Monday, Jun. 13, 2011

Gerald Ford, 1976

During a 1976 presidential debate against a then obscure Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford famously uttered, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." The moderator, Max Frankel of the New York Times, responded incredulously, "I'm sorry, what? ... Did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a communist zone?" But Ford refused to back down from his original statement, insisting that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia were free from Soviet interference. The answer haunted him for the remainder of the campaign and may have cost him the election. Somewhat ironically, Ford was the first candidate to agree to a televised debate since Richard Nixon's disastrous appearance opposite John F. Kennedy in 1960.