Former President Gerald Ford says House Speaker Newt Gingrich should curb partisan attacks on the White House and predicts the Republican Party will lose the next presidential election unless it reins in its "extreme right."

Ford also spoke Monday about a special court exemption for Secret Service agents who protect the president, saying they should be permitted to testify about criminal allegations but not in civil suits.Gingrich intensified verbal attacks against President Clinton and his administration this spring.

Ford, who was a Republican House member for 24 years and served as House minority leader, said he believes Gingrich should leave "partisan attacks" to others.

"One thing that speakers have to understand is that the speaker is speaker for the House . . . 434 members of both parties" in addition to himself, the former president said.

"He doesn't speak as a partisan," Ford said. "He speaks for all members of the House. You have to keep that high-level attitude and let the partisan attacks come from your majority leader.

"The speaker is better advised to stand back," Ford said.

He spoke at the National Press Club after presenting a pair of journalism awards.

Looking at the wider political picture, Ford said he believes that if "extreme-right" partisans within the GOP control party policies and dictate its choice of a presidential candidate for the 2000 elections, the party will lose at the polls.

"We should not permit one element to dictate policies within our party; if we do, the extreme right will doom our party to election defeat," Ford said.