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American Morning

President Gerald Ford Dies at Age 93 at His Home in California

Aired December 27, 2006 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: The life and death of a president, right now, on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Good morning to you. Wednesday, December 27. I'm Miles O'Brien.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: And I'm Alina Cho in for Soledad this morning. Thanks for joining us.

O'BRIEN: We begin with the death of Gerald Ford, the man who led our country through the dark days after Watergate. President Ford died last night at his home near Palm Springs, California. He was 93.

Mr. Ford was handpicked by Richard Nixon to become vice president and then entered the Oval Office when Nixon resigned in disgrace in August of 1974.

This morning, the White House flag is at half staff, of course. President Bush is expected to make a statement from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, about an hour from now, 8:00 a.m. Eastern. You'll see that here.

President Ford was America's longest living president, surpassing Ronald Reagan by about a month. When he reached that milestone, he said, with characteristic humility, the length of one's days matters less than the love of one's family and friends. President Ford is survived by his wife of 58 years, Betty, four children, seven grandchildren, four great-grandchildren. The family could announce arrangements this morning, including funerals in Ford's hometown, in Michigan, as well as a state funeral in Washington.

Ted Rowlands is at the Ford family home in Rancho Mirage, California. Elaine Quijano is with the president in Crawford. Let's begin with Ted.

Ted, good morning to you.


It's all quiet here in Rancho Mirage. We do expect an outpouring from the local people here, as the sun comes up in California.

The Fords lived here ever since leaving Washington, after losing the election to Jimmy Carter in 1977. They really became a part of this community. According to the family, President Ford died peacefully in his home at 6:45 last night. A few hours later, his wife of 58 years, Betty Ford, the former first lady, informed the world with a statement.

He leaves behind a very large family, as you mentioned, three sons and a daughter -- his daughter, Susan, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The final plans for what will happen over the next few days are still being ironed out. They are expected to be made public at some point today.

The former president will lie in repose here in Rancho Mirage, California, and then in Washington, D.C., and finally in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

President Ford wasn't in the White House for very long but he was in Washington for a very long time, and was a public servant for two decades, plus. After he had retired and lost the presidency, he commented on his time in the White House and his service to his country, urging others to do the same.


GERALD FORD, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were there 28 and a half years, and we enjoyed it. It was a great honor, and I urge other young people to get into politics. It's an honorable profession. And we need good people, men and women, who will serve in public office.


ROWLANDS: And, again, we expect an outpouring here in Rancho Mirage and in Washington, D.C., and, of course, in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Fords spent most of their final years here in California. They also had a home in Colorado. But in his final years, most of the time was spent here in the desert, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Ted Rowlands in Rancho Mirage, thank you.


CHO: Late last night, President Bush spoke to former First Lady Betty Ford to offer condolences. Elaine Quijano live Crawford, Texas this morning where as we said, we're expecting to see President Bush speak in the next hour or so.

Elaine, good morning. I understand the president got the news late last night?

CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: That's right. Good morning to you, Alina.

According to a White House spokesman, it was just before 10:30 Eastern last night, that President Ford's chief of staff actually called President Bush's chief of staff, Josh Bolton, to notify him of the news. In turn, Josh Bolton, not here in Crawford, then called President Bush shortly just before 11:00 p.m. Eastern. President Bush, shortly thereafter, then expressed his personal condolences to Betty Ford in a phone call. Now the president also expressed his sadness and sympathies in a written statement saying, Gerald Ford -- in his words -- assumed the presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division, and saying, quote, "with his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency. The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character, and the honorable conduct of his administration."

As mentioned, President Bush is set to make a statement from his ranch in Crawford, around 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time. White House Spokesman Scott Stansill (ph) reiterating, that as for the memorial arrangements for President Ford, those in fact are being handled by the Ford family, but he did say President Bush will attend President Ford's funeral -- Alina.

CHO: Elaine Quijano, live in Crawford for us this morning. Elaine, thank you.

O'BRIEN: Gerald Ford was everything Richard Nixon was not. He was as accessible as Nixon was imperial, as candid as Nixon was deceitful. It was just the person -- just the tonic -- we all needed in the summer of 1974. Our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is here.

Jeff, good morning to you.


O'BRIEN: I've often wondered, you know, Spiro Agnew, of course, was Nixon's first vice president. And he had to resign under a separate cloud of controversy. If he had still been the vice president, when Nixon was in the latter days of his presidency, fighting Watergate, what would have happened?

GREENFIELD: I think it would have been much more likely Nixon would have survived. Spiro Agnew was as polarized as a figure as you could imagine. He was used as the White House attack dog. He had gone after the press, he had gone after radical liberals. He was beloved by the Right, but really disliked by the Left and liberals. Had he been vice president, the Democrats controlled the Congress. Would they really have impeached and removed Richard Nixon, only to get Agnew?

There was a great story that when Ford was sworn in, one of Democrats said to Tip O'Neil -- he was an important leader at the time, not yet the speaker -- said, Boy, what an impressive ceremony. And O'Neil supposedly said, yes, we're probably not going to see another one like this for a year or so. In other words, they knew Ford, this very likable, amenable guy, no enemies list, made it much more likely they'd would remove Nixon.

O'BRIEN: I mean, should we give Nixon credit for choosing Ford, and paving the way for his own downfall, in some sense?

GREENFIELD: I have a feeling he was looking for more support within the Congress. He picked the minority leader, who was a moderate. He was a partisan Republican, but in those days -- you know, the politics has shifted so much, Democrats liked him, and he I think he felt he'd get a lot of points for this. It turned out to be part of his undoing.

O'BRIEN: I remember those heady times, after he came in. I can't remember a honeymoon quite like it. It was just such a breath air for this country, just what we needed. Then in a month, it was over in an instant, with the announcement of the pardon.

GREENFIELD: The first month was, as you said, we have this amenable, friendly guy, who knows how to make politics work, very much was made of the fact that he toasted his own muffins in the White House kitchen, unlike the imperial President Nixon. When he pardoned Nixon, his press secretary Gerald Tehorst (ph), a veteran newsman, quit in protest. The public opinion polls shifted. I think it was one of the key reasons -- if not the key reason -- why Ford lost that close election.

O'BRIEN: Was there a deal -- I've never seen any evidence to -- that there was one -- but do you think there was a conversation between Nixon and Ford about a pardon?

GREENFIELD: No. Normally, you would do that to get the guy out of office. The way, for instance, the feds got Spiro Agnew to quit. By saying, OK, no jail term.

Nixon had already quit. I think this was a principled decision by a president who said, we just can't go through a situation where the most powerful country on Earth sees its former president in a long drawn-out criminal trial. It's one of the consequential things Ford did. Remember, he was, I think, fourth shortest serving president -- ever -- shortest of any in the 20th century.

What he did in the White House, in terms of policy, won't be very much remembered, but those acts to heal the country, I think, is what people will really remember him for.

O'BRIEN: He never apologized for it, always stood by that decision.

GREENFIELD: Quite the contrary.

O'BRIEN: Do you think, in retrospect, historians will say it was the right thing to do at the time?

GREENFIELD: Absolutely. The fact that Kennedy family has a Profiles in Courage Award, given to politicians who take politically risky steps, that's turn out to be good. You know, after John Kennedy's book. And they gave that award to Gerald Ford. And said, you know what? What you did probably saved the country. Now that's as good a sign you can get that I think there's a consensus that says it was a very good thing to do.

O'BRIEN: He was unelected, in a sense -- at the time at least -- was he unappreciated? GREENFIELD: I think he was appreciated for his personality, for the fact that he did have this calming effect on the country. I met him a few times after he was president. He was the most unpresidential -- and I mean that as a compliment -- figure I ever seen. There is nothing surrounding Ford that said, trumpets should be playing "Hail to the Chief".

He was actually the guy who might as well have been an insurance executive from a Midwestern city, like Grand Rapids, who you could have a cup of coffee with and chat. I think people loved that. I think what he did to prevent the country from going through years more of turmoil is going to be more appreciated as time goes by.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Greenfield, thank you for dropping by.


O'BRIEN: Alina.

CHO: Still to come this morning -- Mother Nature winding up for another winter blast in Denver. Like they need it. Blizzard conditions and more than a foot of snow expected. But can the city handle it after last week's devastating storm? We'll take a closer look and get the updated forecast. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.



FORD: He asked me to come to the Oval Office and asked me to sit down. I had known Dick Nixon for 20-some years. We were good personal friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the House together, right?

FORD: That's right. I supported him when he was up for election. He asked me to sit down, and he said, Gerry, I'm going to resign tomorrow. And I want you to know that I have full confidence that you can carry on, particularly the foreign policies that we have agreed on over the years, and whatever domestic problems we have.


CHO: An important moment in history, Gerald Ford reflecting on the meeting that changed his life and led him to the presidency. President Ford died last night at his home in California. He was 93 years old. President Bush expected to address the nation within the hour. You'll see it here live on CNN -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: The Mile-High City is bracing for a second blizzard in a week. Up to two feet of snow could start again, falling, tomorrow. Last week's whiteout crippled Denver International Airport, the so- called all-weather airport, stranded thousands of passengers. Airport had to close for two days, leaving many to wonder if DIA can handle round two.


O'BRIEN (voice over): It was built to handle the tough Rocky Mountain winter, but Denver International Airport did not pass this acid test. When last week's blizzard dumped two feet of snow on the city, DIA was MIA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were getting cranky. We were stuck on the flight for eight hours. It was not fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hoping you can get me to Jacksonville.

O'BRIEN: With snow drifts as high as 12 feet, the airport managers had no choice, the airport was shut down; 1600 flights canceled on Thursday alone. It left some 4700 air travelers stranded, 3500 of them spent the night at the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, you wonder, are they doing everything they can?

O'BRIEN: Airport officials insist they were doing everything they could, literally moving mountains of snow.

CHUCK CANNON, DIA SPOKESMAN: We think we did a good job, as good as we could have in a blizzard that essentially paralyzed all of eastern Colorado. We think we got -- we handled it pretty well. But we'll look at everything and decide if there's something we should do -- change in the future.

O'BRIEN: Now with another huge storm gathering, and another holiday travel weekend ahead, is Denver's airport ready?

CANNON: The forecasts says anything from three inches to -- that's best case -- up to 20 cases, which is worst case. So, you kind of have to deal with it, as it comes, but we need to make sure everyone is prepared for the worst case. And we'll try to deal with that.


O'BRIEN: It's quarter past the hour, which means it's time to say good morning to Chad Myers. Little extra hour's sleep. You were working late last night.


CHO: We want to take you to a live picture in Washington. At the Washington Monument, they will be lowering the flags there to half staff, as we all remember the life of our 38th president, Gerald Ford. The flag at the White House has already been lowered.

President Bush in Crawford, Texas, this morning. He will make a statement at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time, we will be taking that live right here at CNN.

Gerald Ford lived longer than any other former president. As we've been reporting, he died last night, at home, in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 93. No official cause of death released just yet, but he suffered his share of health battles recently. Doctor Sanjay Gupta with us from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

And, Sanjay, I know you've reported a lot on his health problems, and there have been a lot of them, haven't there?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: There have been. There are several we started hearing about. Remember we didn't really hear about any significant health problems from former President Ford until he was in his late 80s. This was a very healthy former president.

He had some problems I think starting about August 2000, we started hearing about questions of a maybe mild stroke and perhaps a dizziness spell, as well, while playing golf. That was May of 2003, first that mild stroke.

But it seemed like he rebounded pretty well from both of those. In January 2006, earlier this year, he was treated for pneumonia. He was actually admitted to the hospital somewhat sick at that point, in July for shortness of breath. Then he had that pacemaker placed as well in August of 2006. Again, hospitalized for tests. They were somewhat vague about what those tests were, but they seemed to be related to his heart, to his lungs. He had no history of cancer that we know about.

He was getting more fragile, certainly, as he got into his late 80s, early 90s. But a very, very healthy -- he talked about swimming laps still, even in his early 90s, Alina.

CHO: That's right. Twice a day, I understand. He played golfer, he was a tennis player, avid skier. Played football earlier on in life. I remember, famously, in 2000 when he fainted at the Republican National Convention, I remember thinking, oh, my goodness, I think, you know, something bad could be happening. He hung on for many years after that.

Sanjay, how much of his death do you attribute to just old age? He was a man of 93.

GUPTA: It's interesting. A lot of people are saying that, well, he was 93 years old. Yeah. I mean, old age hasn't been officially a cause of death in this country, something you probably didn't know. Old age, has not been an official cause of death in this country since 1951. So we don't attribute things typically to old age, because people age at very different levels, very different rates.

Someone who is 93 might have the physiology, if you will, of someone in their 70s, and vice versa. But as we piece these things together, the mild stroke, the heart problems, the pneumonia, you're starting to see a pattern emerge of someone whose heart is probably not working as well. It has to pump blood, against lungs not working as well either now.

Ultimately, you start to have increasing problems and a body starting to wear and tear down. I guess that's the best description of what happens to someone when they die, quote, unquote, "of old age." Doesn't sound like he had a significant, sudden event like some people may have in their 60s when they have a heart attack, and their heart is failing for the next 10 or 15 years, or something like that. So it was sort of a gradual process. You can see that in that timeline as well, Alina.

CHO: He did have a long and extraordinary life, didn't he? Doctor Sanjay Gupta, live from Atlanta. Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning -- East meets West. Why is the Ford Motor Company talking to Toyota? Could these rivals be cooking up some sort of alliance? Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business". Stay with us.



FORD: When I got through Michigan, I was offered opportunities at the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, but I had a chance to go to Yale as assistant football coach and go to law school at the same time. So that opportunity was so wonderful I couldn't turn down the chance to further my education and earn some money in the meantime.


O'BRIEN: There's a decision that changed history probably, former President Gerald Ford talking about the decision that drew him closer to the sport of politics. Mr. Ford died last night at his California home at the age of 93. We're awaiting President Bush's statement to the nation at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time, about 35 minutes from now. You'll see it here on CNN.

The CEOs of Ford and Toyota are talking. What does that mean? It's about 25 minutes past the hour now, Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business".


CHO: Top stories of the morning are straight ahead, including the failed appeal for Saddam Hussein; sentenced to death by hanging within 30 days.

And America paying tribute to the late Gerald Ford. We'll talk to those who followed his political career. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: The death of a president, the end of a distinguished life, former President Ford dead at 93. Reaction, funeral plans, and an address from the president -- current president -- within the hour. CHO: Overseas, Saddam Hussein awaiting execution. This morning he says he's ready for the gallows, but could his death deal a blow to Iraq's future?

O'BRIEN: And a weather alert: A blizzard brewing once again for Denver, the latest forecast ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning, Wednesday, December 27. I'm Miles O'Brien.

CHO: And I'm Alina Cho, in today for Soledad. Thanks for joining us.

As we've been reporting we are awaiting a live statement from President Bush in the next half hour on the death of President Ford. We will bring that to you live right here on CNN.


CHO: Funeral plans could be announced today for former President Gerald Ford. The family is reviewing plans that include the president's body lying in state in three places close to his heart -- his home in California, his hometown in Michigan and the nation's capital. America's longest living president was 93 years old.

CNN's Ted Rowlands live outside the Ford family home in Rancho Mirage, California for us this morning.


According to a family statement, the former president died peacefully in his home at 6:45 last night. And a few hours after that, his wife, the former first lady, Betty Ford, released this statement to the world, saying -- quote -- "My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age. His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country.

Gerald Ford's health had been deteriorating. Over the last few years, he spent time in the hospital twice in 2006, January, several days for pneumonia, and then in Rochester, Minnesota he had some heart procedures done in August of this year, and passed away last night. He leaves behind four children, seven grandchildren, four great- grandkids.

And, as you mentioned, the Ford family is reviewing final plans, but we expect his body to lie in repose here in Rancho Mirage, California, then in Washington D.C., and then finally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he will be laid to rest.

Gerald Ford is -- will also be remembered with two funerals in Washington D.C., and then finally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We do expect more information as to the specifics and the scheduling later today -- Alina.

CHO: And, Ted, those details are trickling in, of course, and you're reporting them. But the official statement from a family spokesperson, we understand, will come from Rancho Mirage later today?

ROWLANDS: Yes, it's official word as to exactly what to expect in terms of scheduling, when he will lie in repose here, or when he will be leaving California, heading to Washington, d.c., and then the scheduling of the state funeral, both in Washington, and then his private funeral, invitation only, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He will lie in repose in all three spots to allow people to come pay their respects.

And we expect a huge outpouring here in Rancho Mirage where the Ford family has lived for almost the past 30 years, since leaving Washington. They built a house out here, became part of this community. The Betty Ford clinic is here. They're also involved, the Fords are, in many different projects in this area. It's a relatively small community, and if you've lived here long enough, you've probably had a Ford sighting and a Ford story, and a lot of people, I'm sure, we expect when the sun comes up will be coming out here to pay their respects. And then when they get the opportunity to actually see the president lying in repose, we expect they will do that as well.

CHO: We'll be seeing and hearing from those people throughout the day and the coming week, I'm sure, Ted. Thank you very much. Ted Rowlands in Rancho Mirage, California for us. Ted, thanks.

O'BRIEN: Saddam Hussein may hang from the gallows in Iraq sometime in the next 30 days. The Iraqi court system rejecting Saddam's appeal, so he faces execution for the massacre of 148 people in the town of Dujail, reprisal for an assassination attempt.

Vanderbilt law professor Mike Newton is an adviser to the judges on the Iraqi high tribunal. He joins us here in person today.

Good to have you with us, Mike, in person especially.


O'BRIEN: Is it likely we're going to see this in the next 30 days?

NEWTON: Almost certain because the whole process of the tribunal was to demonstrate the power of law over politics, and the legal process has worked its way through. The appeals court, what they call the cassation (ph) panel, has spoken and so the legal process is complete.

O'BRIEN: There is a provision, though, for the prime minister, Nuri al-Malaki, to issue a stay of execution. Do you think that will happen?

NEWTON: Not likely, primarily because of the awareness of the overall situation. They want to move on with other trials. There are lots of other trials in the pipeline.

O'BRIEN: You mentioned the other trials. And that would be a good reason, I suppose, to keep Saddam Hussein alive as a possible witness on those subsequent trials of accomplices on these current ones. Why wouldn't the legal system there look upon that as a good idea?

NEWTON: Well, the fact is his testimony or other related testimony can be preserved in any number of other ways, witness statements and those sort of things in the referral packet that become trial evidence. But the Iraqis are very ambitious in terms of other cases that will move forward, and many, many other victims will in fact have their day in court, whether Saddam is sitting there or not.

O'BRIEN: What about the other victims in right now he's on trial for the gassing of the Kurds, those allegations? Victims and family members in that case might feel as if they're cheated out of justice.

NEWTON: Well, the prosecution case is almost complete in the Anfall trial. The Anfall trial It had over 50 incidences of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians, as well as hundreds of villages destroyed, bulldozed under. One of the most powerful things of this whole process has been is normal people coming into court to sit and look at those accused, look them in the eye and tell about happened, and that's been very...

O'BRIEN: So in a way, though, if he's executed in the next 30 days, for subsequent trials, subsequent victims, they will not have that opportunity. Is that a miscarriage in some way of justice?

NEWTON: Well, they won't have it with Saddam, but they'll have it with other defendants, other military commanders, other high- ranking Baathist officials, who in fact ordered and facilitated those atrocities through the common plan of the state. This was institutionalized terror where the state used all the power at its disposal to persecute its own civilians. So they're lots and lots of other people.

O'BRIEN: I know you've worked long and hard with these judges and you think highly of them, but it it's been difficult for them to run these trials, obviously.


O'BRIEN: How much credibility do they have right now, do you think?

NEWTON: Well, when you look at what actually happened in the courtroom and you look at the entirety of the record, the judges strove valiantly to keep the politics out of the courtroom, keep the trials moving ahead, based on law, based on evidence, based on testimony in the courtroom, and the trial judgment itself was 283- pages long, very long, extensive discussion of all of the range of legal issues, full consideration of the facts and the evidence from both the defense and the prosecution. It's a very credible trial record.

O'BRIEN: Having said all that, we talked about this before, do you feel at this point it would have been better to move it outside of Iraq, say to the Hague?

NEWTON: I asked that question of a young Iraqi translator who saw every moment of trial, and she was adamant, and only anecdotal, but I think exemplary of thousands and thousands of others Iraqis, the very powerful demonstration normal people looking those privileged leaders who acted as though they were the law, they were above the law, you couldn't have done that outside of Iraq.

O'BRIEN: Mike Newton, thanks for being with us -- Alina.

NEWTON: Thanks, Miles.

CHO: Coming up, a new warning about a new risk from drugs to treat heartburn. Dr. Sanjay Gupta pays us a house call. That's coming up next.




O'BRIEN: Reporters loved covering Gerald Ford. He was such a breath of fresh air after the Nixon years. Tom Defrank was there and covered his presidency in its entirety. He's the Washington bureau chief of "The New York Daily News." He joins us now from Austin.

Tom, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: Take us back to that day in August when Gerald Ford took the Oath of Office, spoke to the nation without even having "Hail to the Chief" played. It was just a humble statement and a statement, "Our long national nightmare is over." Those words will probably be the words he will be remembered by, don't you think?

DEFRANK: Yes, those are the words that that inaugural address will be remembered by, that is for sure. But I have to say to you, Miles, standing there that day, those were not the words that I was focusing on. I always, in my mind, flashed back to his favorite phrase of his that I probably heard 150 times traveling with him when he was vice president. He always liked to say, "Remember, I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln." And it was his way of saying to people, I'm an ordinary guy, don't expect all that much, but I think he did stabilize the country and helped heal the country. It was an extraordinary day, that is for sure, August 9th.

O'BRIEN: That regular guy persona that he had, that was the real deal, that was genuine, there;s nothing put on about that, right?

DEFRANK: There was not a pretentious bone in this guy's body. Gerry Ford was the genuine article. He was -- I've said it many times, but I really believe this -- he was an ordinary guy in the noble sense of the phrase "ordinary guy." Just always what you got.

O'BRIEN: What was it like about a month later when you're writing the story that he had announced the pardon? It was such a -- it just turned his presidency inside out in an instant.

DEFRANK: I still believe that was the moment that finished his presidency. I don't think he ever recovered from the pardon. I'll never forget being called at 9:00 in the morning by somebody at the White House saying President Ford is going to make a statement. It was a Sunday morning, and I think it was at 11:00. And I can remember listening to him talk about the pardon. I just said to myself, he's finished. He's finished in 1976. And I still believe that. It was a very powerful, powerful moment. But I guess I think in retrospect, I agree with Senator Ted Kennedy, who handed President Ford the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award a few years ago. In retrospect, I think the pardon probably was really necessary to help heal the country.

O'BRIEN: Tell us about after the pardon. And of course his popularity plummeted. But he had so many other issues to contend with. And one of them was really the worst economy at that time since the Depression. How will history write that chapter of the Ford presidency?

DEFRANK: Well, I always try to say, as George W. Bush has said recently, we'll all be dead before history really sorts it out. It will probably take 50 years. And the other problem that Ford will confront with history is he wasn't president really long enough to make a real judgment about his great strengths and weaknesses.

It's true he had a terrible time dealing with inflation. He had this button that was widely ridiculed at the time, where the button said "win, whip inflation now." He made a little progress, but not a lot. Dealt with the Soviet Union. But basically, I think Ford's legacy is going to be helping to begin the healing process. The title of his memoirs was "A time to Heal." And I think that's probably going to end up being his legacy more or less.

O'BRIEN: Tom Defrank in Austin, Texas, thanks for your time -- Alina.

DEFRANK: Thanks, Miles.

CHO: Still to come, some unsettling news as illegal drug use is replaced with another dangerous habit among the nation's teenagers.

And believe it or not, there's a method behind the Wall Street bonus madness. We'll crunch the numbers from the bottom to the very tippy top of the corporate ladder.

Stay with us. AMERICAN MORNING is coming right back.



CHO: In this morning's House Call, a new study links some popular heartburn drugs to an increased risk of hip fractures.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us from the CNN Center with details.

So, Sanjay, what kind of drugs are we talking about?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: These are a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors. I'm going to tell you a bit more about that in a second. This is an amazing sort of story here. I was interested when I read this yesterday, that these medications, typically used to treat heartburn, could actually increase your risk of hip fracture. That's an unexpected side effect, obviously. These proton pump inhibitors are medications you've certainly heard of. I mean, they're some of the most popular medications out there. Some of the ones are Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacic, Protonix, Aciphex. These are medications that are used typically to treat heartburn, the most severe cases. And they are very popular medications. The second in sort of the class of drugs in terms of overall sales, close to $12 billion of these drugs are sold every year.

So the way that they work is they actually stop the acid production in your stomach. They are considered a third line of drugs. There's other drugs that you should take before you take these medications for reflux and for heartburn. But these are very popular medications. What these researchers did is ask the question, is there a link between taking these medications and hip fractures? And what they found was there a significant link. If you took a regular dose, which is once a day, for more than a year, you increase your risk at 44 percent. A higher dose, which is twice a day, for just more than a year again, 260 percent higher risk of a hip fracture, which I thought was pretty fascinating. Again, not something you'd expect from these medications, but something they found out nonetheless.

CHO: But, Sanjay, for these people who rely on taking heartburn medication, it doesn't mean that you should stop taking the medicine entirely, right, just maybe cut back?

GUPTA: No, absolutely not. And the study author is very clear on that as well. They're not recommending you stop the medications, but you may want to do certain things. You may want to cut back on the dosing, for example. You may want to increase your calcium intake as well, because you're more worried about these hip fractures. But also there are lifestyle changes to reduce heartburn, not drinking alcohol, especially closer to night, eat smaller meals, wait a few hours after you eat a meal before lying down.

And also, as I mentioned, Alina, there are some other medications that you can take as well that may not cause the same problems. They think that the reason this occurs is because these medications actually stop you from absorbing calcium into your bones, making them more Brittle. They think the problem lies there somewhere.

CHO: And hip fractures are a very serious thing, especially for the elderly.

Sanjay, thank you very much.

GUPTA: Thank you. O'BRIEN: We're awaiting a live statement from President Bush at his ranch in from Crawford, Texas on the death of former President Gerald Ford. We'll bring it to you when it happens and look at President Ford's brief but historic time in the White House. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: We're awaiting President Bush to address the nation on the death of former President Gerald Ford. Mr. Ford died at home in California last night. He was 93.

Denver is bracing for blizzard conditions and a foot of snow. Residents there are still recovering from a devastating snowstorm last week.

As we await the president in Crawford, Texas, we remind you of the death of the 38th president, Gerald R. Ford, passed away at the age of 93. He'd been in failing health of late, suffering from pneumonia and some fainting spells and other ailments you would expect a 93-year-old man to endure. He came to the presidency in one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history, in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The resignation of Richard Nixon and then the arrival on the scene of Gerald Ford, who had been his vice president for nine months, having succeeded Richard Agnew. Handpicked by Richard Nixon, ultimately in the Oval Office for 29 months. His pardon of Richard Nixon a month after arriving at the office, a pivotal moment in this nation's history, and probably laid the groundwork for his political defeat in 1976.

Joining us now from Crawford is Elaine Quijano, who is with President Bush to hear the remarks you're going to be seeing in just a few moments. We've already had a brief statement from the White House, Elaine. What was the gist of that?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, the president, of course, expressing his sadness and sympathies for the Ford family, but also noting that Gerald Ford assumed the presidency...

O'BRIEN: Elaine, we're going we'll go to President right now.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITES STATES: All of us are saddened by the news that former President Gerald R. Ford passed away last night.

I spoke with Betty Ford. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I extend to Mrs. Ford and all President Ford's family our prayers and our condolences.

President Ford was a great man who devoted the best years of his life in serving the United States. He was a true gentleman who reflected the best in America's character.

Before the world knew his name, he served with distinction in the United States Navy and in the United States Congress. As a congressman from Michigan, and then as vice president, he commanded the respect and earned the goodwill of all who had the privilege of knowing him.

On August 9, 1974, he stepped into the presidency without ever having sought the office. He assumed power in a period of great division and turmoil. For a nation that needed healing and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most.

During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.

Americans will always admire Gerald Ford's unflinching performance of duty and the honorable conduct of his administration, and the great rectitude of the man himself.

We mourn the loss of such a leader. And our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation's memory.

President Ford lived 93 years, and his life was a blessing to America. And now this fine man will be taken to his rest by a family that will love him always and by a nation that will be grateful to him forever.

May God bless Gerald Ford.

M. O'BRIEN: We should all hope for kinds of words when we go our way, a man of common sense, integrity, honor, rectitude, a blessing to our nation. The president speaking words that characterize Gerald Ford's life and career.

Elaine Quijano, we interrupted you right before we began this, but generally speaking that is -- there are no better words to say about any individual, in particular this president.

QUIJANO: Absolutely. The highest of praise really is what we heard from President Bush in a rare appearance from his Crawford, Texas, speaking in the hangar for Marine One there. The president, as you noted, saying that he spoke with Betty Ford, first of all, and offered prayers and condolences, but also noting the life of Gerald Ford saying he was a person that devoted the best years of his life to serving the United States.