Clinton Says Ford Ended Watergate 'Nightmare'
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton bestowed the
nation's highest civilian award on former President Gerald Ford
Wednesday and praised him for ending the "long national
nightmare" of Watergate.
Ford and seven others received the Presidential Medal of Freedom
at a White House ceremony that recognized the former president
for steadying the nation when he took power 25 years ago this
week as President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace at the height
of the Watergate scandal.
"Steady, trustworthy, Gerald Ford ended a long national
nightmare," Clinton told several hundred people gathered in the
White House East room before placing the gold medal tied with a
blue-and-white ribbon around the former president's neck.
Ford, who spent a quarter century representing Michigan in the
Congress, was plucked from relative obscurity when he was
chosen as Nixon's vice president and took up a position that
Clinton said "imposed on him ... the awesome responsibility of piloting our nation through the
stormy seas of Watergate."
Ford, accompanied by his wife Betty, told reporters after the ceremony that he could not help
remembering Aug. 9, 1974, the day that Nixon resigned and he took the oath of office.
"I couldn't avoid those reminiscences," Ford told reporters in the White House driveway. "It was
a monumental day ... 25 years ago. It was a unique situation as far as the country was
concerned. I hope it never happens again."
Ford was widely criticized at the time for pardoning Nixon, but his act has since been seen by
some observers as a crucial step in laying the trauma of Watergate to rest.
In presenting Ford with the medal, Clinton also recognized his role in ending the Vietnam War
and in signing the Helsinki Treaty on Human Rights, which the U.S. president said helped to
hasten the end of Communism.
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