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Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations With Gerald R. Ford

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  772 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
In 1974, Newsweek correspondent Thomas M. DeFrank was interviewing Gerald Ford when the Vice President blurted out something astonishingly indiscreet. He then extracted a promise not to publish it. “Write it when I’m dead,” Ford said – and thus began a thirty-two-year relationship.

During the last fifteen years of their conversations, Ford opened up to DeFrank, speaking in
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by G. P. Putnam's Sons (first published 2007)
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Anthony Bergen
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
(Review originally posted on Dead Presidents)

Write It When I'm Gone:  Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford
By Thomas M. DeFrank
Hardcover.  2007.  258 pp.  Putnam.

As I mentioned prominently in my review of Bob Greene's "Fraternity", what interests me primarily about the Presidents and the Presidency is not policy, politics, or administrative accomplishments, but the personality of the individuals who have held the most powerful office in the world.  All of those other things

Lukasz Pruski
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
"[...] the simple ground rules we'd already established: nothing he said could be printed until after his death."

Thomas DeFrank, the author of Write It When I'm Gone (2007), was a Newsweek correspondent and journalist when in 1973 he was assigned to cover Vice President Gerald R. Ford. At that time it was gradually becoming clear that Mr. Ford might soon become the 38th President of the United States. The relationship between the author and Mr. Ford - something more than a professional acquainta
Aaron Million
Written by a journalist who covered President Ford during his brief tenure as Vice President and then as President, the bulk of this book concerns Ford's post-presidency. DeFrank and Ford had basically a handshake agreement that Ford could speak candidly, mostly on the record, about people and events that normally he would speak of to anyone except close personal friends or his wife. But the understanding was that DeFrank could not publish any of the material until Ford died. Thinking about how ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who enjoy listening to old people complain about aging.
For the first two chapters of this book I thought it was kind of a breezy, superficial romp with Ford by a journalist who clearly adored the man.
Jerry Ford is a human being cum laude, a down-to-earth, earnest, genuinely likable guy with an infectious laugh and not the slightest hint of pretentiousness.

There was some nice narrative-style analysis of the unique position in which Ford found himself, including a nice little tidbit from William Safire (totally forgot that he had a career in politics
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Sadly, this book is not the undisclosed look into the private thoughts and opinions of Ford. For three decades of interviews, there wasn't much substance. Ford must have been a very honest politician because didn't give the author much more than he gave the rest of the world. The book felt like a collection of short essays and not one flowing book. The chapters kept referring back and repeating information that was only printed a few pages before.

Unless you're a huge Ford fan, I'd pass on this o
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would actually give this 3.5 stars. It's been sitting on my shelf for months because I wasn't eager to tear into it. I was surprised that it was such an insightful read. I thought that it was going to be about Ford's presidency. While it did touch on the Nixon/Ford years, the book was more of a series of interviews about his political observations over the years. Sort of a People Magazine for political junkies. I was also touched by Ford's convictions. He wasn't a partisan hack. While I didn't ...more
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: listened-to
Book Twenty-Seven of my presidential challenge.

"I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln" - Gerald Ford

Sometimes you just have to take one for the team. Gerald Ford knows that more than most. In the wake of the Watergate scandal, someone needed to step in and calm the country down. Ford was that guy. The perfect guy for that really. He wasn't showy or flashy, he was a horrible public speaker and he was clumsy (like insanely clumsy).

Ford's first major act as President was to unconditionally pardon Richard Nixon
Mar 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Pretty terribly organized book whose insights are minimal and dissappointing. The books title grossly exaggerates a relationship between author and subject that seemed little more than 'cordial', while Gerald Ford comes across as a plain jane jock/frat boy who lacked depth -

"At 12:30 in the morning, he exited the press room... I thought he looked like a man with the world's weight still on his broad shoulders. Just before he disappeared into the residence, he turned to an aide and posed a quest
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Never knew a whole lot about Pres. Ford, but after reading this I have a lot of respect for him. Ford was a dedicated public servant who brought dignity back to the White House after the turmoil of Watergate. I never knew that he was criticized so harshly for the money he made after being in office. His successors owe him for paving the way in the post-presidential speaking circuit. Also, I didn't know how Ford really felt about Reagan...the political life isn't always fun. Really liked the easy ...more
Pamela Okano
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, politics
Tom DeFrank, a political journalist, had a deal with Jerry Ford. DeFrank could have regular access to Ford, who would speak his mind, but only on condition that his remarks would not be published until after Ford's death. This is the result. What becomes clear is that Jerry Ford was truly a decent and good man. In this day where radicalism and self-interest in politics seems so prevalent, it was refreshing to read the remarks of a career politician who had the country's, not his own, best intere ...more
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
From a historical point of view, interesting but Tom DeFrank isn't the greatest writer. He seemed to make a big deal out of a couple of political instances that don't seem to resonate with another generation and I'm not talking about Watergate. Interesting note: He was on the original Warren commission and was very upset with the Oliver Stone movie and felt it did great damage to those in the future who might believe the movie to be fact and never take the time to investigate the story.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Being the political junkie that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed DeFrank's perspective as one of the "inner circle" journalists who traveled with Ford from his Veep days. DeFrank deeply respected Ford, who appeared to return that respect, notwithstanding times of estrangement when he was angered by something DeFrank had done. DeFrank's account shows Ford's humanity and allows the reader to relate to him in many ways as a "regular" guy. A fast read if you like the topic.
Matthew Kresal
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
It is not often that members of the general public are offered a great insight into their leaders. Write It When I'm Gone happens to be one of those occasions when we are allowed to have just that into the thirty-eighth President of the United States Gerald Ford. We are given this through the writings of reporter Thomas M. DeFrank who first covered Ford for Newsweek in 1974 and then interviewed him on and off until weeks before his death. The results of the interviews is a rare insight into a na ...more
Lane Willson
Best I can figure, the unholy combination of the discovery of political satire, a teacher’s ability to make our country’s history and the workings of our republic exciting (Thanks, Mrs. Henderson!), and the unceasing desire of a semi-literate adolescent boy to be a smart ass, converged to give me my admiration of President Gerald R. Ford. “Write it when I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford by Thomas Defrank only confirmed and deepened that esteem.

Regardless of an
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Gerald R Ford is often described as the accidental American President. He became Richard Nixon's Vice President, on the resignation of Spiro Agnew, and President, on the resignation of Nixon.

As a consequence, it might seem something of a contrivance to give Ford a full blown presidential biography. This said, he was probably the last sensible Republican Presidential Candidate (I can't give Bush a pass, as he was V-P under Reagan, and I can't give McCain a pass because of Palin). He was pro-choic
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author was a reporter for Newsweek. He was one of a few reporters assigned to cover Gerald Ford after Nixon named Ford as his Vice President. Shared experiences aboard a cramped Air Force 2 created a personal bond between Ford and the reporters covering him that lasted until his death in 2006. The title comes from the promise that Ford extracted from the author after Ford slipped up and let on that Ford knew that Nixon was going to have to resign even while Ford was publicly walking a tightr ...more
Gary Schantz
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all the most recent presidents I have had the most interest in, it has been President Ford. The biggest reasons is that he was a part of two catastrophic moments in American history...Kennedy's assassination and Nixon's Watergate. Both of these moments bookended one particular generation which began by speculating that there was a government conspiracy and ended with full knowledge of a government conspiracy. The book moves along very well and covers a nice group of topics....the warren commi ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Write It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the Record Conversations With Jerald r. Ford, by Thomas M. Defrank, Narrated by Scott Brick, Produced by Blackstone Audio, Downloaded from

In an extraordinary series of private interviews, conducted over 16 years with the stipulation that they not be released until after Gerald Ford's death,
the 38th president of the United States reveals a profoundly different side of himself: funny, reflective, gossipy, strikingly candid, and the stuff of
Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wouldn't say there was anything groundbreaking or shocking about this book, but it was an enjoyable read about our affable, stalwart "accidental" president. The author covered Mr. Ford extensively for Newsweek while he was vice president, then president, and continued the relationship for 30 years, conducting a series of interviews that sometimes contained "off the record" material. The most interesting/gossipy of this material concerned his hatred/distrust of Reagan (which he let go once Reag ...more
Robert L.
Oct 31, 2009 rated it liked it
DeFrank, a reporter who covered Gerald R. Ford as vice-president and then as president, was given an opportunity to interview Ford over many years on the condition that he would not publish the conversations (to the extent Ford directed) until Ford was gone.
Not remembering much about Ford myself, I learned a lot about him. He swam twice a day, 10 laps most of his working life, religiously up into his last year of life when he was swimming a couple of laps each time. Ford was a congressman beginn
David Bales
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Extraordinarily long, Tom Defrank uses his almost too familiar friendship with former President Ford to create this book over the last 30 years or so; Defrank, then of Newsweek, first interviewed Ford in 1973, and began an intimate and long-standing tradition of visiting Ford and having "off the record" conversations and interviews with the stipulation that Defrank would not publish them until after Ford's death. I was disappointed in most of this, since Defrank really doesn't delve into anythin ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]In Write It When I'm Gone, DeFrank chronicles three decades of interviews with Gerald Ford, from his appointment as Vice-President in late 1973 to a final conversation in late 2006. For most of that time, Ford was old news; he ruled himself (with some bitterness) out of the presidential running fairly early in 1980 and settled down to being an elder statesman. There's nothing terribly startling in any of DeFrank's revelations: Ford didn't ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I don't think I've ever seen or read something as unique as I have in reading Tom DeFrank's wonderful series of "off-the-record" interviews with the 38th President. I also admire Mr. DeFrank's loyalty and willingness to honor President Ford and withhold some very candid, eye-opening commentary at the President's request and agreement. In the days of filing stories as they happen and as words are uttered, it was a refreshing look at journalism taking a step back and to ensure t ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Not bad for political junkies but when I was 40% into the book I was wishing the author would just get on with it. Parts were slow and redundant with a bit too much personal trivia.

DeFrank portrays Ford as an honest, honorable man, which he was. But he author glosses over some powerful exceptions where Ford was blinded by his allegiance to the Republican party. Two were extremely notable.... Ford never once looked Nixon in the eye and asked him, "Did you do it?" Obviously Ford wanted to continu
Jeff Johnson
Nov 10, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a unique presidential biography of a unique president. I nearly gave it four stars, but it just dragged too much in the last few chapters. I had feared I was wasting my time after Ford's presidency ended already around Chapter 3--but that turned out not to be the case. More than just a biography of Gerald Ford, much of the book is an insightful look at the power that flows from the office itself. In some ways Ford is a particularly good control case for such a discussion: Because he bec ...more
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you're not a historian, then who really knows that much about President Ford? He barely registers in my presidential knowledge and beyond nice comments that my parents have made about him over time, the only thing I remember about him is that he took over for Nixon.

"Write it When I'm Gone" is not a biography nor an autobiography, but simply conversations that President Ford had with a reporter off the record throughout the vice-presidency, presidency, and into retirement. Conversations that o
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Tom DeFrank was assigned to cover Gerald Ford when Ford became vice-president. After Ford's presidency, DeFrank periodically visited Ford to interview him. Ford's only condition to these interviews was that DeFrank couldn't write about them until after his death. This book is about those interviews.

Gerald Ford was very open and talked about his views on the presidents who followed him. He was very biter towards Carter and had wanted to run against him again in 1980. His advisers had told him tha
I have never been a big fan of Gerald Ford. It is the Star Wars/Star Trek thing. I like Reagan, and I agree with Nancy when she called him “the unelected President”. Apparently, that incensed President Ford, as comes out in the book. Despite an almost non interest in President Ford as an entity, I am a sucker for history and politics. The author, Thomas DeFrank, was a journalist assigned to the White House during the Nixon years and had been in a group that traveled with Gerald Ford after he was ...more
Oct 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Write It When I'm Gone is a glimpse into the character of Gerald R. Ford by Thomas M. Defrank, who was first assigned to Ford when Defrank was a new twenty-something reporter and Ford was Nixon's Vice President.

The relationship they maintained lasted until the end of Ford's long life.

This story didn't contain any "smoking guns" or sensationalist revelations, especially compared to the instant news, conspiracy theorist mecca that is the internet these days.

Instead, Defrank shows us, through hi
Stephany G
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
So I've been reading and watching some new stuff on the JFK assassination and I have become interested in some of the key figures in this time period. I normally don't read a lot of non fiction but since I have embraced the conspiracies I've tried to add some to my reading list. This book was not at all what I was looking for. I picked it up expecting to read at least a chapter or two on the Warren commission but instead was disappointed with just a page and no real insight at all to anything th ...more
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