BOSTON--Speaking at a Faneuil Hall forum Wednesday night, former President Gerald R. Ford praised the certain Republican nominee, Vice President George Bush, for his extensive foreign policy experience, but accused both Bush and his Democratic rival for the presidency of offering vague solutions for reducing the federal deficit.
Ford, who ascended to the presidency after Richard M. Nixon resigned in August 1974, mocked Bush's suggestion of a "flexible freeze" and Gov. Michael S. Dukakis' proposal for increasing revenues through better tax collection as means of cutting the deficit. "I haven't seen very much definitive from either," Ford said.
Stressing the need to reduce the federal budget deficit, which he called a "time bomb," Ford said it should be the next president's first priority. Ford defended the Bush campaign's pledge of not raising taxes as a prudent move while stating that a candidate should instead emphasize cutting waste in the federal bureaucracy.
"In my experience in government, any candidatewho starts out by saying `I'm going to raisetaxes' is using the wrong approach," Ford told thepartisan crowd. "He is telling the bureaucracy,`Don't make the hard decisions' to tighten theirbelts."
Ford, who was defeated by Jimmy Carter in thetight 1976 election, refrained from assessingDukakis' qualifications for the White House,saying that he didn't know enough about him. Buthe did say that Bush's experiences as acongressman, CIA director and U.S. ambassador tothe U.N. make him uniquely qualified to handlecomplex foreign policy issues as president.
"I think someone who comes from outsideWashington...comes with a handicap, whether youlike it or not," Ford said, in a not-too-subtlejab at Dukakis.
"Some of those [policy mistakes] you make whenyou haven't had the background can hurt," Fordsaid. "A governor doesn't have that experience. Hemay be the brightest and most conscientious, butyou don't pick up [foreign policy knowledge] in abook. That's where George Bush has the advantage."
When asked about Bush's likely pick as hisrunning mate, Ford said that he believes the vicepresident will choose either Sen. Robert Dole(R-Kan.) or Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), whom hetermed as being the "traditional" picks. But Fordsaid that Bush may "stir the political pot" bypicking a "first-class lady", either formerTransportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole or Sen.Nancy Kassebaum. (R-Kan.)
Besides reducing the budget deficit, Ford saidthat the main issues facing the next president arereducing the trade deficit, improving relationswith the Soviet Union by agreeing to further armsreduction measures, resolving the ongoing disputesin the Middle East and establishing "a better,more constructive working relationship withCongress" than the Reagan Administration has.
Ford defended his decision to pardon Nixon asbeing the right move to heal a country traumatizedby Watergate and by revelations of corruption inthe nation's highest office. Ford said thattime-considerations made his decison easier, sinceprosecution of Nixon would have been a lengthyprocess.
It would have been foolish to have spent "25percent of my time on the problems of one mancompared to 100 percent of my time on the problemsof 220 million," Ford said.
While acknowledging that the Nixon pardonprobably hurt him politically, Ford said that "apresident can't stick his finger up in the air tosee what to do, they have to do what they decideis right and that's what I did [in deciding topardon Nixon].