- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Former President Gerald R. Ford once called Jimmy Carter a “disaster” and said Ronald Reagan received far too much credit for ending the Cold War, according to interviews with his hometown paper that could only be released upon his death.

“It makes me very irritated when Reagan’s people pound their chests and say that because we had this big military buildup, the Kremlin collapsed,” Mr. Ford told the Grand Rapids Press.

The best president of his lifetime, he said, was a more moderate Republican: Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Harry S. Truman “would get very high marks” for his handling of foreign crises, Mr. Ford said. He also praised Richard M. Nixon as a foreign policy master, despite the Watergate scandal that drove him from office.

He considered John F. Kennedy overrated and Bill Clinton average. He admired George Bush’s handling of the Persian Gulf War and had mixed opinions of Mr. Carter, who defeated him in 1976.

In 1981, Mr. Ford said: “I think Jimmy Carter would be very close to Warren G. Harding. I feel very strongly that Jimmy Carter was a disaster, particularly domestically and economically. I have said more than once that he was certainly the poorest president in my lifetime.”

But two years later, he praised Mr. Carter’s performance on the Panama Canal treaty, China and the Middle East. And in 1998, he said Mr. Carter “will be looked on as a better president than some comments we hear today.”

“He was a very decent, fine individual,” Mr. Ford told the paper. “There were no major mistakes. There just weren’t a lot of exciting results.”

Mr. Ford gave the interviews on the condition his remarks be withheld until after his death. Mr. Ford died Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 93.

According to the newspaper, Mr. Ford declined to rate George W. Bush, saying he did not know him well enough.

Mr. Ford said Mr. Reagan, who challenged him unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in 1976, was “a great spokesman for attractive political objectives” such as a balanced budget and defeating communism, “but when it came to implementation, his record never matched his words.”

Mr. Reagan was “probably the least well-informed on the details of running the government of any president I knew,” Mr. Ford said. In a separate interview, he said Mr. Reagan “was just a poor manager, and you can’t be president and do a good job unless you manage.”

Mr. Ford contended his own negotiation of the Helsinki accords on human rights did more to win the Cold War than Mr. Reagan’s military buildup. Other key factors were the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe after World War II and the establishment of NATO, he said.

“When you put peace, prosperity and human rights against poverty, a massive unsuccessful military program and a lack of human rights, communism was bound to collapse,” Mr. Ford said. “No president, no Democrat or Republican, can claim credit for those programs. I’ll tell you who deserves the credit — the American people.”

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