In 1980, on this day in Detroit, Ronald Reagan made a late night dash from his hotel room to the Republican Convention Floor at the Joe Louis Arena to quosh speculation that George Bush might be nominated for vice president.Co-Presidency Part 3: Dutch Courage
"I know that I am breaking with precedent to come here tonight and I assure you at this late hour I'm not going to give you my acceptance address. But in watching the television at the hotel and seeing the rumors that were going around and the gossip that was talking place here. It is true that a number of Republican leaders . . . . feel that a proper ticket should include the former president of the United States, Gerald Ford, as second place on the ticket. . . . I then believed that because of all the talk and how something might be growing throughout the night that it was time for me to advance the schedule a little bit. . . . I have asked and I am recommending to this convention that tomorrow when the session reconvenes that Gerald Ford be nominated for vice president" announced Reagan.
"Reagan, the lowly Dixon, Illinois kid whose determination brought him success, seems to have a visceral distaste for Bush, the Eastern Establishment blueblood of a different ilk"Few members of the convention were surprised. Because as early as July 16, a joint edition of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press had reported that "Ronald Reagan is being pushed by moderates and other Republicans interested in mending the party's left and right factions to select Bush [for Vice President]" now reporting that Reagan had already negotiated a power-sharing deal under which Gerald Ford would be his co-President. In fact a rift had developed between the two [Reagan and Bush] during the "long and bitter" campaign for the Republican nomination. "Reagan, the lowly Dixon, Illinois kid whose determination brought him success, seems to have a visceral distaste for Bush, the Eastern Establishment blueblood of a different ilk," reported the Detroit News.
Contemporary accounts said Ford was represented by former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger and others. But at a 2000 conference of former White House chiefs of staff, Dick Cheney disclosed that he had been deeply involved. He recalled an intense debate about how to shape expanded lines of authority in a job often ridiculed as largely ceremonial. Ford "made a number of requests in terms of his influence over the budget, personnel, foreign policy, et cetera," Cheney said. "I can remember sitting in a session with Bill Casey, who later became CIA director. Bill had a list of items that in fact the Reagan people were prepared to discuss. They went a long way to accommodate President Ford".
The former President was a controversial choice for the second place on the ticket, Ford's announcement of September 8, 1974 that Richard Nixon would be subjected to the full force of criminal law had received an overwhelmingly positive response from the American people. And yet the trial had dragged on throughout the two years of his Presidency, preventing Ford from ending America's long national nightmare. Instead the trial itself turned into a nightmare, with Nixon manipulatively choosing insanity as a defense plea. The chaos in the Republican Party had gifted the 1976 election to "The Georgia Giant", Jimmy Carter who had promised "I will never lie to you". And yet during the co-presidency, Ford's own integrity would be questioned as details of his involvement in the Warren Commission came to light, ironically through the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein.