The action began in Chicago when Ford flew in Air Force One (returned to its original designation after being named "The Spirit of '76" by Nixon) to address the 75th convention of the Veterans ot Foreign Wars. Instead of a regal helicopter hop downtown, Ford arrived by motorcade, throwing open his sunroot to greet thousands of spectators turned out by Mayor Richard J. Daley's machine. (Hizzoner himself was absent, still recovering from this spring's stroke and surgery.)
Addressing the vets, Ford continued to sound his Lincolnesque theme of "binding up the nation's wounds," unexpectedly announcing his decision to support conditional amnesty for the nation's 50,000 Vietnam-era deserters and draft resisters. Let them "come home if they want to work their way back," he said.
Not so surprising but just as dramatic was Ford's televised introduction of Nelson Rockefeller as his choice for Vice-President. Rockefeller, who resigned last December near the end of his fourth term as governor of New York, will bring considerable expertise in areas where Ford may need help: foreign affairs (Rockefeller worked for Roosevelt in the State Department and is a longtime associate of Henry Kissinger) and administrative management (New York; State's annual budget is second only to that of the federal government).
Rockefeller and Ford have been friends for years and, as Vice- President, Ford had been dutifully attending meetings of Rockefeller's prestigious thinktank, the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans.
Once Rockefeller had been considered a liberal Republican maverick, after two unsuccessful tilts at the presidency and his refusal to support Barry Goldwater in 1964. But he has moved to the right on such issues as drug control and welfare reform, and his nomination will doubtless easily gain Senate and House approval, although both are expected to spend several weeks inspecting his credentials. Not even the memory of Rockefeller's once-controversial divorce and remarriage a decade ago to his present wife, Happy, poses a political problem anymore. President Ford's wife, Betty, is also a divorcêe.
In fact, the only snag in the orderly movement of Rockefeller into the Vice-President's job could be housing. Under a bill passed by Congress, Vice-Presidents are supposed to occupy the grotesquely Victorian "Admiral's House" on the grounds of the Naval Observatory. (The Fords were preparing to move in when President Nixon resigned.) But Rockefeller, easily a millionaire 200 times over, has owned a palatial, 17-acre estate on Washington's exclusive Foxhall Road for 30 years and has no intention of living anywhere else.
The new President likes to say that he's a Ford, not a Lincoln. Last week he was highballing ahead with the authority of a Mack truck.