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President Ford’s approval increased 14 points after the fall of Saigon in 1975

… loss in 1976 had nothing to do with Vietnam

While some lamentations are now taking place about the situations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, some lovers of history are taking a look at what happened when Saigon fell to the Communists in 1975.

In both cases, the president was not responsible for the chaos that ensued. Both wars were lost by previous presidents.

So, while Joe Biden is being criticized by those Republicans who pursued the longest war in history and who lost it back in 2006 or 2007, if not earlier, one point about Ford’s situation and Biden’s is interesting.

His approval actually increased

As one tweet noted earlier today, Ford’s approval increased 14 points from the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, to that recorded in June,

There are a lot of comparisons being made bw the fall of Saigon & chaos in Kabul.

I'm not saying this will happen, but it's a pt to note that we don't know everything...

After Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, Ford's approval rating went up -- from 37% in March to 51% by June

Twitter, August 17, 2021

So, is this accurate?

According to Gallup, that is pretty much accurate, but it is also complicated,

Ford took office on Aug. 9, 1974, after Nixon's resignation. Ford's first job approval rating was a robust 71%, benefiting from a likely rally effect following Nixon's leaving office. No president since then has had as high an initial approval rating, although no president since Ford has entered office in the middle of another president's elected term. Two other presidents who came into office during another's term -- Harry Truman (87%) and Lyndon Johnson (74%) -- also had very high initial approval ratings.

Ford's job approval rating plummeted to 50% in late September 1974, after he pardoned Nixon. By January 1975, his approval rating had fallen below 40%, and it remained at that level until April 1975. His lowest approval ratings were 37% readings in January and March 1975.

On May 12, 1975, Cambodian Khmer Rouge forces seized the U.S. ship SS Mayaguez and held the American crew hostage. Ford ordered military action to rescue the crew, which was released while the United States was undertaking that action. Roughly 40 U.S. military personnel lost their lives in the brief fighting. A late May/early June Gallup Poll saw Ford's approval rating spike from 40% to 51%. It remains one of the largest "rallies" in presidential approval Gallup has ever measured.

Jeffrey M. Jones, “Gerald Ford Retrospective,” Gallup, December 29, 2006

Biden does not have to worry about re-election

While many are talking about how this many affect Biden’s re-election, I have news for them. Joe Biden will not run for another term, regardless of how well or how poorly the next three and a half years go. He will be 81, and that will be the end of his political career. He is smart enough to realize that.

Nevertheless, that concern is being expressed by some analysts,

So does Ford’s (and America’s) experience show that Joe Biden can expect that the shock and dismay so many are feeling now about the situation in Afghanistan will be a blip on his presidency, not a threat to his reelection?

Probably, although there are some differences in the two presidents’ situation that cut both ways. In Ford’s case, the opposition party was pretty firmly anti–Vietnam War by 1975. So despite some carping about how the administration handled the very end of the conflict and the attempted evacuation of vulnerable Vietnamese, few Democrats were going to criticize Ford for failing to redeploy troops or take similar efforts to “save” South Vietnam.

Today’s Republicans, despite Trump’s responsibility for liquidating the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and legitimizing the Taliban, have no compunction about blaming how it ended on Biden. But the entire climate of public opinion has changed enormously in the last 46 years thanks to partisan and ideological polarization. Biden will receive no quarter from Republicans, but will be supported by Democrats, whatever their misgivings about how he handled the denouement in Afghanistan.

Ed Gilgore, “The fall of Saigon didn’t end Gerald Ford’s presidency,”

New York Magazine, August 17, 2021

The truth is that this will not even affect next year’s midterms. Ford was judged most because of his pardon of Richard Nixon, which drove his approval rating down significantly, and the poor economy. For Biden, it will be what the situation is with Covid next year and what the economy looks like. Right now, Covid is a problem but the economy looks good. What happens between now and November 2022 is anyone’s guess.

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