Kentucky's senior senator remembers President Ford

Published: Dec. 27, 2006 at 11:19 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 15, 2007 at 8:03 PM EDT
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(LOUISVILLE) -- Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States, died Tuesday night at age 93 at his California home. Wednesday, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell spoke with WAVE 3's Caton Bredar about the legacy of the only man ever to hold the nation's two highest offices without being elected to them.

"He was personally popular," says Senator Mitch McConnell.

But he is best known for an unpopular decision.

"Of course, it's hard to think of the presidency of Gerald Ford, without thinking of the pardon of Richard Nixon," McConnell said.

McConnell was a young cub working as assistant deputy in the attorney general's office during the Ford years. He describes the late president as pleasant and friendly, but the events which led to his presidency, downright bizarre.

"The resignation of Spiro Agnew, the filling of the vice presidency under a new constitutional amendment ... brought this guy to the presidency," said McConnell. "Even he would admit he was a political accident. He was never really elected to anything beyond a congressional seat in Grand Rapids, Michigan."

Ford was described by McConnell as an adequate legislator.

"He was basically a more than adequate placeholder who kind of restored the confidence of the American people after the Watergate episode," McConnell said.

He says the decision to pardon Richard Nixon may well have cost Ford the presidency.

"As a young Republican with political aspirations of my own, I remember being grateful that he cleared the deck of that issue and put it behind us. And I think it probably made it difficult for him to get re-elected, but cleared the path for Ronald Reagan in 1980," said McConnell.

A decision McConnell agrees with now, just as he did back then.

"It spared the nation of years of post-Watergate trauma. It was an act of great statesmanship."

Sen. McConnell said he would work with staffers and wait on final arrangements before deciding whether or not to attend the late president's funeral.

Online Reporter:  Caton Bredar

Online Producer: Charles Gazaway