January 18, 2006

Ford may be released Thurs

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Gerald Ford
is responding well to treatment for pneumonia and will likely
be released from a California hospital on Thursday, his
spokeswoman said.

Ford, 92, was admitted last weekend to Eisenhower Medical
Center in the California desert community of Rancho Mirage with
pneumonia and was being treated with antibiotics.

"He is responding to treatment and shows improvement every
day," Penny Circle, a spokeswoman for the former president,
said on Wednesday in a written statement.

"He is sitting in a chair reading his newspapers and we
continue to anticipate a Thursday discharge," Circle said.
"Decisions regarding his discharge are made on a day-to-day

Ford, who took office in 1974, was also taken to the
hospital in December for what his office said were routine
tests. He suffered a mild stroke in August 2000, and was
hospitalized briefly in 2003 after suffering dizzy spells while
playing golf in the desert heat near Palm Springs.

Ford took office after Richard Nixon resigned amid the
Watergate scandal. Nixon had named Ford as vice president to
replace Spiro Agnew, who stepped down to avoid prosecution on
corruption charges.

Speaking of Watergate when he took office as the 38th U.S.
president, Ford vowed, "our long national nightmare is over."
Yet trouble dogged him for more than two years until he lost
the 1976 presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Ford stirred enduring controversy in 1974 by granting Nixon
"a full, free and absolute pardon" for any crime he may have
committed in office.

Ford's 2 1/2-year term included two assassination attempts;
Cambodian seizure of the U.S. freighter Mayaguez; the fall of
South Vietnam; constant fights with Congress; and a penchant
for clumsiness that made him a butt of jokes.

Ford later served on corporate boards and toured the
lecture circuit before retiring to Rancho Mirage, near Palm
Springs, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Circle said she would release no more information on Ford's
condition until Thursday.