Write it When I'm Gone
By Thomas M. DeFrank
Putnam Adult, Hardcover, 9780399154508, 272pp.
Publication Date: October 30, 2007
List Price: $25.95*
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In an extraordinary series of private interviews, conducted over sixteen years with the stipulation that they not be released until after Ford's death, the thirty-eighth president of the United States reveals a profoundly different side of himself: funny, reflective, gossipy, strikingly candid-and the stuff of headlines.
In 1974, award-winning journalist and author Thomas DeFrank, then a young correspondent for Newsweek, was interviewing Vice President Gerald R. Ford when Ford blurted out something astonishingly indiscreet related to the White House, came around his desk, grabbed DeFrank's tie, and told the reporter he could not leave the room until he promised not to publish it. "Write it when I'm dead," he said-and that agreement formed the basis for their relationship for the next thirty-two years.
During that time, they talked frequently, but from 1991 to shortly before Ford's death in 2006, the interviews became something else-conversations between two men in which Ford talked in a way few presidents ever have. Here is the real Ford on his relationship with Richard Nixon (including the 1974 revelation that, in DeFrank's words, "will alter what history thinks it knows about the events that culminated in Ford's becoming president"); Ford's experiences on the Warren Commission; his complex relationships with Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter; his startling, never-before-disclosed discussions with Bill Clinton during the latter's impeachment process; his opinions about both Bush administrations, the Iraq war, and many contemporary political figures; and much more. Here also are unguarded personal musings: about key cultural events; his own life, history, and passions; his beloved wife, Betty; and the frustrations of aging.
In all, it is an unprecedented book: illuminating, entertaining, surprising, heartwarming, and, in many ways, historic.