Like Louis XIV, whose awakening, dressing, prayers, meals and bedtime were viewed by scores of his subjects, the person of Gerald Ford seems to be on constant display. No recent President has offered himself and his family up to public scrutiny with such enthusiasm. In the nine months of his Presidency, Ford has held a dozen press conferences and given 16 “exclusive” interviews. The deluge in one recent period included snapshots of the spooning Fords by Candy Bergen, a tick-tock account of six presidential days by John Hersey, a leggy glimpse of daughter Susan Ford at school in a series of wire service pictures, a televised hour with CBS’s Walter Cronkite and, as chronicled on the following pages, a remarkably intimate look at the presidential family in a new book by TIME columnist Hugh Sidey and freelance photographer Fred Ward.
Ford promised the nation an open and candid Presidency, and he has delivered it. “He was the easiest subject I ever had,” says veteran photojournalist Ward. “I was flabbergasted at his total lack of pretense.”
Ward and Sidey’s Portrait of a President (Harper & Row) reveals just how far Ford is willing to go to prove his accessibility. Ward spent every day for two months with Ford, accompanying him everywhere from the bathroom to the back seat of a limousine en route to visit Betty Ford in the hospital. “He is not conceited at all and very trusting,” says Ward. “He just doesn’t figure you’re going to do a job on him. He never had to develop a TV image to get elected. He comes to us unspoiled, almost guileless, very Middle American. If he runs next time, God knows what the image-makers may try to turn him into.”