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CNN Larry King Live

The Legacy of President Gerald R. Ford

Aired December 27, 2006 - 21:00   ET


GERALD R. FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all need god's sure guidance. With it, nothing can stop the United States of America. Thank you.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: He became an unelected president in a time of unprecedented American turmoil, calming the country after a devastating political crisis.

Tonight, we'll remember the 38th president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, on a very special LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Gerald R. Ford died peacefully last night at age 93 at his home in Rancho Mirage, California.

And what a group of guests we'll hear from to life -- tonight, rather -- on his life and legacy -- Henry Kissinger, Bob Dole, Al Haig, former Senator Howard Baker, Bob Woodward and more. And joining us by telephone, former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

But first, my own little story about Gerald Ford.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing the president on this program many times and many personal moments with him, as well. I had the honor of being asked to emcee a dinner that honored Betty Ford attended by all the first ladies.

But one particular night stands out in my memory. President Clinton and President Ford were both being honored at a special dinner honoring fathers and families in the United States. The presidents each were -- selected their own person to introduce them. President Clinton had Elizabeth Taylor and President Ford asked for me and I was really honored.

In fact, my wife Shawn was his dinner companion that night.

I introduced the president. He got up and he followed Clinton. That's a tough act to follow. And you may find this hard to believe, because President Ford was not an eloquent speaker -- he outdid President Clinton that night by a mile.

What he spoke about was being raised by his stepfather. President Ford was born with the name Gerald King. But his mother remarried, married a gentleman named Mr. Ford. And they got so close that he dropped the name King and took the name Ford and forever treasured growing up with a great stepfather.

When his bio -- when his natural father, Mr. King, tried to meet him later in life, he refused, just out of loyalty to his father, Mr. Ford. It was a speech I will never forget.

Joining us on the phone is Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady of the United States.

Thank you for being with us, Nancy.


KING: How did you hear about it today?

REAGAN: I heard about it...

KING: Or was it last night?

REAGAN: I heard about it last night, yes. I heard about it from the Secret Service, really.

KING: Have you had an opportunity to speak with Betty or anyone with the family?

REAGAN: I spoke with Betty about a week ago. I called her today but she was resting so I haven't spoken to her today, no.

KING: Did you question that Gerald was very sick?

REAGAN: Oh, yes, my. Yes. I think everybody knew that, don't you?

KING: Yes, well they knew it but they would kind of say well, he's doing OK.

REAGAN: Yes, well, no. I -- no. I think -- yes, I knew and Betty and I talked about it a little bit when I did talk to her. So, no.

KING: They were political opponents, the Reagans and the Fords.

Were you friends?

REAGAN: Oh, yes. Oh, my, yes. Of course we were. No we weren't -- we weren't opponents -- oh, how can I say this? We weren't opponents in the sense that you usually think of being an opponent.

KING: Well, I guess your husband challenged him in 1976 and nearly got the nomination.

REAGAN: Yes, yes. And that was an exciting convention, I must say. Very. KING: But in 1980, in Detroit, was it -- was it ever spoken truthfully that your husband considered putting former President Ford as his running mate?

REAGAN: Well, you know, that came up...

KING: It did?

REAGAN: ... in conversations. However, it was -- the more everybody thought about it, it just wouldn't have worked, that's all. And Ronnie knew it and Gerry knew it. But it didn't make any difference on our friendship. We were friends.

KING: What -- what's your favorite -- what do you remember the most about Gerry Ford?

REAGAN: Well, everybody says this, but I guess it bears repeating, he was a very decent man, a good man, an honest man, all those qualities, he had, which are nice qualities to have.

KING: And a very special relationship with Betty, right?

REAGAN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

KING: And you have praised him for speaking out on -- especially in the area of stem cell research.

REAGAN: Stem cell. Yes. Yes. He joined with me on stem cell. I had to send him some material, you know, so that he could read it. And -- but then he came aboard and I was very happy to have him.

KING: What do you think his legacy is going to be?

REAGAN: Oh, gosh, Larry.

KING: He brought the country together?

REAGAN: Yes. Yes. Yes. And that he was a good, decent man.

KING: now, you know from personal experience how difficult this must be for Betty. Even though someone is very old, and I guess Ronnie was the same age as Gerald was, right?

REAGAN: Yes, that's right.

KING: Yes, 93.

REAGAN: Uh-huh.

KING: It's still very painful, it is not, no matter how old someone is?

REAGAN: You bet. You bet. And no matter how expected it might be, it's hard. It just is hard. So, yes, I -- my heart goes out to her and her family.

KING: Do you know anything about the funeral arrangements?

REAGAN: No, I don't, Larry. I'm -- I'm kind of waiting to hear myself.

KING: Can we say that you will expect to attend?

REAGAN: Oh, yes. Yes. I'm just -- yes. But I wish I knew something. No, no, I'll be there.

KING: Apparently, we have learned that there's going to be a public respects in California, as well, and that the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, he'll probably be interred next Wednesday and the services probably at the National Cathedral on Tuesday, January 2, because they wouldn't want to make it on a holiday, January 1st.

So you'll probably be in Washington on Tuesday, January 2nd?

REAGAN: Probably. Yes. Yes.

KING: And on a personal note to yourself, how are you doing?

REAGAN: I'm fine. I'm a little tired from Christmas, as everybody is. But I'm fine.

KING: Did you have a good holiday?

REAGAN: Yes, yes, I did. I did. My Patty was here and my -- unfortunately, Ron was in Seattle, but Patty was here and we had -- we had a lot of strays. I shouldn't say that, but you know what I mean.

KING: Well, I'll see you in a couple of weeks for lunch. You have a wonderful holiday and give us all -- pay all of our respects next Tuesday in Washington.

REAGAN: Wonderful.

Thank you, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Nancy.

REAGAN: All right.


KING: Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady of the United States.

President Carter -- President Ford -- one of President Ford's closest friends is President Jimmy Carter, who issued a statement today. He said: "President Ford is one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known, a man of highest integrity. His lifelong dedication to helping others touched the lives of countless people. An outstanding statesman, he wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history. He frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation." We'll be back with our panel right after this.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm turning over direction of the government to Vice President Ford. I know, as I told the nation when I nominated him for that office 10 months ago, that the leadership of America will be in good hands.



KING: What did you think and feel as you left the office knowing that tomorrow you're the leader of the free world?

FORD: I felt confident that I was...

KING: You did?

FORD: ... prepared.

KING: Did you call Betty right away?

FORD: No. She knew where I was and knew what was going to happen because we had been forewarned. Then the night before, as we went to bed, we actually held hands and prayed that our new responsibilities we could carry on as a team and do a good job.



FORD: I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.

If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. I have not campaigned either for the presidency or the vice presidency. I have not subscribed to any partisan platform. I an indebted to no man and only to one woman, my dear wife.


KING: We have an outstanding panel with us.

They are, in Council Grove, Kansas, Howard Baker. He was the keynote speaker at the 1976 convention that nominated Gerald Ford to be reelected. He was defeated in that election.

In Washington is Al Haig, who served as White House chief of staff for Richard Nixon during the height of the Watergate scandal and stayed on in the same post in the early days of the Ford administration. He was succeeded by Don Rumsfeld.

In Washington, as well, is Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, assisting managing editor, number one "New York Times" best-selling author. And his most recent book, "State of Denial: Bush At War," has been a runaway best-seller.

And in Austin, Texas, is Thomas DeFrank of the "New York Daily News," Washington bureau chief. He covered Gerald Ford as vice president and president, interviewed him more than three dozen times, including the last interview that Gerald Ford gave.

Let's start with Howard Baker.

What -- what, Howard, was special about Gerry?

FORMER SENATOR HOWARD BAKER: Well, I think that the most special thing to me was Gerry Ford was who he appeared to be. He was genuine. He had no guile. He was straightforward. And people instinctively trusted him. And goodness knows, when he ascended to the presidency under those circumstances, the people's trust was the first and most essential thing.

KING: Al Haig, truthfully, was there much hope for him among the White House staffers, yourself included, as to what kind of president he'd be?

ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, PRESIDENT FORD'S WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think there was a pretty good consensus, for a number of reasons, that he was the right choice. First and foremost, of course, was that in those anguishing days, people would be against the president just to be against him. And there was very little likelihood that his choice for vice president, had he not been a son of the legislature, would have been rather slim in getting confirmed.

So the more we thought about it, the more the president thought about it, the more President Gerald Ford came to the front as the logical candidate and replacement.

And that's exactly the direction it took.

I, for one, was very enthusiastic about it because I had known the vice president, and that's the job we were looking at at the moment, for many years. And he was a man that you could trust, you could respect and he was different than most candidates in that he never aspired for the office, so he didn't bring any baggage that might have been either difficult or perhaps embarrassing at some point.

KING: Bob Woodward, the story is going to break in the "Washington Post" tomorrow, but he has been kind enough to give us a little advance of it, you did a tape with Gerald Ford.

When did you do it, Bob?

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Back in 2004, a four day -- four hours at his place in Beaver Creek, Colorado. This was an embargoed interview, something that wasn't to come out until I did a book on him or Ford died. And in these interviews, you see kind of his authenticity and his candidness.

KING: Let's...

WOODWARD: He says some rather stinging things...

KING: Yes...

WOODWARD: ... that people would not necessarily think or identify with Gerald Ford.

KING: Let's hear one portion...


KING: ... which may surprise some people. I haven't heard it, so let's hear it together.


FORD: I don't think if I had been president on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have wanted the Iraqi war. I would have maximized our efforts through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.


KING: That was a little difficult to understand...

WOODWARD: He had...

KING: He was, in essence, saying what about Iraq?

WOODWARD: Well, he said specifically -- and this is in 2004 -- that he wouldn't have gone to war in Iraq if he had been president. He said, "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, 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 made it very clear that he did not agree with the reasons that President Bush laid out for the war, namely the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or that there was some obligation that the United States or the president had...

KING: Tom...

WOODWARD: ... to expand democracy.

KING: Tom DeFrank of the "New York Daily News," who knew him very well, does that surprise you?

THOMAS DEFRANK, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": No, it doesn't surprise me, Larry. And I can't really scoop my newspaper, but some of what I just heard in Bob's terrific interview there, our readers will probably see a little of that tomorrow.

I'm not surprised at all about that.

KING: Would you say, Tom, that Gerald Ford, a kind of conservative congressman, became a much more -- for want of a better term -- liberal Republican?

DEFRANK: Well, liberal is putting it a little too strongly, Larry. But I think he was more in the -- more toward the Rockefeller Republican mold.

KING: Yes.

DEFRANK: But he wasn't quite -- he was kind of -- he was a centrist as opposed to a center right Republican.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with more of Howard Baker, Al Haig, Bob Woodward and Tom DeFrank.

Don't go away.

But first, we have a statement from former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a joint statement: "Gerald Ford brought Americans together during a difficult chapter in our history with strength, integrity and humility. All Americans should be grateful for his life of service. He served our nation well. To his great credit, he was the same hard-working, down to earth person the day he left the White House as he was when he first entered Congress almost 30 years earlier."

Now we'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are emerging from the so-called diplomatic entrance downstairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is the man who will be president in another couple of hours, Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty Ford.

KING: What was it like to stand on the lawn the day he left and went to that helicopter and that famous wave?

FORD: Well, Betty and I were not happy to see a friend go through that traumatic experience, so I think we were saddened by it, Larry...

KING: Really?

FORD: ... even though it was a new challenge to use. To see Pat and Dick leave under those circumstances, that was not a pleasant moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Ford this morning, as he left his home to come here for this occasion, said it was, indeed, one of the saddest incidents that he's ever seen. There is the president waving good-bye. And you hear the applause.




FORD: There was a little confusion about the date of this press conference. My wife Betty had scheduled her first press conference for the same day, and obviously I had scheduled my first press conference for this occasion. So Betty's was postponed.

We worked this out between us in a calm and orderly way. She'll postpone her press conference until next week and until then, I'll be making my own breakfast, my own lunch and my own dinner.


KING: Howard Baker, you were the keynote speaker at that '76 convention.

Did, in fact, the pardon defeat him?

BAKER: Oh, I think beyond a doubt, Larry. And, at the time, I thought this was a monumental political mistake. And it was, in the short-term. But as time has gone by, I think it has turned out to be a brave and courageous thing for him to do because it did put an end, not entirely, but mostly, to the, as he put, the great national nightmare.

But I don't think there's any doubt but that the pardon took him down in the polls, as I remember, down 40 points immediately after it occurred, which is not to say that he certainly would have been elected without it, but it certainly would have been a better chance without it.

But I admire him for what he did. I didn't agree with him at the time, but I think now, in hindsight, that it was exactly the right thing to do.

KING: Al Haig, did you agree with it at the time?

HAIG: Of course, I agreed with it, but I wasn't asked and I didn't volunteer. It was too touchy for me to do so.

KING: Because you were too close to President Nixon?

HAIG: Absolutely. And it wasn't my role to be an advocate for any course of action, despite some of the rumors that came from around the president, not to his knowledge, but it certainly did come from around him.

KING: Bob, why do you think he did it? WOODWARD: Well, first of all, one of the things Ford told me, which I published a number of years ago, is that he believes, he, Gerald Ford, believed that Al Haig offered him a deal.

Now, Al Haig will tell you and firmly and emphatically deny that. But Ford believed that the deal was offered and believed that he rejected it. And Ford's reasoning was essentially he wanted his own presidency. He had to get Nixon off the front page, the idea of an investigation, indictment, possible jailing of Nixon would consume the country for another two years. There were more important matters to do.

And, in fact, Ford, I think, has convinced most people and history and even myself, that he did it -- he did the right thing...

KING: Yes.

WOODWARD: ... and it was a courageous act.

HAIG: Larry, I want to take this on, because it's a very important issue.

Let me tell you, it's an insult to the president himself, to President Ford, to suggest that he would take a deal. The call that he had -- and I made it -- was that he was going to be the next president of the United States.

Why in heaven's name any rational man would risk it all by even listening to a deal is beyond me.

KING: Yes.

HAIG: In addition to that, I saw the sworn testimony that he gave. I read it before he gave it to the Judiciary Committee, the only president to have ever done so. And he firmly denied any deal.

So I think you hear what you want to hear when you want to hear it.

KING: Yes.

HAIG: And you have to be careful.

KING: Well said.

And, Tom DeFrank, do you think that -- that he lost the election because of it?

DEFRANK: Absolutely. I thought it then and I think it today, Larry.

But I also want to weigh in on something that Bob and General Haig have said. I -- for the last 17 years, I have been going out to Colorado and California to interview President Ford, off the record, at least for the moment. And he has been remarkably candid about a lot of other things. He's been much more candid privately about certain things than he has been publicly.

But the one thing where his private comments to me have been exactly the same as his public comments to everybody are on the question of a deal. And he has said there was no deal, period.

KING: We are...

DEFRANK: And he could have...

BAKER: Larry, this is Howard Baker.

I must tell you that I had that conversation with Ford, with President Ford, shortly after the accusations, the suspicions grew. And I didn't ask him point blank if he had tried to make a deal, but he volunteered to me that there had been no deal, there would be no deal. He did it because it was the right thing to do.

KING: And he was an honest guy.

Al Haig, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate it. We'll be calling on you again. We're going to do a major program on Tuesday night, as well.

When we come back, our other panelists remain.

We'll be joined by Bob Dole and on the phone with Dr. Henry Kissinger, as well as Dr. -- as Carl Anthony, the noted historian, will be aboard.

We have a statement from former President George H.W. Bush: "Gerry Ford was, simply put, one of the most decent and capable men I ever met. During our time in Congress together so many years ago, he epitomized leadership to me. And then as president, he led this nation so ably through the turbulent waters of Watergate and was both a vigilant and effective cold warrior. Gerry Ford was the kind of human being who made you proud to call him your friend and we'll miss him very much."

And we'll be right back.


KING: In retrospect, President Ford, was the pardon of Richard Nixon the toughest decision you had to make?

FORD: It was a tough one because it was a decision where I had to sign my name and I was the sole person that had to make that decision. But when you look back at the alternatives that I had, it was the right decision and I have...

KING: No doubt about that either?

FORD: I have no question that it was the right thing to do then and I'm more certain today.


FORD: Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that. And if I can, I must.



KING: Joining us now in Washington is Bob Dole, who was Gerald Ford's running mate in the 1976 election and the GOP presidential nominee two decades later.

Howard Baker remains with us in Council Grove, Kansas. Bob Woodward remains with us in Washington. Tom DeFrank of the "New York Daily News" in Austin.

By the way, both Woodward and DeFrank will be making more news in addition to the news we've made tonight in their papers tomorrow.

And here in Los Angeles, is Carl Sperrazza Anthony, the presidential historian and best-selling author. Among the books he's written, "America's First Families: an Inside View of 200 Years of the Private Life in the White House."

Let's put a close on the question of the pardon.

Bob, do you -- where do you think on it now?

WOODWARD: Well, I know what Ford said, that he felt Haig offered him a deal. At the same time, there is an argument and Ford made it quite strongly. And I agree with Tom DeFrank. There is a consistency in the private and public statements Ford has made on this. He had his own reasons. In a fascinating way, he was able to see beyond the moment and realize that they just had to dispose of the Nixon problem and Watergate. And he did it in a gutsy way that Teddy Kennedy gave him the Profiles in Courage Award a number of years ago.

KING: With us on the phone is Dr. Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state in both the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Henry, was Ford a surprise to you as president?

DR. HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I had no clear view what he would do as president. But he certainly, almost miraculously, was the right man for that occasion, the right man to calm America down and give it a new sense of direction.

KING: Was he a good guy to work for?

KISSINGER: He was a wonderful man to work for because he never worried about -- about getting credit. He never worried about -- about mistakes that were made. He focused on the objective. He was always relaxed. He was always serene. And he was very decisive.

KING: His ego well in place.

Bob Dole, what was he like to run with?

BOB DOLE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE: Well, he was great to run with. We had -- I think we adopted sort of a Rose Garden strategy where he was in the Rose Garden and I was in the briar patch. And it almost worked. I think we came from a 30-point deficit to almost a dead heat.

But I even -- he's even a better guy to work with in the Congress. I had the great honor of working with Gerry Ford in the House of Representatives from 61 through 68. And he was, -- well, it has been said all day long by everyone, Democrats and Republicans, he had this personality that attracted people. He was just a regular guy. People liked him. And he knew the limits of partisanship. I would say he was a principled partisan. And he knew the limits and he knew when it was time to reach across the aisle or work out a compromise or move on to something else.

KING: Carl, as presidents go was he unique?

CARL SPERRAZZA ANTHONY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:: He was unique certainly in terms of breaking a lot of precedents. I mean, of course, it's been stated a lot in the last 24 hours how he was the only man not elected either to be vice president or president.

And certainly he served in a unique time. You know, it does -- it is kind of funny how history sometimes works. The right person comes at the right time. And here he came and helped to heal us from Vietnam and Watergate but was there before some of the other great crises that would hit came on.

KING: We're lucky that way, right?

ANTHONY: Not always.

KING: Not always but...

ANTHONY: But, by and large, you know.

KING: Howard Baker, are you surprised -- in '92, Howard, at the Republican Convention, in which Pat Buchanan spoke in prime time, I think Rush Limbaugh was an invited special guest, Gerald Ford told me that this is not the Republican Party I know. You surprised at that?

BAKER: No, I'm not surprised at that. And indeed, I think of Gerry Ford as one of a small and diminishing group of what I call centrist Republicans, not necessarily liberal or conservative, but I think centrist. And I would not be surprised at Ford saying that.

By the way, I think that, as I look back on that era, even now, it's near miraculous that we survived it as well as we did. And to a great extent, the credit for that goes to Gerry Ford.

KING: Well put.

We'll be right back with more.

First, a statement from Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as Ford's chief of staff.

"President Ford led an honorable life that brought great credit to the United States of America. Throughout his career, as a naval officer, congressman, vice president and president, Gerald Ford embodied the best values of a great generation: decency, integrity and devotion to duty. Thirty-two years ago, he assumed the nation's highest office during the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War. In that troubled era, America needed strength, wisdom and good judgment, and those qualities came to us in the person of Gerald R. Ford."

We'll be right back.


FORD: On a marble fireplace in the White House is carved a prayer which John Adams wrote. It concludes, "May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." Since I have resided in that historic house, I have tried to live by that prayer.

I face many tough problems. I probably made some mistakes, but on balance, America and Americans have made an incredible comeback since August, 1974.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My god, there's been a shot. There's been a shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay back. Everybody stay back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're being pushed back by the police. Somebody has fired a shot here. We don't know if anybody's been hit. My god, somebody fired a shot.

FORD: As I walked out of the hotel to get into the car, a shot took place. And fortunately it missed me. Now, I'm told that across the street, where the shot came from a lady, Sara J. Moore, pulled the trigger. But a marine standing next to her saw it and hit her hand and ...

KING: ... Did that cause you increased hesitancy about future appearances?

FORD: Not at all.


FORD: That was one of the risks that you have to assume, Larry, when you're in the White House.

KING: It's logical to have some fear.

FORD: Well, I guess you would say subjectively you have fear, but you can't let those kind of incidents restrict you in your responsibilities as a ...

KING: ... So you're out in public the next day?

FORD: That's right.


KING: Bob Dole, in retrospect, his presidency had some turbulence, did it not?

DOLE: Oh, a lot of turbulence. He had a very -- came in at a very difficult time. He inherited an economy that was in the tank, the Vietnam War had not ended, he pardoned Richard Nixon within days after he became president. I mean, there was -- plus, he had a very tough, you know, nomination fight with Reagan. So, yes, turmoil was probably an understatement.

KING: We remember whip inflation now. Dr. Henry Kissinger, how did he do in the area of foreign policy?

KISSINGER: I think that President Ford made a major contribution to helping end the Cold War. He was instrumental in pushing through the human rights provisions in the European security conference, which was strongly attacked at that time, but which is now widely recognized as having provided the basis on which people like Poland, Czechoslovakia brought down the communist system and he never gets credit. Most people don't even know it that he brought about the turn towards majority rule in Rhodesia.

KING: Excellent point. Dr. Henry Kissinger, thanks so much for being with us tonight.

Thomas DeFrank, was he underrated?

DEFRANK: Well, I think he was underrated. He wasn't president long enough, Larry, for a full record or full judgment to be rendered on him. But I think he was underrated and I think as time passes, his reputation has been enhanced and I think that will continue to be the case.

KING: Carl Anthony, he holds the record for the longest post- presidency being living, right?

ANTHONY: Not only the dolest living president but also the one who survived his presidency the longest. I think Hoover was 31 years and we just heard, I think that Ford was 33, 33, 34 years.

KING: So that would be the record?

ANTHONY: Yes. One thing I mentioned, I did an interview with him a few years ago and he mentioned what Dr. Kissinger did, the Helsinki accords and he was very proud of that, and he considered that his contribution to end the Cold War.

KING: He is underrated, though.

ANTHONY: I think in some respects, yes.

KING: Let's check in now with Anderson Cooper, who will host "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. I imagine covering a lot of this, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly Larry, trying to get some different angles on it. We're going to look at the life and career of President Gerald Ford. We're going to examine what really was a remarkable love affair President Ford had with his wife Betty. Spent nearly 60 years and stood through the trials of the White House, Mrs. Ford's battles with addiction and cancer. We'll celebrate that relationshio tonight and try to figure out their secret.

We'll also look back at the attempts on the president's life, he had two attempts within two weeks of each other. We'll look at exactly why that happened.

All that, plus the massive storm bearing down on the Rockies that is threatening to wreak havoc on the upcoming holiday travel weekend. That's at the top of the hour, Larry, on "360."

KING: That's "A.C. 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. When we come back by the way, Bob Woodward will talk a little bit about President Ford and Cheney and Rumsfeld.

First, a statement from the Reverend Billy Graham. "President Ford was one of the closest friends I had in the political world, and I have the greatest admiration for him and his wife, Betty. I remember in his inaugurual speech he said, 'you have not elected me as your president by your ballots and so I ask you to confirm as your president with your prayers.' God certainly answered those prayers. President Ford was the great healer and brought us together. We owe a great debt to him for him he put principle over politics at a crucial time in the life of our nation."

Back with more after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the battle raged, panic swept Saigon. Hundreds of people tried to claw their way over the wall into the American embassy compound.

KING: What was ending that war like for you?

FORD: Well, to sit in the Oval Office, Larry, and see those people from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon taking helicopters and to know that we were being literally kicked out of Vietnam by the North Vietnamese, that was a sad experience for any president to see us lose as we did. (END VIDEO CLIP)


KING: Here's a little more of Bob Woodward's tape with President Ford done two years ago. A lot of it will be in the "Washington Post" tomorrow. Listen.


FORD: I think 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."


KING: Bob, were you surprised at that critique?

WOODWARD: I was. He was being very candid. He said he didn't buy the argument about weapons of mass destruction. And again, the body language was one of consternation, unease. Here is this very seasoned, experienced politician who had been president, who, you know, at the time of the Cold War, thought a lot about war and what it might mean. And he just did not buy the Iraq War.

And he restricted me and said, "You can't report on this until I'm gone." But it comes at a time when people are debating what is this war about and how did we get there.

The other thing, if I may, in these discussions with him, you know, we always keep -- when we're on the sidelines, "Who was this guy?" "Who was this man?"

And there was such a tendency to pigeonhole and simplify people. And one of the things he said to me in the conversations, that he was very upset that people looked at him as an establishment figure. And he considered himself -- and this was his word -- a renegade.

And then he made a case, how he got into politics, overthrowing the political bosses in Michigan, an isolationist Congressman that he beat and so forth. So this -- any tendency to say, "Oh, this is who he was." And he demonstrates in these conversations, which will be in the paper and on our website tomorrow, that he really was a renegade. He had his own view of things.

KING: Bob Dole, does that surprise you, the conversations about Iraq?

DOLE: Yes, it does surprise me. I mean, I think, as Bob Woodward pointed out, President Ford was very slow to criticize anyone, particularly, well, I guess as he said properly, not until after his death would be published. But I'm surprised.

KING: Howard, are you? Howard Baker? Howard Baker, are you surprised? BAKER: No, I guess I'm not surprised, Larry. The point that was made earlier, though, that the country and the press have made a career virtually of underestimating Gerry Ford. And Ford was a very courageous person. We've already talked about the pardon. But in so many other ways. And he was very much his own man. He chartered his own course. And I'm not surprised to hear him having made that sort of statement to Bob Woodward. It's an inconvenience to him at the time, but it does not surprise me.

KING: We'll be back and have remaining comments from each of our panelists on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


FORD: Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished guests and my very dear friends, my fellow Americans, we have a lot of work to do.

My former colleagues, you and I have a lot of work to do.

Let's get on with it.



KING: You're seeing the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. I had the honor of broadcasting my national radio show on the opening night of that museum.

Speaking of that, Carl Anthony, he's one of the few -- may be the only president without a presidential house, right?

ANTHONY: Yes. Yes. And it was interesting. I saw in an earlier report that famous little suburban house that was so important in terms of symbolism of this guy and his family coming, commuting to the White House for a couple of days there is up for sale now. And it sure would make a great little house museum because there's no home left to preserve.

KING: It's in Alexandria, Virginia?


KING: Bob Dole, we're almost out of time. How will he be remembered?

DOLE: I think a profile in integrity, honesty and decency.

KING: Will you be attending the service on Tuesday?

DOLE: I'm honored to be an honorary pallbearer, yes.

KING: What a great honor.

Howard Baker, how will he be remembered?

BAKER: He will be remembered as a man who was what he appeared to be. And the country trusted him.

KING: Are you going to try to get to the service?

BAKER: I am. I intend to do my best to be there and I expect to.

KING: We'll have a special show, by the way, on Tuesday night following the service.

Bob Woodward, how will he be? What are the historians going to say?

WOODWARD: I think they'll say he was authentic and fearless. You can go in my business and talk to him for hours. Your a tape recorder, he never had a press aide or somebody else hovering around.

KING: Yes. A good guy, too.

WOODWARD: Very friendly, even quite funny.

KING: Thomas DeFrank, are you -- are you going to -- I know you're in Austin, Texas. Are you going to go back to Washington for the service?

DEFRANK: Well, I'm told I'm going to be invited. And if that's correct, I would be honored to be there, Larry. He was an ordinary guy in the noblest sense of the phrase. Ordinary guy.

KING: Does he grow historically, Carl?

ANTHONY: Well, I think so. You know, the other thing is as time goes on and more material is released from the presidential library, you begin to understand some of these things not quite so black and white, but in shades of gray.

So, I think his judgment and his foresight, as Bob Woodward mentioned -- I think he had a lot of foresight that at the time people might not have given him credit for.

KING: A lot of hardship, too, with Betty and the addiction and the breast cancer...

ANTHONY: Yes, and he came up the hard way. You know, he did not have an early life. Everything he had, everything he got, he earned. It was never through privilege or pulling any strings. It was simply through hard work.

KING: He got into Yale Law School on the merit?

ANTHONY: Yes. Yes.

KING: Thank you very much.

Thank all of our guests.


Quickly, Howard?

BAKER: Yes. He had one characteristic that I think all presidents ought to have, must have. He was not afraid to have strong people around him.

KING: Good point.

We are out of time.

We thank you all very much.

We'll be doing a major show on Tuesday night following the service at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Right now, we head to New York, Anderson Cooper and more of the same on a special edition of "AC 360" -- Anderson.