We love to dance!” exulted the President, and in a burst of merrymaking such as the White House hasn’t seen in years, he and Mrs. Ford rolled up the rug in the East Room, brought in a swing band, and turned 170 guests loose with plenty of champagne.
The official reason for the swinging soirée was a state dinner for King Hussein and Queen Alia of Jordan. In contrast to the more restrained Nixons, who rarely danced in public, the Fords had itchy feet. The President gallantly swept Her Majesty onto the ballroom floor, and King Hussein followed by two-stepping with the First Lady.
As the band bounced through appropriate ditties like “Betty Coed” and “You’ve Got To Be a Football Hero,” the rest of the guests enthusiastically joined in. Among them were such one-time White House personae non gratae as Rep. Pete McCloskey of California and Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker, who cracked, “They’ve shredded the enemies’ list.”
As the White House’s young military aides looked on in smiling disbelief, Vermont’s 82-year-old Senator George Aiken fox-trotted across the floor. So did former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who had not entered the White House in six years. “Happy New Year!” shouted Oregon’s Mark Hatfieid, and his wife added, “No one will ever say that Republicans are dull again.”
That, perhaps, was overstating the case, but President Ford, with grace that seemed downright continental, soundly kissed Queen Alia on both cheeks as she and the king left the party. At midnight, the Fords headed home, but not before urging their guests to dance on. “I have to work,” the President apologized, “I’ll be at the office at 8 o’clock,” His nose indeed was to the grindstone: first came his surprising speech on Vietnam amnesty and then his announcement of the new Vice-President.