Gerald Ford became Vice-President when Nixon’s original running mate had to resign for cheating on his taxes. Ford now became President at one of the tensest moments in American political history. The country was still a mess as a criminal indictment of Nixon loomed, widespread public distrust of government was rampant and Congress eagerly awaited to take back power it felt was usurped by the heavy-handed Nixon.
Watergate and Nixon threatened to rip the country apart. Ford made an unpopular decision to grant Nixon a full, Presidential pardon for any crimes he committed. Ford saw this as the only way to let the country move on from the whole catastrophe. To further damage Ford’s Presidency, Vietnam became a problem again. North Vietnam broke the cease-fire and attacked the South. The South needed assistance—as promised by Nixon—to defend themselves. But tired of the war, Congress refuses to send aid. Vietnam fells to Communists in 1975, leading to what most characterize as America’s greatest military failure.
The combination of the pardon and the crisis in Vietnam, compounded further by an inflationary economy, Ford lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.