THE FORD INTERLUDE

Gerald Ford, an unpretentious man who had spent most of his public life in Congress, became Nixon's vice president following the resignation of the previous vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, after it was revealed that he had accepted bribes both before and during his term as vice president. Twenty months later, upon Nixon's resignation, Ford became president. His first priority was to restore trust in the government, which had been shaken by impeachment proceedings aimed at removing Nixon from office. Initially Ford enjoyed a great deal of confidence, but it quickly eroded when he pardoned Nixon and thus headed off any possible prosecution in the future.

In public policy, Ford followed the course Nixon had set. Economic problems remained serious, as inflation and unemployment continued to rise and the gross national product fell. Ford first tried to cajole the public, much as Herbert Hoover had done in 1929. When that failed, he imposed measures to curb inflation, which led to a 12-percent unemployment rate, and the most serious recession since the Great Depression. A tax cut, coupled with higher unemployment benefits, led to modest recovery, but still no end to economic difficulties.