While shaking hands in Sacramento, California, President Gerald Ford was gunned down by a female assassin with an automatic pistol. She was later identified as Lynette Fromme, also known as “Squeaky” of the infamous Manson Family. Fromme fired four shots, two striking the president and two others hitting Secret Service Special Agent Larry Buendorf. Buendorf and Ford were rushed to surgery where Ford would die on the operating table while Buendorf would survive, though spending the rest of his life paraplegic.
It had been a tough time for America, and the murder of a president was another blow for the public already reeling from the Watergate scandal that had destroyed Richard Nixon. Fromme was used as an example of the destruction of the American soul, causing a resurgence in spirituality and conservatism. She would be given the maximum sentence of life in federal prison without parole, though many called for a return to execution.
Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller was sworn in as president that evening. Although there would be strife with White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld before his dismissal, Rockefeller's presidency became one with a spirit of unity, coming together after disaster. He set course to battle economic issues of the nation, which he did by eliminating spending in the Federal government and trimming taxes. “It's time we start treating government like a business, and in a good way,” was the often given quote of Rockefeller, whose family was noted for their industrial prowess.
With his government spending reform as well as the “pity vote” for the Republican Party, Rockefeller would be elected in 1976, narrowly defeating Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Rockefeller continued his sculpting of the executive branch as well as working to secure inexpensive fuel to keep inflation and, especially, food prices down. Near the end of his term in 1979 when Islamic militants seized the US embassy in Tehran, Rockefeller struck back with quick covert operations, though many argued that this would seal the Middle East's distrust of America.
The 1980 election would see Americans ready to move on from Republican trimming, and Ted Kennedy would be pronounced the 40th President of the United States after announcing his candidacy late in 1979. Kennedy worked to restore many of the social services cut back by Rockefeller as well as keeping an eye on the waning Soviet Union. He echoed his brother Jack's speech of the potential unity of Berlin, calling for an end to the wall and people everywhere to be known as “Berliners.”
Kennedy served a comfortable two terms through the 1980s, and his long-serving vice-president Walter Mondale would follow him from '89 to '92. With a new economic slump, the American people would turn back to the Republicans with President Bob Dole of Kansas. They had established themselves as the “economic” party, and the United States enjoyed a renewed boom based on technological innovation through the '90s, entering a new millennium with no national debt.
In reality, Agent Buendorf spotted Fromme's gun. He stepped in front of Ford, grabbed the gun, and wrestled Fromme to the ground, jamming his hand under the trigger to prevent firing. Fromme noted to the cameras that she had not fired and later told The Sacramento Bee that she had removed the chambered bullet that morning, which investigators found at her home. She was sentenced to life imprisonment and paroled August 14, 2009. Gerald Ford died December 26, 2006, the longest living US President.