Ford At The Wire (John Osbourne, 11/06/1976, New Republic)
The road trip that was to take the President through Virginia, the Carolinas, California, Washington state and Oregon and back to the capital by way of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and New York was phony because the conventional rallies and other events that occurred along the way were props for something else. The something else was a series of 30-minute television interviews for which the White House campaign adjunct, the President Ford Committee, had bought air time in states that Mr. Ford would have to carry if he was to have a chance of election. The interviews were supplemented with shorter TV and radio “spots” in a massive electronic blitz that would close the evening before the election with a half-hour on each of the three national networks. Taped shots of the President on the hustings, with his family and with accompanying dignitaries, padded out the first of the 30-minute interviews. They were conducted by Joe Garagiola, a retired baseball player turned sportscaster who traveled with the President. He would have done the work for free if his union had not required him to charge the PFC a minimum fee of $360 for each interview. Garagiola was regarded with considerable scorn by professional journalists, but they missed the point. The point was that, in the first Garagiola-Ford interviews the true Jerry Ford came across as he’d never come across from interviews with orthodox and certified journalists. The explanation begins with the fact that Joe Garagiola in his televised self proved to be a slightly modified Archie Bunker. He boasted of his ignorance of complex issues and invited the President to explain them in terms that ignoramuses like Joe could understand. Mr. Ford obliged, in terms that didn’t explain anything but satisfied his pal Joe. Watching the President and Joe together on the screen, manifestly and perfectly at ease with each other, one realized that Gerald Ford really is Archie Bunker, slightly modified, and that he was depending for election upon the nation’s Bunkers in their numerous variations.
Nikki should re-run this playbook with someone like W or Liz Cheney as her co-host.