Thursday, September 14, 2023

the last book I ever read (Gerald R. Ford: The American Presidents Series: The 38th President, 1974-1977, excerpt ten)

from Gerald R. Ford: The American Presidents Series: The 38th President, 1974-1977 by Douglas Brinkley:

However, just as Ford was firming up his plans to travel to Helsinki, the dissident Soviet writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was stirring up anti-Soviet feeling in the United States. Solzhenitsyn, whose terrifying novel The Gulag Archipelago had just been published in England, had been awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature for his works on the cruelties of the Soviet political system, none of which were then available in his native land. Dissident lines about the totalitarian Soviets’ “uniped jackboots of the unsleeping State Security operatives” grabbed the attention of the Kremlin. Arrested by the KGB and charged with treason for his revelations, Solzhenitsyn was deported to West Germany in February 1974, and he immigrated to the United States early the following year. Instantly sought after across American, Solzhenitsyn quickly tired of the spotlight and sought refuge on a farm in Vermont, where he resumed writing against the Soviet totalitarian state. On June 30, however, at the behest of the anti-Communist U.S. labor leader George Meany, Solzhenitsyn made a speech at an AFL-CIO dinner in Washington, excoriating not only the Soviet system but also any attempt at accommodation with it.

Coming less than a month before the Helsinki conference, Solzhenitsyn’s urgent call for U.S. action against Communist brutality was seized upon immediately by conservative Republican senators Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who on July 2 jointly requested that President Ford meet with Solzhenitsyn before the dissident left the nation’s capital three days later. Ford refused. Unfortunately, the White House failed to firmly enough cite the reason as the outrage against protocol of making demands on the president’s time with less than half a week’s notice. Instead, as Ford himself would admit in his memoir, “I decided to subordinate political gains to foreign policy considerations.”

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