2. Ford’s managerial style
3. The Transition Teams
4. The First Decisions: Clemency and Pardon
6. Staff Rivalries
Gerald Ford came to the Presidency very surprisingly. Before and after Richard Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate affair, he did not have a lot of time to create his own policies or structure his own administration within the White House. Three transition groups were working on the structural preparation for the Presidency, one of them started secretly several months before Ford had to take over the office - just in case. But they were all facing the problem that they did not have the amount of time normally given to a future President between the election and the inauguration to develop a plan for the advisory structure. Ford and his Vice-presidential staff jumped into a running government which was created for the personal needs and around the work style of a President Nixon. They could not fire the whole Nixon staff at the same time without the risk of leading the country into an incapability of action until a new staff system had been built up. And they could not keep all the Nixon people who were loyal to the former President and were probably not able to work the way the new President wanted them to. Ford and his advisers decided to go a middle way which will be analyzed later.
This paper will focus on how the advisory structure Ford chose, or was forced to choose, influenced him in his decision making process. The main source will be the biography of John Robert Greene, The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. The thesis will be that Ford’s way to make a decision, as he was used to from his congressional career, did not match with the structure the Presidency forced him to use and led him too often to ineffective decisions.
The time-frame of this work will be from May 1974, the founding of the first transition group, until November 1975, when Ford restructured his cabinet. All the decisions made after that point, were more and more influenced by campaign strategists for the Presidential Election 1976, as if they would be an indicator for the efficiency of the advisory structure.
2. Ford’s managerial style
Ford’s managerial style during his time as congressman was more collegial: he preferred an open office door to a memorandum (Greene 1995:21). As Robert T. Hartmann, who ran Ford’s office during his time as minority leader in congress, during the Vice-Presidency and during his time as President, noted in an interview: “Members of Congress don’t think in terms of organizational charts or structures. […] The person who is drawn to a career as a legislator is usually not the type of person who rises to the top of military structure. The essence of the legislator is compromise,” (Greene 1995:22). This fact lead to a widely ineffective Vice-presidential staff until Ford’s old companion Philip Buchen suggested that a friend of him, L. William Seidman, should have a look at the situation. Seidman developed a study which took away power from Hartmann and formed a “spokes-of-the-wheel”-system, with equal access of the senior advisers to the Vice-president, around Ford which served his managerial style very well. The problem was that this system was very vulnerable because of people like Hartmann who were very ambitious and were gaining for more power (Greene 1995:22/23).