Thursday, March 15, 2007

How Gerry Ford almost became Reagan's VP

I was a wee little one in 1979, and while I can remember little snippets of that year's presidential campaign (mostly complaints about Carter and election night itself), I can't remember it any great detail. So imagine my surprise when, while bumming around the net tonight, I learned that Ronald Reagan came this close to selecting Gerald Ford, not George H.W. Bush, as his running mate in 1979.
At 11:25, the negotiators returned; Casey reported that “the answer is probably no.” Five minutes later, Ford, accompanied by Barrett, entered the suite to talk with Reagan, and we left the room. The two men spent a few minutes alone, and at 11:35, Ford departed. We rushed back into the room, and Reagan said: "I have to say the answer is no. All this time, my gut instinct has been that this is not the right thing. I have affection and respect for Ford. He said he would go all out to help." There was complete silence.

Reagan glanced around and asked those assembled—a group that included Casey, Meese, Wirthlin, Hannaford, Deaver, and me—"Well, what do we do now?" There was no immediate response. No one offered an alternate plan. No one tossed out a name. Expecting instant opposition, I ventured, "We call Bush." Once more, silence. Reagan again looked at each of us; hearing no objection, he said, "Well, let’s get Bush on the phone."

At precisely 11:38, the phone was in Reagan’s hand; though they barely knew each other, Reagan dove right in. "George," he said warmly, "I would like to go over there and tell them that I am recommending you for vice president. Could I ask you one thing—do I have your permission to make an announcement that you support the platform across the board?" We could hear Bush agreeing at the other end. Reagan then left for the convention center where, shortly after midnight, he took the podium to praise Ford and then to announce his running mate, George Bush.

I feel deficient for not having known this already. Read the entire article, even if you know the story, though. The behind the scenes look at Reagan's VP selection process is fascinating.

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