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What made the flare of violence in Sacramento especially baffling and frightening for leading American politicians was the fact that Jerry Ford seemed to be as free of the danger of assassination as any man could be−a friendly father figure who excited neither envy nor hatred. But Squeaky Fromme had discovered her own reasons to dislike the man. With Sandra Good, her roommate and another member of the Manson "family," Fromme issued a statement to the press two months ago equating Ford with Richard Nixon, the man whom the clan has always blamed as the source of its troubles with the law. Declared the release: "If Nixson's [sic] reality wearing a new face [i.e., Ford] continues to run this country against the law, your homes will be bloodier than the Tate-LaBianca houses and My Lai put together."
Watching Hands. Fromme was ready when Ford flew into town from Portland, Ore., at 10:42 p.m. Thursday. He was accompanied by the standard number of agents in his personal entourage (the exact number is a secret), and there was a relaxed air about the trip. A Secret Service official points out that if there had been any indication of trouble, Ford would not have been allowed to walk anywhere−"He would have been in a car."
Ford spent Thursday night in a suite on the sixth floor of the Senator Hotel, a nine-story Moroccan-style building in downtown Sacramento. On Friday morning he addressed a breakfast gathering of 1,000 prominent citizens, winning solid applause by attacking excessive Government regulation for causing "cost, contradiction and confusion." He was obviously untroubled by a plea from liberal Republicans earlier in the week that he moderate his conservative line. After the breakfast meeting, Ford went back to the hotel and, right on schedule, left at 9:55 to walk a block to the California state capitol, where he had a 10 o'clock appointment with Governor Jerry Brown. At about that time, a small, slim woman wearing a bright red, full-length gown and a matching turban asked a policeman on the street between the hotel and the capitol if the President was coming. He made a noncommittal reply−and Squeaky Fromme waited.
As Ford started across a small park in front of the capitol, he was greeted by bursts of applause from the crowd that had been waiting patiently to see him or perhaps even shake his hand. Head up and smiling, surrounded by aides and Secret Service agents, Ford moved quickly through the park, an athletic, vigorous man obviously enjoying his reception. As the party moved along, the agents carefully watched the hands of the people they were approaching. Says one veteran agent: "You've got to keep an eye on their hands. Sure, you notice kooks and faces and a lot of other things. But hands are the most important. If somebody is going to try to hurt the President, they'll have to use their hands."