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This Day in Georgia History

October 06, 1976

Second Ford-Carter Debate

In San Francisco, Jimmy Carter and President Gerald Ford squared off in round two of their three nationally televised debates. Topics for this debate were foreign policy and national defense, areas where Carter was thought to be weak because of inexperience. But Carter surprised many viewers and analysts by exhibiting a thorough knowledge of foreign policy issues and a clear understanding of military matters. He also lived up to his promise to be more aggressive in this debate, challenging President Ford on matters of “leadership,” “the character of our country,” and “a vision for the future.” Several sharp exchanges ensued, with Carter using concrete examples of perceived failures in Ford’s foreign policy, while Ford vigorously defended his record. However, Ford hurt himself badly with the remembered single statement of the three Carter-Ford debates. When asked by New York Times foreign affairs analyst Max Frankel about the Soviet Union’s dominance of Eastern Europe, Pres. Ford responded to the disbelief of almost everyone in the hall, “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” Unfortunately for Ford, the news media quickly reported on the first part of his reply. Early polls indicated Carter did very well in the perception of most viewers - and that Ford’s gaffe had hurt him significantly. [Click here for transcript of debate.]