Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
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Posts tagged "Republican Party"
Asker bbkld Asks:
So how do you view Reagan's challenge of Ford in 1976? I think if RR had been patient, GF would have been re-elected and RR would have been POTUS in 1980, anyway. The 1976 challenge seemed like a political misstep from a smart politician known for caring about his public perception.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I agree.  Especially for the guy who always talked about the “Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican”, Reagan really should have shown more respect to President Ford, been patient, and supported the leader of his party.  Historians talk of the Nixon pardon destroying Ford’s chances of being elected in his own right in 1976, and it certainly didn’t help, but what really beat Ford in 1976 was the challenge from Reagan and the right-wing of the GOP.  Ford had to move to his right to meet the challenge, made a move that he regretted for the rest of his life when he dumped Vice President Rockefeller as his running mate for Bob Dole to placate the conservatives, and had to spend all spring and plenty of money just to win his own party’s nomination.  Ford was spent by the time the Republican National Convention rolled around, stumbled during the general election against Jimmy Carter, and yet, he still barely lost the 1976 election.  Also, after the GOP Convention, Reagan really should have been out campaigning for Ford instead of nursing his wounds.

It’s said that Reagan himself was hesitant about challenging Ford in 1976 and that he was pushed into it by Nancy Reagan and his top political advisors.  They were worried that four more years of Ford would cause fatigue for Republican leadership and make it more difficult to win in 1980.  They were also worried that Reagan would lose some of his luster because he was already 65 years old in 1976 and his term as Governor of California had ended in 1975, removing a powerful platform for politicking.

But I agree that, even if Ford had won in 1976, Reagan would have almost certainly been elected in 1980 anyway.  Because Ford had served more than two years of Richard Nixon’s unfinished second term after he assumed the Presidency following Nixon’s resignation, Ford would have been term-limited in 1980 and Constitutionally ineligible to run for President again.  Reagan would have been the front-runner in 1980, no matter what.

In the end, of course, it worked out well for Reagan, but it was a pretty shitty way to treat Ford who had helped restore faith and trust in the Presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  Ford deserved the Republican Party’s support in 1976 after all that he had done, and he deserved loyalty from Reagan and the conservative wing of the GOP that was just unwilling to offer it and impatient about electing Reagan.

Ford was understandably stung by the entire ordeal in 1976. Anybody who ever knew or met Gerald Ford talked about how kind and gentlemanly he was, mentioned that nobody ever said a bad thing about him, and noted how his optimism and how well he got along with even his political rivals. But the challenge from Reagan in 1976 left him bitter about it for the rest of his life and he blamed Reagan for his loss to Carter in ‘76 more than anyone or anything else. Even then, being the good Republican that he was, Ford wholeheartedly supported Reagan publicly in 1980 and campaigned for him — despite personal animosity over Reagan’s 1976 challenge and Ford’s own deep-seated fears that Reagan simply wasn’t suited for the job of President.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
would you say that the Bush family is elected because of their name
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

It certainly doesn’t hurt.  

Listen, I certainly have my issues with George W. Bush, but stop and think about this for a second:  Maybe the Bush family gets elected because they are the only Republican candidates capable of capturing some moderates and conservative Democrats in a national election because, to a lot of reasonable people, the GOP is frighteningly extremist and out-of-touch.  Is that possible?  This country hasn’t elected a Republican President not named “Bush” in THIRTY YEARS.

In last week’s cover story, Chris Christie’s Loss Is (Someone’s Gain), Politico Magazine asked leading Republicans and Conservative thinkers who might be able to take advantage of the troubles facing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and become the frontrunner for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016. Many of those who answered mentioned people like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Scott Walker.

Except for Tom Ridge. The former Governor of Pennsylvania and first Secretary of Homeland Security gave the best answer, the smartest answer, the right answer — the answer which should make Republicans wonder, “What about Tom Ridge?”:

With due respect to your premise, I’d prefer we focus on our party’s message, not our messenger. If Republicans wants to govern, we must win national elections. To do so, the narcissists and ideologues within our party need to understand that Americans are more conservative than liberal, but are more practical than ideological and more tolerant and open-minded than judgmental. They are also looking for real, not rhetorical solutions. Let’s focus on the message now and the messenger later. If we don’t get the former right, the latter won’t matter.

I had read repeatedly that I was the most conservative President since Herbert Hoover. My feeling was, if that’s true, damn it, the extreme right wing ought to be satisfied. But the truth is they never are unless they lock you in to a little ideological circle that is a miniscule number of voters in the American public. Regardless of the political consequences, I knew that I had to call them as I saw them from the nation’s point of view and at the same time from my own political experience. The facts of life are that satisfying the extreme right dooms any Republican in a Presidential election.

Gerald Ford, on his refusal to cater to the far right-wing of the Republican Party during the 1976 Presidential campaign

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Republicans tend to go with their second choice from the previous election (ie Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney), or someone in a dynasty (George W. Bush). So do you think the 2016 Republican election is between Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush? Also, why does New Hampshire tend to be the deciding contest for the GOP?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I had gleefully forgotten that Rick Santorum existed until you sent this question, so you can go to hell for bringing him back into my life.  The fact that Rick Santorum lasted as long as he did in the 2012 Republican primaries is one of the most disgusting things in American political history.  Santorum is a despicable person and, as former Senator Bob Kerrey famously said, “Santorum is Latin for ‘asshole’”.  If he is a viable candidate in 2016 (while Jon Huntsman gets no love), the GOP should really be disbanded like the the Baath Party in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Jeb Bush, on the other hand, could be potential contender in 2016 if he jumped into the race.  Bush Fatigue has died down enough that Jeb could probably make a go at the Presidency.  As smart of a guy as Jeb Bush is and with as solid of a resume as he has, he could be a formidable candidate in both the primaries and general election.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the New Hampshire primary tends to be a deciding contest for the GOP nomination.  The frontrunners for the nomination usually win New Hampshire because they pour so much time and effort into the state and it’s not as unpredictable as the Iowa Caucuses.  But let’s not forget that Pat Buchanan actually won New Hampshire in 1996 and John McCain CRUSHED George W. Bush in New Hampshire in 2000.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
The favorites for the democrat and republican nominations in 2016 are already pretty obvious even if we don't know if they are running for sure. If those favorites decide not to run and you take them out of the equation, who are some surprise candidates on each side that people might not know very well but who could possibly win? Are there any?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, I personally don’t think that there is a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination yet.  The GOP is a mess right now.  Of course, we hear certain names being tossed around, but a lot of those names are the Tea Party Republicans.  People like to talk about the Tea Party Republicans as if they are credible Presidential candidates because they are adept at capturing headlines, but I will confidently and adamantly continue to say this: none of the politicians who are identified as leaders of the Tea Party wing of the GOP will be elected President of the United States.  They make a lot of noise, they get a lot of TV time, and they might even raise a lot of money…but they cannot win a national election.  They can’t even win the GOP nomination.  It’s not going to happen.  Maybe they can stretch out the primary process by splitting the GOP, but that’s only going to hurt the Republican Party, not result in a Tea Party candidate as the nominee.

So, with that said, who is a dark horse from the GOP that could surprise people?  Well, right now it seems insane to suggest that a Republican member of the House of Representatives or U.S. Senate could be a Presidential contender, but I’ve been worried about Senator John Thune of South Dakota since 2007.  Senator Thune didn’t run in 2008 or 2012, but Thune would be a formidable candidate.  He is experienced, he is well-respected, he isn’t a bomb-thrower, he comes across as Presidential, he’s solidly Conservative and should appeal to the GOP’s base, yet he doesn’t come across as an extremist.  John Thune could absolutely be elected President if he decided to take a shot at the White House.

As for the Democrats, President Obama still has three years left in his term, yet Hillary Clinton has been all but crowned as his successor and the leader the party.  Nearly everybody thinks that she’s going to run and, if so, that she will win.  Vice President Biden, who has been a loyal, hard-working, efficient, and important partner to Obama, is waiting in the wings just in case Hillary decides not to run.  Hillary and Biden are the obvious frontrunners.

But the Democrats have a superstar-in-the-making who also has nowhere to go but the White House and, quite frankly, with the right campaign, with the perfect introduction to the American people, and if he caught the right breaks since anything can happen in Presidential primaries, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley could shock the establishment and steal the nomination from Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden.

Governor O’Malley is Bill Clinton in 1992, except O’Malley is more experienced, tougher, and doesn’t have the “weaknesses” that almost cost Clinton the Democratic nomination in ‘92 and ended up leading to his impeachment.  Like Senator Thune, O’Malley looks like a President.  Now, being telegenic and charismatic doesn’t make someone a good President, but it sure as hell helps with getting elected.  O’Malley is a proven executive with a record he can run on while also pointing out that he isn’t part of Washington’s business-as-usual.  He’s had a successful political career with a variety of significant experience, but he’s never served in American’s least popular institution — Congress, his name isn’t Bush or Clinton, and he hasn’t served in previous Presidential Administrations like many of Washington’s other recycled bureaucrats.  Could Martin O’Malley be President of the United States?  Without a doubt.

It’s only October 2013, and the more famous 2016 contenders will continue to hog headlines until Iowa and New Hampshire, but keep your eyes on Senator John Thune and Governor Martin O’Malley.     

Asker dexterpine Asks:
You mentioned earlier that you believe if Nixon were alive today, he would support same-sex marriage. Do you have any sources for Richard Nixon making progressive strides in his post-Presidency? He made plenty of homophobic comments on tape, so I'm skeptical about your claim. (But then again, Nixon made plenty of anti-semitic comments on tape, yet his Secretary of State and closest advisor was Henry Kissinger.)
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

One that I distinctly remember came from Monica Crowley who was Nixon’s assistant and researcher near the end of his life and wrote two fascinating, revealing books about Nixon’s views and candid observations in his last years — Nixon Off the Record: His Candid Commentary on People and Politics and Nixon In Winter: His Final Revelations About Diplomacy, Watergate, and Life Out of the Arena

This is what Nixon said after watching Mary Fisher, an HIV-positive woman give a speech about tolerance at the 1992 Republican National Convention on August 19, 1992, as related by Crowley in Nixon Off the Record:

"She (Fisher) is a lovely girl.  And it took guts to speak out like this, particularly on behalf of the party.  She did it with dignity, and she really brought a lot to the convention tonight.  Look here, the Republicans feel that if they had her talk, then they would cover the tolerance issue.  But that is missing the point.  We have too much bashing of everyone in this party.  It’s an embarrassment.  So many people are gay — or go both ways.  I don’t care.  I don’t want to hear about it.  And I don’t want to hear about abortion.  That’s people’s own business.  Tolerance in this party is far too low.  Fifty percent of all families are single parent; sixty-five percent of all women work.  We can’t crap on them.  We’ve got to reach out — and mean it.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm a socially moderate Republican and I supported Rudy Guiliani in 2008. Do you think he could have won the Presidency if he had been the nominee? On a side note, Rick Perry endorsing Guiliani seemed out of step with...everything. Do you think that was the work of a potential ticket?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I always forget that Rudy Giuliani even ran for President.  He might have had a shot at winning the Presidency if the election had been held in the six weeks following 9/11, but I can’t see him having much success otherwise.

Perry’s endorsement of Giuliani was definitely a curveball, but I recall reading that the two of them were actually pretty close friends who had a great deal of respect for each other.  Also, I think Perry had a complicated relationship with John McCain at times and there was no way Perry was going to endorse Romney because the two of them obviously disdain one another.  Their mutual dislike was apparent every time they shared the stage in a GOP debate in 2012.  I’m pretty sure that stretched back to 2008 and perhaps earlier, so Romney was a no-go for Perry.

I don’t believe anyone was setting things up for a Giuliani/Perry ticket in 2008.  It’s an odd pairing and  I doubt Perry had any interest in the Vice Presidency.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Your answer to the Syria question got me thinking, do Rubio or Paul have any chance of becoming the GOP nominee?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Not in my opinion.  There’s a possibility that Senator Rubio could end up as a Vice Presidential nominee — he seems like a classic ticket-balancing pick — but I don’t see it happening in 2016.  

I imagine Senator Paul taking his father’s place as the GOP’s “outsider” candidate who creates a nice buzz, catches some headlines, raises money extremely well, and yet somehow doesn’t have it translate into votes when folks go to the polls.  A potential nominee needs more than a buzz with the voters — he or she actually needs votes.  And they also need the support of the core of the party and many of the party elders because that’s how the game works.  Appealing to those bases of the Republican Party is not one of Rand Paul’s strengths.  He is better at it than his father, but he’s not good enough at it to earn the GOP Presidential nomination.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Is the Republican Party racist?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No.  It’s ignorant and unfair to make a blanket declaration like that about an entire organization.  Especially when that particular organization was largely founded by anti-slavery advocates and was the party that gave us Abraham Lincoln.

Could Mitt Romney have picked a better running mate that would have yielded a win in the general election?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No.  I said that Romney should choose Paul Ryan as his running mate long before he actually picked him and I still think Paul Ryan was the very best Vice President that Romney could have chosen. 

If I was running Romney’s campaign and I had 100 chances to make changes that I thought would result in a win, I would have picked Paul Ryan as his running mate all 100 times.  Win-or-lose, Ryan was a solid choice for VP.  The Republicans should second-guess a lot of things, but that’s not one of them.

Anonymous asked:  How much would you pay to be able to laugh at Mitt Romney tonight and keep reminding him about how much he lost by? Good riddance to you Mittens.

Just because I voted for Barack Obama doesn’t mean that I want to see Mitt Romney destroyed, or even hurt.  I don’t agree with Governor Romney’s politics, but I don’t wish him ill and I certainly wouldn’t disrespect him.

This is the problem with American politics — Americans like the person who asked this question.  They are on both sides of the aisle and they are equally horrible for our country.  Last night, I found no glory in the fact that Mitt Romney lost; instead, I was hopeful and happy that Barack Obama won.  I didn’t go to the polls to vote against Mitt Romney; I was there to vote for Barack Obama.

Much like John McCain four years ago, Mitt Romney went out with class last night, and he deserves our respect.  I have never thought that Mitt Romney was a bad man.  I thought Obama would be a better President, but there was never any hatred on my part for Romney.  We can disagree with his politics or the way he campaigns, but there is no reason to look at Mitt Romney as a villain.

Yes, Governor Romney is incredibly wealthy and was probably out-of-touch with “average Americans” like you and me.  But with all of that money, Romney could live a life of leisure and never have to work at anything again.  Instead, what did he do?  He devoted himself to public service.  There’s no question that he loves his family and has a great relationship with them.  He spent a significant amount of time in a leadership role with his church — not just by sitting in a pew every Sunday but by taking a leadership role where he gave up time to help the families and people of his community.  Saving the Salt Lake City Olympics, serving as Governor of Massachusetts, running for President in 2008 and 2012 — none of those things were token jobs where Romney was a figurehead that got the credit while others did the work.  They were all challenges that Romney tackled with hard work and, in each instant, he “left everything on the field”, as he said in his concession speech last night.

Make no mistake about it — running for President is one of the most difficult, exhausting, and thankless journeys that an American can take.  Everyone who runs for President makes tremendous sacrifices, and nobody seeks the Presidency because they are bad people who want to do harm to the United States.  Candidates for the Presidency like Mitt Romney — win or lose — are patriots.  They have a vision for this country and the passion to put themselves on the frontline.  To serve all of us.

Laugh at Mitt Romney?  Taunt him?  No, I would thank Mitt Romney.  I’d tell him that I may not have cast a ballot for him, but that I appreciate the sacrifices he made in order to try to move our country forward.  I’d admit that I disagree with his politics, but that I respect his beliefs and admire his passion for going after what he felt was right.  I’d tell him that I know last night was probably one of the most difficult experiences of his life, but that he conceded with class, he demonstrated a remarkable work ethic throughout the campaign, and that I hoped that my fellow Democrats would have offered their support of him if Obama had lost as seamlessly and earnestly as he offered his support for the President during his concession.

We cannot and will not bridge the divisions in this country if we continue to be ugly towards each other.  Politics alone will not take us where we need to be.  There must be some magnanimity, some cooperation, some compromise between all of us — from the President and the Congress to the State Governors and Legislatures, and right on down to you and me and our neighbors.  “Politics” and “compromise” are dirty words because we drag them through the mud along with anyone connected to those ideas.  That has to stop.  It has to stop between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, it has to stop between the talking heads on cable news networks, and it has to stop with people who anonymously leave messages on blogs encouraging a celebration over the heartbreaking defeat of someone who put everything on the line to serve his country.  Celebrate Obama’s victory, not Romney’s defeat.  Congratulate Obama and his supporters, but don’t hesitate to appreciate Romney’s work ethic and devotion to service.

We are at our best when all of us — or at least the largest majority of us — are moving forward.  We are at our best when we remember the first word in our nation’s name is “United”.  The idea of a constant conflict pitting Democrats vs. Republicans where one side must win and one side must lose is not progress.  It’s Civil War without violence — but not without casualties.  As someone who knew something about Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, once said, “Let us have peace.”  We should follow General Grant’s advice and add, “Let us have progress.”  With peace and progress will come prosperity for all of our people.