The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Remembering Gerald Ford

The phone rang at my home last night with the bad news from California. I was told that moments after I hung up, it would be announced officially that President Gerald Ford had died.

Our news division, along with all others, print and broadcast, had been prepared for this news for some time. And it is during these times that our roles merge: as humans and as journalists, we are so often pulled in different directions. My daughter came into our bedroom and said "I'm sorry about President Ford," sweetly noting that I had gotten to know the former President late in life. Moments later I was asked to contribute to MSNBC's live coverage, speaking via telephone.

It was one of those many occasions when duty must come before contemplation or any personal sense of sadness. I thought about the last time I saw him, I thought about the afternoon a few years ago when he called me at home to thank me for a note I'd sent him. I thought about how he told our travelling crew during an interview in Palm Springs that he and Mrs. Ford were loyal Nightly News viewers, who "often watched on TV tables sitting there in front of the tube." I thought about a wonderful evening we had spent together at the Truman Presidential library, and how I'd discovered a picture of the two of us in a recently-published book.

I also thought about two friends of mine who knew him well: Tom Brokaw, who had been White House correspondent during his administration, and Andrea Mitchell, who by dint of her marriage to Chairman Greenspan and her career as a journalist had spent so much time around him, and admired him so.

The truth is Jerry Ford was a nice man. He was decent, courageous, honest...and a loving and faithful partner to his wife, a wonderful and trail-blazing woman. By today's political standards he just might be a liberal. By today's standards he is an anachronism of a kind of cooperative, deal-making and dare I say much more bipartisan brand of politics.                

I keep coming back to the word courage -- from his World War II service in the Pacific to the decisions he made as President to the way he so forthrightly dealt with the challenges that life handed him. He also managed to form a friendship with the man who defeated him in what became a bitter fight: Jimmy Carter.

Jerry Ford did it all in the classic style of his generation -- with modesty and with a self-effacing manner. What a historic role he played: from his unorthodox elevation first to Vice President and then President, where he was handed the wounds of a nation that needed urgent attention and healing. Political junkies will long ponder the following political footnote: had the talks with Reagan succeeded, had the ticket been elected to the "co-Presidency" that was briefly flirted with, our politics and the Presidency would be vastly different today. 
                                                    
He was, first and foremost, a man of the House -- whose loftiest goal in life was to become Speaker someday. As one journalist put it last night, upon hearing the news: "He was an ordinary guy in the noblest sense of the word ordinary."

Think about that for a while, while we all think about President Ford's lasting impact on the nation he loved. We are thinking of his family, and while this news changes some of our plans a bit, we will devote much of our broadcast to him tonight. We'll see you then.

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COMMENTS

I had the unique honor yesterday of getting up at 2:00 am and standing in line for 2 and 1/2 hours. For what? (you may ask?) To pay respects to a man that served as our president for a short span. I was honored to have the opportunity to view the casket as it laid in repose at President Gerald Ford's museum here in Grand Rapids. It was an incredibly moving experience. So much so, that we took our 3 children to stand on the route back from the funeral to pay our respects once again. We all know he was not perfect. Who is? But he showed character all his life, instilled this character in his children, and left a legacy that will change our nation forever. We, as the city of Grand Rapids, are honored that he chose to rest here. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family.

I worked at the same company as one of President Ford's daughters-in-law for a few years, and met her husband and Steve Ford in that time. They were all lovely people, even to the cynical anti-political creature that I was in the early 90s. I remember thinking that, if they were this nice, then President Ford and his wife must be as nice. From what I read here, my impression wasn't wrong.

I was barely a teenager when Watergate happened and my view was very black-and-white. I was furious when President Ford pardoned Nixon, felt cheated out of some sort of righteous vengeance until my mother explained the concept of forgiveness and grace to me. She explained from a Biblical point of view, but in later years I came to understand that President Ford was trying to mend our country's wounded psyche, and why we didn't need to keep going down the path of bitterness, hate and divisiveness, why our country needed to take the higher road.

In the service today, Republicans and Democrats sat together. Conservatives and liberals sat next to each other and the roof didn't fall in. Amazing, isn't it? It's sad that "conservative" and "liberal" have become four-letter words today. I truly feel that President Ford worked for unity, to make us whole again, and I agree that he would probably be considered liberal in today's meaning. I do think he worked from grace, not fear as the presiding mantra of our day.

I don't know if I mourn for his passing alone, or for the passing of an era. I hope that we do see his likes again in my lifetime.

I am not to sure about the "integrity" of a man who was appointed, not elected, as the vice president, who in turn, when he was president, pardoned the very man who appointed him. I agree with Dr. Thompson on this one.
"Richard Nixon is gone now and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing--a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.""

Gerald Ford was a man of the people. He was honest and decent and he loved his wife and family. He loved his country and worked WITH both sides of the aisle for the benefit of the WHOLE COUNTRY, not a particular party. I was in college when he pardoned Nixon, and I didn't like it at all. However, I still voted for him in '76 because I saw in just those two years that he was an honest man who was one of us. Our country needs men like him now more than ever. My thoughts and prayers go to Betty and their children and grandchildren. I know they will miss him.

"History has not given him much credit yet, but in my view, President Gerald Ford helped save the integrity of this country's democratic institutions aftere Watergate."

Billy Graham-from Ch. 25(The Healer from Michigan)
Just As I Am the autobiography of Billy Graham

Enough Said

The truth is Jerry Ford was a nice man. He was decent, courageous, honest...and a loving and faithful partner to his wife, a wonderful and trail-blazing woman. By today's political standards he just might be a liberal

Why is that Brian? Is it because Conservatives can't be nice, decent and honest?

Brian, I saw you on C-SPAN last night at the Kennedy Center or something and you said you WORSHIPPED JFK. But why? He was strong on defense, a tax cutter and he also cheated on Jackie many times; I can't understand the reasoning why people thought JFK was so great; he might of been a great democrat considering the ones we have today; but he was a flawed man; obviously so flawed that he was assassinated.

Bush is great President; and in many ways resembles JFK with his policy on defense and economics.

JFK is not God; and he should be remembered as a former President, who was better in some respect but Clinton; but he was not perfect!

Also, do you think your radical liberal bias interferes with you reporting the news? Many think so!

My family was saved and helped by the 1975 Indochina Immigration and Refugee Act. Some of my dear friends were those children who came to the U.S. via the 1975 Operation Babylift.
The Vietnamese American community is forever grateful to you for your humanity, justice, integrity and courage. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with the First Lady Betty Ford and the family during this time.
Thank you Mr. President. May you rest in peace and kindness.
Gratefully Yours,

President Ford was a good and decent man. A slice of the best of Americana. He dealt with the the good and bad issues of his day in as fair and balanced way as any American President can, He brought the country back together after a difficult couple of years of the Nixon Watergate debacle. His memory will be eternal and the good he did in life will live on.

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life..."

Whata ya know, I DID learn something from the 70's sitcoms...

I liked reading all the perspectives here. First, I was moved by the descriptions of Ford's noble character (I was too young to remember his presidency, other than knowing who he was at the time). I have no doubt his level of personal integrity is rare in such high office. Yet, perhaps like Ford himself, who was described as "unassuming", there are many other noble-hearted individuals behind-the-scenes that form the glue that holds things together in political arenas and elsewhere. We don’t often hear of these people in the mainstream for the very fact that they have unassuming natures and do not seek the spotlight. And, like one person said: I think he didn't want to be president, and that's what made him perfect for the job. I agree, in that the absence of personal motive gives one the clear head to make important decisions that affect greater humanity.

Then others commented in reverse. One warned of the deleterious act of "myth-making". Maybe Ford didn't make all the "right decisions" after all. Maybe he even made some imbalanced decisions outside of his normal integrity due to political pressure or keeping the status quo and should we be placing him on a pedestal of perfection?

I think all comments here contain an ingredient of truth and are a reflection of his legacy and how it impacted others. When taken individually, the various comments seem to cast favor or doubt upon the man. When taken as a whole, they seem to paint a picture of a person that reminds me of so many people I know personally. And, yes, when people die, we usually try to see them in the best light so as to honor how precious their life was.

So, here's to a great man who did the best he could given his specific circumstances (being president can’t be easy). Let’s learn from his integrity what we can to bring out the best in ourselves...but let's avoid making him a mythological being in the event that we lose the opportunity to learn from his shortcomings as well.

That's what I got out of the comments here. But, most of all, I gathered that, to the people who met Ford, his genuineness touched them in a very special way that they did not expect from a president or person of such power. To yield such power in the world, and yet maintain the sense of who you truly are, I think that understanding is yet to be cultivated in many, yet Ford held it so well.

Thanks for all the perspectives.

Brian you got to know President Ford as most of us Americans didn't. Yes what you said is true about him. But reality to the Americans who only knew him as a replacement to a criminal Vice President Spiro Agnew then to a criminal President Nixon. It was hard to have faith in our leaders back then. But Ford was out spoken about letting Nixon have executive power to commit crimes. His loyalty even allowed for a convicted criminal President to be pardoned. John Dean sealed the case against Nixon. It was all over. Ford will be remembered for what you said about him but he will also be remembered for letting Americans know that supporting the party is ahead of Justice in America. Remember Brian Ford couldn't get elected as President for the reasons I have given. If Ford had his way Nixon would have been free to continue to dismantle the constitution as Bush and Cheney are doing today. The baby boomers lived that history we didn't have to read about it.

President Ford was a great man and person that the people in the usa looked up to. He was honest and caring.Look at what he did for his wife and family.I would like to see more people like Mr Ford and Mr Williams in the world today.My best to his family and god bless you all.

I learned of Ford's death as I went out the door to attend my aunt's funeral - what an irony, eh? I grew up learning to respect the presidency and the man who had the office - regardless of how I feel about the man's politics. President Ford came to power a month before I was born, so he's only ever been a historial figure to me, and not someone I listened to on the evening news every night. He came to power at a very difficult time in our country, and I think that makes him very brave. My thoughts go out to his family.

Mr. Williams,
Why does a man who was never elected President by the people, who pardoned the most notorious political criminal of all time, who turned tail and ran thus giving communists control of South Vietnam deserve the kind of adulation that I see him getting here? For God's sake, the man became President ONLY because his predecessor was an un-indicted felon! He was the first, (but, as of 2000 not the only) UN-elected President in the history of this country.
His words, "we are a nation of laws and not men, here the people rule" fall deafly upon the halls of justice throughout this great land! Because, HE prevented justice from ever being served where it needed to be the most....on Richard Nixon, a President who was supposed to be protecting our constitution and not violating it in the most aggregious manner possible.
Ford may have been a "likeable" guy, and I do have sympathy for his family.
But, the damage he did to the ideology of "equal justice under the law" in this country will never be forgotten or forgiven.

My heart is heavy. I have just now turned on my computer for the day, and am only just now learning that President Ford has passed away through reading this blog. Thank you for taking time away from your holiday today Brian. I wouldn't have wanted to hear this sad news from anyone else, and, since you had the honor and privilege to speak with President Ford on so many occasions, I'm sure you wouldn't really want to be anywhere but here today. I always appreciated the updates you have given about President Ford's health over the past couple of years.

I had the honor of meeting both President and Mrs. Ford on a visit to the White House in 1975 during a school field trip (I wasn't quite 14 years old). Both the President and "Miss Betty" took the time to have a short, personal conversation with each one of us, calling each of us by name. President Ford and Miss Betty were just so very nice, and they made a HUGE impression on me -- I decided then and there that I liked them both very much. Even though I can't say that my meeting President Ford inspired me in any shape or form to ever become interested in politics, I believe I tend to compare most political figures to President Ford ... if they aren't as nice as he was, they just won't do.

My thoughts and prayers are with Miss Betty, whose incredible courage will, I'm sure, help her through this difficult time; as well as President Ford's family and friends. I know they will miss him terribly. May President Ford rest in peace.

I'm surprised the gentleman from Tennessee feels President Ford contributed to the public's distrust of government. That pardon was an act of courage and healing. I contend that President Nixon was a major culprit in that endeavor and that President Ford did more to restore the public's trust in government that any president in the last 30 years. We in Grand Rapids are especially proud of the kind of president and man he was: honest, to the point, kind and hard working. It's remarkable all his years in Washington never changed him or made him abandon the qualities that first earned him his place in Congress. His life in public office should be required reading for all new congressmen and senators. How many career politicians have made hard choices, knowing it might mean losing the next election? If we had enough people like President Ford in Washington we'd have already solved the messy issues like Medicare and Social Security funding. President Ford's passing makes me long for leaders that put the country first and their ambitions and poll taking a far second. God Bless him and his family.

Character does count. So do ethics, values, honesty and courage.

President Ford exemplified these traits along with his unfailing faith in the American people during his years of public service. How often today do we find a public person who can put the needs of the many over their own personal goals.

He was an American who truly believed in the American spirit and our American values. He believed in them, lived them, and carried them with him all the way to the presidency.

As a 55 year old "boomer", it it truly sad that I have only lived under two presidents who truly "lead" by these characteristics and personal traits, President Ford and President Carter. I hope the spirit of Gerald Ford finds its way into the life of another person destined for public service. Some one who cares more for American then themselves and the image. If it does not, we are doomed to more of what we have voted into office the last 20 plus years.

My sympathies and love to Mrs. Ford and her family, but at the same time, I also thank them for allowing all Americans, through their full time support, to be the beneficiaries of Gerald Ford's wisdom,guidance and character.

We all thank you.

I am amazed at the negative comments from several people criticizing Brians' reference to President Ford as just possibly being labeled a liberal by today's standards. As if such a statement was somehow besmerching the memory of President Ford. Come on people, "liberal" is not a dirty four letter word!

I was a teenager when President Ford took office I am now a city councilmen I use President Ford's honesty and humanity as my guide in public service. in my mind the greatest thing he did was to honor, sustain and defend the laws of this great land

I can only hope that President Ford's death will inspire today's politicians to embrace his honesty, integrity, civility, statesmanship and courage. How I wish we could have cloned him and had him standing by again, when we need him.

When President Ford drove golf balls into the crowd and bonked someone on the head it made the nightly news light hearted. When he dove into his swimming pool and someone, anyone, with a camera managed to catch him swimming laps it was a treat for all of us on the evening news. This President made goofaws like the common everyday guy and this is what makes him so special. He took the ribbing and the criticism in stride, and showed the world how a real family man, a husband, and a President should lead with kindness and unselfish example.

This is the best written piece I have read on President Ford. Brian Williams proves once again that he is (to steal a quote Mr. Williams likes to use himself) "the best in the business."

Ford was the only president I ever shook hands with.Speaking to Ford was just like talking to your father.He made you feel just as important as the million dollar man behind you.It's a shame that we do not have more like him.Honest decient men are a dying breed.Shaking hands with most politions is like getting manure on your hands,you want to run and wash.

What I have to say is not of a piece with the uncritical eulogizing that invariably occurs when "great" men like Gerald Ford die, so I wonder if it will be posted. Nonetheless, it ought to be said.
On December 7th, 1975, Indonesia launched an invasion of the newly independent nation of East Timor that would cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Timorese men, women, and children over the subsequent years of occupation.
What's Ford got to do with that? Well, on December 6th, 1975, the very day before the invasion, Ford and Henry Kissinger met with the Indonesian dictator Suharto, a US ally, and essentially granted him permission to invade East Timor. Subsequently, Ford and Kissinger would deny that the subject of Timor was even discussed, but a transcript of the meeting released to the National Security Archive in 2001 would prove that to be an outright lie. It may also be noted that even as the US government protested the invasion formally in the UN, they continued to sell Indonesia the military hardware it used to slaughter the Timorese.
And so, the most remarkable, and despicable, of Gerald Ford's legacies, and the one you are most unlikely to hear about in the mindless media hagiographies, was his central role in the genocide of thousands and thousands of people. Consider that in the midst of all this myth making.

President Ford did what few politicians today do, put the best interest of the country ahead of his own. That is why he pardoned Nixon, although he knew it would be unpopular with the people at the time.

R.I.P.

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