage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest rewards of Jerry Ford's time were reserved for his fellow Americans and the nation he loved.

Farewell, Mr. President.

Thank you, Citizen Ford.



LONG: An ordinary family living an extraordinary life. The Fords may have been surrounded by pomp and circumstance, but never let the circumstances change them.

National correspondent Bob Franken has more.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the sons and daughters of a president, normal is still a family value, so it should come as no surprise that Gerald Ford's children spent time mingling with the average citizens who came to pay respects. Those who occupied the highest levels with Ford say the down-to-earth approach always set him apart.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The achievements added all his life, yet he was known to boast only about one. I heard it once or twice myself. He said he was never luckier than when he stepped out of Grace Episcopal church in Grand Rapids with a beautiful girl named Betty as his bride.

FRANKEN: Gerald and Betty Ford were married for 58 years, certainly a solid couple, even though both asserted their own individuality. Betty Ford, outspoken and candid, who turned her own problems into the Betty Ford Clinic, that have helped so many thousands with addictions. Only recently did she turn the day-to-day operations over to her daughter, Susan, is also a photographer. One son is a minister. Another a journalist. The other, an actor. This is a family of extraordinary achievement that doesn't put on airs. Just ask first lady Betty Ford's press secretary about her first job interview.

SHEILA WEIDENFIELD, BETTY FORD'S PRESS SECY.: She came down in her robe, and we talked and she said -- I said to her, well, what would you like me to do as a press secretary? Because I had no idea what she expected of me. So she said to me, well, how should I know? I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

FRANKEN: That informality overshadows these formal ceremonies for President Gerald Ford.

WEIDENFIELD: The Fords considered themselves simple folk, and there was no way they were going to change. The first thing Betty Ford said to me was, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.


FRANKEN (on camera): President Ford and his family wanted a low- key ceremony, relatively low key. And they've gotten it.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.

LEMON: And now for continuing coverage, to Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM.