January 07, 2007

Our Long National Nightmare, Part II: A profile of Robert T. Hartmann, the man who crafted the most famous line Gerald Ford ever spoke, in this morning's LA Times by the Burt Blyleven of the blogosphere, Matt Welch:
Hartmann, a Times reporter from 1939 to 1964 (with time out for service in the Navy during World War II), was no fan of the Nixon staffers, who he derisively referred to as "the Establishment." He blamed them for Ford's 1976 defeat and warned about their influence early in the Reagan era. Rumsfeld, he thought, was a cunning opportunist, while his sycophantic assistant Cheney, according to Hartmann's 1980 memoir, was "somewhat to the right of Ford, Rumsfeld or, for that matter, Genghis Kahn."

The feeling was mutual. Rumsfeld eventually undermined Hartmann by arguing successfully that the counselor's office — which shared a door with Ford's — should be converted into a presidential study. Cheney, dissatisfied with the speeches Hartmann was writing for the president (especially a historic April 1975 Tulane University address in which Ford declared the Vietnam War was "finished as far as America is concerned"), simply created his own separate speechwriting shop. And Nixon Chief of Staff Alexander Haig landed the most lasting blow of all by working around the counselor to discuss with then-Vice President Ford the possibility of pardoning the outgoing chief executive.
Hartmann, a former Counselor to the President, was a pallbearer at President Ford's funeral last week. Ironically, he spent a quarter of a century as a reporter at the Times, where he had been a particular favorite of the politician who was most famously a creation of the paper, Richard M. Nixon. Hartmann opposed the pardon of Nixon, and as recently as seven years ago called the act "an extremely selfish decision" by Ford, geared more towards making his life easier as President than any desire to put the past behind him.

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