Bush's Legacy: What's Left in the Last Year?

So, you're the president of the United States and time is running out. You are down to a year and counting.

How should you spend that last year? Buttress your legacy? Help your party's candidate get elected to succeed you? Or make plans for your Presidential Library, keep a low profile and let the clock run out?

A look at some recent presidents shows how they dealt with waning power.

Bush's Legacy: Reflecting on Presidents Past

Unlike President George W. Bush, several presidents, of course, have not known when they were entering their last year at the White House.

The most tragic recent example was John F. Kennedy, cut down in the prime of life on a political trip to Texas that he hoped would help in his bid for a second term. Fortunately, presidential assassinations are rare. So are presidential resignations.

Richard Nixon desperately hoped he could survive Watergate and serve until the end of his second term. But he couldn't.

There have been other presidents who did not realize they were in their last year. Seriously ill though he was, Franklin D. Roosevelt never seemed to accept that it was highly unlikely he would survive his unprecedented fourth term. In his final months he continued to plan for a post-war world, one which he never lived to see.

Sometimes it is not death, but politics which ends a Chief Executive's time in the White House.

It happened to Gerald Ford who was fully occupied his last year in trying to fight off challenges both from a fellow Republican, Ronald Reagan, and from a Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

And here may be a good place to see how Ford, coped with lame duck status, dealt with his last weeks. This reporter is a tiny part of the story and asks your indulgence.

Bush's Legacy: How About Puerto Rico?

On December 31, 1976, President Ford was at his Vail, Colorado chalet where he had gone for an annual skiing trip and also to lick his wounds after being narrowly defeated by Jimmy Carter.

Those of us in the White House press corps had been told there would be no news until after the New Year.

Unexpectedly though, in a written statement the president's press secretary announced Ford's support for Puerto Rican statehood.

I was stunned.

Ford had never shown any interest in statehood for Puerto Rico. In fact, he had never shown much interest in Puerto Rico.

I recalled he had gone there for a conference once where he enjoyed playing on a tropical golf course. But that was about it. And no one from Ford's staff would talk about it.

The press secretary disappeared. All we got was a single piece of paper on the wall of the press office saying Ford would fight for statehood after the New Year.

This made no sense. In three weeks there would be a new president. There was no time for Ford to push statehood legislation. But, since it seemed to be the only news in the world that day, the Ford announcement led the evening newscasts.

That night, the president invited a small group of reporters to his chalet for a New Year's Eve party. Nothing fancy. Ski jackets and sweaters. And alcoholic beverages were served, as you might expect.

At a particularly relaxed part of the evening, I summoned up the nerve to say something like this: "What's this about Puerto Rico? You've never had any interest in the statehood issue."

He laughed with his familiar high pitched cackle.

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