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By Colin Seymour-Ure (auth.)

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Nixon's bottling-up of the Watergate scandal was effective for a time in maintaining his legitimacy and enabling him to carry on an innovative foreign policy; yet the growing hostility of Congress reduced his capacity to achieve results in domestic policy. Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon was effective-not just over Nixon but in being widely accepted (if not approved) as a legitimate exercise of presidential power. Yet it ended the Ford honeymoon for many citizens, arguably reducing the likelihood of their supporting initiatives like Ford's anti-inflation policy.

His predicament has a touch of Lincoln's famous formula: he can be silent about all things some of the time and about some things all of the time. But he cannot be silent about all things all of the time. This is the most fundamental characteristic of his 'communication context'. Woodrow Wilson was totally silent after his stroke in the autumn of 1919, shielded by his wife and doctor. The very fact that they put out so little information (to Congress and the Cabinet as well as to the public) encouraged the proliferation of rumours-substitute presidential communication.

Any other behaviour- to continue talking, to turn aside- might have roused the lion of audience opinion through some incongruity that the candidates, lacking full knowledge of the breakdown, could not visualise. Against that argument had to be put the possibility that just standing still might strike viewers as odd. After twelve minutes Jimmy Carter sat down. Ford stood during the entire twenty-seven. But he did, like Carter, wipe his brow. From the studio audience this drew applause. The audience thereby made their own comment on the silence; and it was predictably a subject of media comment in the following days.

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