Red Flannel Days

A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford

Harper & Row, 454 pp., $12.95

Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell

by Winzola McLendon
Random House, 400 pp., $12.95

Confession and Avoidance: A Memoir

by Leon Jaworski, with Mickey Herskowitz
Anchor/Doubleday, 325 pp., $10.95

To Set the Record Straight: The Break-in, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon

by John J. Sirica
Norton, 391 pp., $15.00

A Time for Truth

by William E. Simon
Berkley, 280 pp., $2.50 (paper)

“About three o’clock next morning,” Jerry Ford writes in his memoirs, “I was awakened from a sound sleep by a very wet kiss. I opened my eyes. Liberty was wagging her tail, and I knew what that [author’s italics] meant. Groggily, I slipped on my robe and my slippers, took the elevator to the ground floor and walked outside. There I waited until Liberty was ready to return. We stepped inside again, and I pressed the button for the elevator. Nothing happened. Someone had just cut back the power, I figured, so I said, ‘Liberty, let’s walk.’ I opened the door to my left, and we climbed the stairs to the second floor. At the top of the stairwell was a door that led to our family quarters. I turned the knob, but it was locked. Liberty and I walked back down to the first floor, and I tried to open the door there. It was locked too. I must have walked up and down those stairs several times. This is ridiculous, I thought. So I started pounding on the walls.”

Plopping about the White House grounds in his slippers and his pjs waiting for his golden retriever to defecate, trapped in the stairwells, locked out of his bedroom, bumbling with his dog, he was a bow wow of a president, and in case you’ve forgotten how much of a dog he was in your irritation at Jimmy Carter, this besottedly dull volume should remind you. As I read it, I pictured the ghostwriter, wearied past wakefulness by the thin banality of the subject, fighting off the yawns, then giving in to sleep as forehead hit typewriter keyboard. Of course, if you do read every page, you will find small chocolate drops of unintended humor, such as, “I managed to rank in the top twenty-five percent of our class. How that happened I can’t explain.” Or we have the definitive explanation of Mr. Ford’s pratfall out of Air Force One when attempting to deplane in Salzburg, Austria: “I was the most athletic president to occupy the White House in years. ‘I’m an activist,’ I said. ‘Activists are more prone to stumble than anyone else.’… The news coverage [of his bouts with various banana peels] was harmful, but even more damaging was the fact that Johnny Carson and Chevy Chase used my ‘missteps’ for their jokes. Their antics…helped create the public perception of me as a stumbler.” And now you know how that came about.

Richard Nixon might enjoy this book; it has so much about sports in it. The scores of most of the University of Michigan football games in the early 1930s are recorded in the event you hadn’t heard the results. There is a rich discussion of Coach Fielding “Hurry Up” Yost and the single wing. It is also noted that Betty Ford, and may God bless her for her understanding toward Liberty’s wet kisses, missed the first half of the 1948 Michigan/Northwestern game.

Like the man…

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