HOUSTON -- Former President Gerald Ford, the last Republican to lose the White House to a Democrat, warned GOP delegates Thursday night that a Bill Clinton victory would return America to the days of high interest and inflation rates in the Jimmy Carter era.
Saying the 1976 election is 'really not my favorite subject,' Ford compared his situation then to that of the Republicans in 1992 -- a struggle to overcome a sour economy and a Democratic lead in the polls.
'My opponent was a one-term, ex-governor, a newcomer to the national scene, with virtually no international experience,' Ford said. 'I lost, Gov. Carter won. We got change all right, but remember, change isn't a magic word that makes everything rosy.'
Ford said there needs to be a change in 1992, but it should be a change of leadership in Congress, not of presidents.
'If it's change you want on Nov. 3, my friends, the place to start is not at the White House but in the United States' Capitol,' he said. 'Congress, as every school child knows, has the power of the purse. For nearly 40 years, Democratic majorities have held to the time-tested New Deal formula, taxand tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.'
Earlier Thursday, Ford conceded that President Bush is trailing Clinton because of the Bush administration failed to recognize the depths of the nation's economic problems early on.
But he said Bush, backed by a Republican Congress, would lead the nation out of its economic woes.
'We must give President Bush the kind of back-up in Congress without which no president can turn his programs into real progress,' he said, noting that it has been since 1953 and 1954 since Republicans enjoyed a majority in both houses of Congress.
Ford also suggested that governors, Clinton included, do not have enough experience in national and foreign affairs to serve in the nation's highest political office.
'With all due respect to governors... the House and Senate is a great, great training ground for people who subsequently become president,' said Ford, who served in the House for 26 years. 'In my opinion, if you look at the career of President Bush, he has had probably as excellent a background before becoming president as anybody, at least in my experience,' he said.
Ford made his remarks at a GOP convention leadership forum, 'Defining the Presidency,' which also included former Republican senator and White House chief of staff Howard Baker.
Ford did not mention that former President Ronald Reagan had no political experience beyond being governor of California, but Baker apparently felt he had to set the record straight.
'With no disrespect for former President Reagan, there could not have been a Reagan Revolution without the Republican membership in Congress,' Baker said.