Senior Republican leaders went to an ex-president hoping to get him to influence George Bush to knock Dick Cheney off of the 2004 ticket, according to a new book. Did they visit the ex-president with the most influence over George W — his father? That would at least have been worthy of the Washington Post’s time and effort to report. Instead, they look at the revelation that Gerald Ford turned down the request to give the current president unsolicited advice on the selection of running mates:
He may have been his White House chief of staff in the 1970s, but by 2004, former president Gerald R. Ford harbored serious reservations about whether Vice President Cheney should be kept on the ticket for reelection. According to a new book, senior Republican figures approached Ford about getting President Bush to dump Cheney in 2004 and, while Ford rebuffed them, he seemed sympathetic to their cause.
“Dick has not been the asset I expected on the ticket,” Ford told journalist Thomas M. DeFrank in an off-the-record conversation in March 2004. “As you know, he’s a great friend of mine, he did a great job for me, but he has not clicked, if that’s the right word. God knows he works at it.”
Ford told DeFrank he had heard from Republicans seeking his help to push Cheney out. “Other people are talking to me about making a change, but I have not promoted it myself,” he said. Still, he allowed that “I’m apprehensive as to his help to the ticket.” Asked about possible replacements, Ford readily named two New York Republicans — then-Gov. George Pataki and former mayor Rudy Giuliani.
This has become The Meme That Would Not Die. In the year prior to the 2004 election, pundits regularly speculated exactly when Cheney would get the push off the boat, and for whom. Condoleezza Rice generally won the informal polling, and Colin Powell got plenty of attention. I recall hearing Rudy Giuliani’s name in connection to a sudden withdrawal of Dick Cheney, since it was no secret that he wanted to run for President in 2008.
But George Pataki? That’s as absurd as asking Ford to intercede with Bush to dump Cheney in the first place. George Pataki would have done nothing to boost Bush in a general election. At least Cheney helped rally conservatives after a term of profligate spending. Could Pataki have delivered New York for the Republicans? Not in a million years.
The entire exercise looks more than a little absurd, anyway. Who would believe that Ford would have any influence on Bush? The correct ex-president would have been Poppy, and perhaps a few “senior Republicans” had the temerity to try that. They must have come away as unsatisfied as they did with Ford, who had become so out of touch that in 2004 he had never heard of “this fella [Scooter] Libby” who had served as Cheney’s chief of staff for years. Nice man that he undoubtedly was, Ford had not had his pulse on the party since he himself named another New Yorker, Nelson Rockefeller, as his Vice-President for his 29-month term of office.
The political news media should re-check the calendar. The year is now 2007. It’s safe to presume that Dick Cheney will not be asked to resign from his office to help George Bush’s re-election chances. Can this meme please have a stake driven through its heart now? Finally?