Conflict With Woodward? DeFrank of ‘Daily News’ Says Ford Told Him He Backed Iraq War

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By: E&P Staff

Bob Woodward returned to the front page of The Washington Post today, revealing that the late President Gerald R. Ford had told him in interviews two or more years ago — embargoed until now — that he opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Now, the longtime Washington bureau chief for New York’s Daily News,
Thomas M. DeFrank, offers a somewhat different take, based on a more recent interview with a very frail Ford.

DeFrank calls his May 11, 2006, meeting with Ford in California his “final interview,” but his account, unlike Woodward’s, is very sketchy. Also, it’s possible that Ford supported the war once it was underway but, as he told Woodward, he would never have launched it to begin with.

In his paper today, DeFrank includes the following passage.

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Ford was a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday as we chatted for about 45 minutes. He’d been visited by President Bush three weeks earlier and said he’d told Bush he supported the war in Iraq but that the 43rd President had erred by staking the invasion on weapons of mass destruction.

“Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him,” he observed, “but we shouldn’t have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction. That was a bad mistake. Where does [Bush] get his advice?”

Ford was predictably defensive about Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his two White House chiefs of staff. Asked why Cheney had tanked in public opinion polls, he smiled. “Dick’s a classy guy, but he’s not an electrified orator.”

But he didn’t like Bush’s domestic surveillance program. “It may be a necessary evil,” he conceded. “I don’t think it’s a terrible transgression, but I would never do it. I was dumbfounded when I heard they were doing it.”

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