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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Written by Alternate Historian

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 'Gerald Ford Killed' by Guest Historian Eric Lipps
Guest Historian Guest Historian Eric Lipps says, in this thread we examine a late seventies Republic administration led by Nelson Rockefeller with many of the historical events of that period unchanged(partial archive, Eric's work is still being threaded). If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit My AOL site.


March 15

In 1976, in a nationally televised speech, President Rockefeller announces his 'National Safe Streets Initiative,' a big-budget tough-on-crime package of new money for police and the FBI and proposed legislation aimed at increasing criminal penalties, especially for drug offenses, and limiting appeals in felony cases.

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January 1

In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford vetoes the Privacy Act, passed by Congress in reaction to the excesses of his predecessor Richard M. Nixon.

Justifying his action, Ford says, "Although I understand Congress wanted to rein in the executive branch to prevent abuses, I believe that with our nation at war, with American boys still dying not only in Southeast Asia but in a Communist-threatened nation ninety miles off our own shore, I cannot support tying the hands of our investigative agencies. Subversion is a real threat, and we must take to hand whatever tools we can to keep it from harming us".

US President
US President - Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford

Ford's veto is met with anger on Capitol Hill.

The incoming Ninety-fourth Congress, in which the President's party will have thirty fewer seats in the House and six fewer in the Senate, will include numerous freshman members elected on promises to 'clean up the mess' from Watergate, including Nixon's controversial domestic espionage operations, and even some veteran Republicans will privately concede that the veto sends the wrong message.



August 16

In 1976, the Republican national convention opens in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.

The GOP nomination is hotly contested between President Nelson Rockefeller and insurgent candidate Ronald Reagan, who has mounted a powerful challenge to the incumbent. A former governor of California, Reagan is the favorite of the party's right wing, and especially of conservative Southerners and Westerners, who loathe the 'Eastern establishment' represented by the President.

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Rockefeller's strong pro-defense and anti-crime stances have done nothing to win them over; they had even tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Vice President Paul Laxalt to run against him. On Aug. 19, President Nelson Rockefeller secures the Republican nomination. He will be running against former Georgia governor James Earl Carter, nominated at a bitterly divided Democratic convention in mid-July.



September 23

In 1976, the first presidential debate between the Republican and Democratic nominees takes place. Democratic challenger James Earl 'Jimmy' Carter talks of 'the bureaucratic mess' in Washington, and the 'lack of leadership,' and President Nelson Rockefeller's 'insensitivity' toward the unemployed and racial minorities. 'How can a man born with a solid-gold spoon in his mouth truly represent all of the people of this nation?' he asks. Carter calls the tax structure 'a disgrace' and said it was 'a welfare program for the rich . . . The whole philosophy of the Republican Party, including my opponent, has been to pile on taxes for low-income people to take them off on the wealthy.'

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Rockefeller replies that Carter 'plays the game of class warfare very well. However, he has failed to explain how he would improve the lot of America's less fortunate.' Rockefeller talks about getting jobs by 'expanding the private sector, reducing federal taxes, and holding the lid on federal spending.' He also said he intended to sign a tax reform bill passed by Congress but preferred 'an additional tax cut and a further limitation on federal spending.'

On the issue of crime, the President calls attention to his National Safe Streets Initiative, now underway, and says that if Congress will pass the full package of anti-crime legislation he has proposed, 'more progress will be made toward an America of order and stability to the benefit of all of our citizens.'



October 1

In 1975, Nevada Governor Mike O'Callaghan, a Democrat, appoints his former lieutenant governor Harry M. Reid to fill out the unexpired Senate term of Paul D. Laxalt, who has been tapped by President Nelson Rockefeller for the vice-presidency following Rockefeller's succession to the presidency in the wake of President Ford's assassination. The Governor's action angers many Republicans, who had demanded that Laxalt's replacement, like him, be from the GOP. Some conservatives charge that Governor 'Callaghan is exploiting Laxalt's departure to overturn the will pf the voters. Reid, considerably more liberal than Laxalt, had challenged the departing Senator for his seat in 1974 and lost by fewer than 600 votes.

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October 6

In 1976, in the second debate between the two parties' nominees, Carter takes Rockefeller to task for having retained Henry Kissinger, a Nixon appointee, as Secretary of State and chief national security adviser. 'The American people are entitled,' the Georgian says, 'to a fresh start, a government whose leadership owes nothing to a disgraced administration. As long as Dr. Kissinger remains, that is out of reach.'

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Rockefeller responds that as a chief executive both in public and private life, he has learned to evaluate people based on their own merits rather than by their associations. 'Dr. Kissinger remains in his position because he is, in my opinion, the best man for the job. I will not jettison a valuable subordinate simply because another man, who turned out to be flawed himself, was first to recognize his ability.'

In questioning about policy toward the Soviet Union, Rockefeller acknowledges that the U.S. must avoid military conflict with the USSR 'because the consequences of a superpower war would be catastrophic for the world,' but insists this does not mean the United States will 'accept indefinitely Soviet domination of the nations of Eastern Europe.'



October 8

In 1979, President Nelson Rockefeller, in a telephone conversation with the exiled Iranian Shah Pahlevi, offers to send top medical experts to Mexico to assist in treating him for his recently diagnosed malignant lymphoma in a hospital there. The Shah, however, is adamant, insisting that he believes he will die unless he is treated in a U.S. hospital and claiming that America 'owes' him as a longtime ally. Rockefeller does not care for the Shah's tone, which seems more that of a superior to a subordinate than that a supplicant. Nevertheless, the Shah's appeal to American political obligations strikes a chord with him.

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October 22

In 1979, Shah Reza Pahlevi arrives in New York City accompanied by an entourage and presenting himself as if he were still a head of state. Senator Edward Kennedy issues a statement repeating his opposition to the Rockefeller administration's decision to allow the Shah into the U.S. Kennedy warns that this action risks signaling to Tehran that Washington still considers Pahlevi the legitimate ruler of Iran. The Senator's statement is immediately attacked by administration spokesmen and conservative political pundits.

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November 2

In 1976, President Nelson A. Rockefeller, who had succeeded to the office following the assassination of Gerald R. Ford by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme in 1975, is elected to a full presidential term in his own right, narrowly defeating Democratic challenger James Earl Carter. Afterward, pundits speculate that if Gerald Ford had survived and been the GOP nominee, Carter might possibly have won. Ford's propensity for verbal blunders and his ties to the disgraced Nixon administration, they argue, would have given his presidential campaign added burdens which Rockefeller had not had.

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November 4

In 1979, the U.S. embassy compound in Tehran is seized by Shiite militants, who denounce it as a "nest of spies". Ambassador Richard Helms's past history as director of the Central Intelligence Agency makes what might otherwise seem to be an outlandish charge more credible, especially after the militants, ransacking embassy files, discover documents describing CIA operations within Iran. President Rockefeller denounces the embassy seizure and calls on the Khomeini government to 'use all means at its disposal' to end the embassy occupation, which he describes as "tantamount to an act of war".

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November 6

In 1979, after initial efforts to persuade the Khomeini regime to order the release of the captive personnel of America's Tehran embassy fail, President Rockefeller confers with the National Security Council regarding his next options. Defense Secretary Haig recommends a tough stance, beginning with the immediate freezing of all Iranian government assets within the United States and a warning to Tehran that unless the hostages are quickly released, the U.S. will take military action.

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The President is reluctant to use force, fearing that such a move will result in the killing of the hostages, but agrees to order a freeze on Iran's US holdings. CIA Director George H. W. Bush suggests that a covert operation to 'extract' the hostages may be possible. The President directs him to draw up an action plan for consideration as soon as possible.



May 9
In 1975, US President Gerald Ford is assassinated at Sacramento, California by Lynette Squeaky Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller thus becomes the 39th President of the United States.


September 5

In 1975, U.S. President Gerald Ford is assassinated at Sacramento, California by Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller thus becomes the 39th President of the United States.

Squeaky
Squeaky - Lynette Fromme
Lynette Fromme


September 8
Squeaky

In 1975, as President Ford lies in state following his assassination by ex-Manson Family member Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, newly-inaugurated President Nelson Rockefeller delivers a speech in which he promises to 'subdue those forces of disorder which have roiled this nation in recent years, and which have now claimed the life of a president'.

Squeaky -  Lynette Fromme
Lynette Fromme

Four days later. President Rockefeller calls FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley into a meeting to lay out a directive for a new 'law and order' campaign. Rockefeller makes it clear that his first priority is the suppression of crime, with civil liberties only a secondary concern. Director Kelley approves, but points out that in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam political climate a tough program such as the President wants will have to be carefully sold to the public and Congress.



September 18

In 1975, President Rockefeller offers the vice-presidency to Senator Paul D. Laxalt of Nevada. Laxalt accepts, and Rockefeller presents his name to the Senate for confirmation. Senator Paul Laxalt is quickly confirmed as vice-president by the Senate. Conservatives hail the choice, as they consider the Senator one of their own. There is open speculation about a Laxalt run for the presidency itself in 1980, if Rockefeller chooses not to run again that year - or perhaps even if he does.

Senator
Senator - Paul D. Laxalt
Paul D. Laxalt


October 11

In 1979, after conferring with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms and several other top advisers, President Nelson Rockefeller decides to allow the exiled Shah of Iran to come to the United States for medical treatment. The President's decision is sharply criticized by many people, both as an affront to the new regime in Tehran and because the Shah himself, a notorious autocrat, is deeply unpopular. Among the sharpest voices raised against Rockefeller's decision is that of Massachusetts Senator Edward M. 'Ted' Kennedy, who is widely expected to run for president himself in 1980.

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January 2

In 1980, at a meeting of the National Security Council, President Nelson A. Rockefeller, Vice-President Paul D. Laxalt, Secretary of State Kenneth Adelman and Secretary of Defense Alexander Haig concur that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan must be countered.

CIA Director George H. W. Bush suggests that money be funneled to Afghan resistance groups; questioned as to which groups should be favored, Bush recommends that hard-line Islamists be approached, as they are likely to be particularly opposed to the 'godless' Soviets.

US President
US President - Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller

Rockefeller agrees to Bush's suggestion. It will prove to be a fateful choice.



March 15

In 1979, President Rockefeller checks into Walter Reed Hospital for a follow-up cardiological examination. Cardiologists decide that in his current condition, surgery would be riskier than outpatient treatment, and prescribe several medications. The President will be released the next day. Publicly, the administration insists that Rockefeller has received a seal of medical approval from his doctors. Privately, the President's advisers are concerned that his health may become an issue in the 1980 election.

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January 26

In 1979, suffering from what the White House press office describes as 'gastrointestinal distress,' President Rockefeller checks into Walter Reed Hospital for a thorough examination. The press release's bland assurances mask a potentially serious problem. In reality, the President had been suffering from acute chest pains, weakness and shortness of breath, and Walter Reed's physicians soon confirm that he has a coronary artery blockage which may require surgery.

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February 1

In 1980, President Rockefeller is admitted into Walter Reed Hospital for what is described as a 'routine follow-up examination.' He will be discharged four days later.

Reporters inquiring as to the outcome of his examination are put off with the statement that the President prefers to wait until 'all the test results are in' before commenting. This is widely seen as an evasion, fueling rumors that Rockefeller's doctors have found something seriously wrong with him.

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December 21

In 1979, U.S. President Nelson Rockefeller severs diplomatic relations with Iran after negotiations to free the Tehran embassy hostages fail. Although he remains concerned about the workability of a rescue attempt, he now believes he may be forced to go ahead with one despite the risks. He has concluded that the Khomeini regime is not serious about finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.

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January 18

In 1980, Ronald W. Reagan, former governor of California, announces he will seek the Republican nomination for president, challenging President Nelson A. Rockefeller. It is Reagan's third try for the White House, following a 'dry run' effort in 1968 which ended after two months and his much stronger challenge to Rockefeller in the 1976 GOP primaries. At the press conference he calls to announce his candidacy, Reagan asserts that the Iran crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which has resulted in the overthrow of its government and the installation in Kabul of a puppet regime under Babrak Karmal, indicates the need for 'a stronger hand at the helm of the ship of state.'

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December 12

In 1979, CIA Director George H. W. Bush presents a preliminary hostage rescue plan to President Rockefeller. It involves taking advantage of Iranian CIA assets who would impersonate agents of the regime and inform the student militants holding the Tehran embassy that a U.S. military strike and that they were going to 'transfer' the captives to an undisclosed safe location. Once the hostages had been handed over, these pro-U.S. Iranians would then smuggle them to a pickup point on the outskirts of the city, where they would be picked up by U.S. helicopters and flown to safety.

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The President is interested, but questions whether any Iranians can really be trusted to carry out their end of such a plan and whether American choppers can penetrate to the edge of Iran's capital, pick up the hostages and escape successfully. Director Bush assures him that the plan can be made to work, but says he will need several weeks at least to flesh it out fully and put the necessary resources in place.

Lacking any better options, President Rockefeller gives Bush the go-ahead.



December 15

In 1979, the exiled Shah of Iran leaves the United States, bound for Egypt, where, at the urging of President Nelson Rockefeller and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, President Anwar Sadat has agreed to grant him asylum. The Shah's arrival in Cairo will inflame Muslim extremists, who resent the secularizing Iranian and see him as a tool of the U.S. Already opposed to Sadat for his peace overtures toward Israel, Islamic militants will whip themselves into a fury over his agreement to allow Shah Pahlevi into their country; they will argue that this decision proves Sadat is a 'tool of the Crusader-Zionist alliance' and therefore unworthy to govern a Muslim country.

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April 25

In 1980, President Nelson Rockefeller suffers a severe heart attack. He is rushed to Walter Reed Hospital, where he will remain in intensive care for the next eight days.

On the 27th, with the President under sedation in the hospital and expected to remain so for several days, Vice-President Paul Laxalt meets with the Cabinet to draft a letter invoking the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution transferring the powers of the presidency to the Vice-President on grounds of the President's medical condition. The letter is delivered to the president pro tem of the Senate the following morning.

US President
US President - Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller


May 15

In 1980, President Nelson A. Rockefeller returns to the Oval Office following presentation of a formal letter to Congress asserting that he is now fit to carry out the duties of the presidency.

The letter is accompanied by medical documentation from the physicians who treated him at Walter Reed Hospital following his near-fatal heart attack a month earlier.

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Although he has returned to work, a number of Republican Party insiders, among them supporters of insurgent candidate Ronald Reagan, are suggesting that Rockefeller should abandon his re-election campaign. They point out that his April hospitalization is just the latest and most serious of a series of recent health crises, and suggest that if he were re-elected he might die or be incapacitated during a time of national crisis.



July 14

In 1980, the Republican National Convention opens at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.

It is expected to be a contentious affair. Supporters of insurgent candidate Ronald Reagan back their man with almost (and in some cases genuinely) religious zeal, and the former California governor has enough delegates pledged to him to deny Laxalt the necessary two-thirds majority to win on the first ballot.

Pres. Candidate
Pres. Candidate - Paul Laxalt
Paul Laxalt

The Republican primary contest has been in turmoil since the announcement of President Nelson Rockefeller, following his near-fatal heart attack of April 25, that he was withdrawing from the race. Former California governor Ronald W. Reagan, considered a long-shot candidate at the beginning of the primary season, has managed to draw off enough of what should have been Vice-President Paul Laxalt's conservative base to split the delegates almost evenly with him. Those pledged to Rockefeller himself before his withdrawal are a wild card, since they represent a wing of the party not comfortable with either remaining contender.

The GOP split represents just about the only hope for the Democrats to retake the White House. The dramatic April rescue of twenty-seven of the 52 diplomat-hostages held in the U.S. embassy in Tehran since the previous November, codenamed 'Operation Eagle Talon,' has made the Republicans almost sure winners in November. Even the twenty-five who were killed have not detracted from the national sense of triumph and relief; they are seen as casualties of war, and there is already talk of a monument in their honor. However, the Reagan campaign has insinuated that the hostage crisis was the result of Rockefeller Administration weakness in the first place, and has suggested that if Laxalt is elected that weakness will continue. This thread of the campaign has placed a strain on the relationship between Laxalt and Reagan, who had been personal friends as well as ideological soulmates for years.



November 4
US President

In 1979, Islamic militants overrun the U.S. embassy compound in the Iranian capital of Teheran. Critics of the Carter administration lose no time in suggesting that Carter's "retreat" from Southeast Asia, his withdrawal of U.S. forces from Cuba - occupied since the successful 1961 Bay of Pigs intervention - and his refusal to intervene to prevent the overthrow of Iran's autocratic but pro-American ruler Shah Reza Pahlevi in January have signaled American weakness and thus invited the embassy seizure.

US President - Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter


February 11

In 1979, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (pictured) was captured by agents of Iran's feared secret police, SAVAK.

Ayatollah Captured by Eric LippsKhomeini had been the leader of a revolutionary movement grounded in fundamentalist Shiite Islam which had sought to overthrow the secular, modernizing Shah Reza Pahlevi.

In January 1979, they had briefly forced the Shah to flee the country, but infighting between the fundamentalists and more moderate factions had led to the collapse of the coup. The Shah had returned to Teheran on February 1 as Iranian military and SAVAK forces asserted control, hunting down the would-be revolutionaries. Those not killed immediately will be placed on trial and either sentenced to death or imprisoned for indeterminate periods.

The Shah's survival and the subsequent crackdown were applauded by U.S. conservatives but greeted with distinct ambivalence on the left; liberals tended to see Iran's ruler as a despot, however little they cared for Khomeini's religious zealotry.



July 7

In 1908, thirty-ninth President of the United States Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was born on this day in Bar Harbor, Maine. An episode from our series of Ford Killed thread by Eric Lipps.

Birth of President RockefellerHe was sworn into office on May 9th, 1975 when Gerry Ford was assassinated in Sacramento by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson. "Rocky" secured re-election a year later and then led the nation through the Tehran Hostage crisis.

He was eligible to run in 1980, but his worsening health forced him to withdraw. Instead, Vice President Paul D. Laxalt fought for the nomination with his fellow conservative, the former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

As President, Laxalt would face further difficulties with Iran. Because on 8th July, 1982, the Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was killed in Dujail. Needless to say, this event caused a sharp change of fortunes in the course of the Iran-Iraq War. Within months, the regime had collapsed and Iran had occupied Basra. It was a disaster of the first magnitude for the Republican Leadership that had unwaveringly supported Hussein in a secret proxy war in the Middle East despite his appalling record on human rights. Through the bullets of assassins, America had by chance ended up in a foreign policy crisis with global consequences for the Cold War.



August 12

In 1974, at noon on this date, President Richard M. Nixon officially resigns from office, making Vice-President Gerald R. Ford the thirty-eighth president of the United States. Ford is sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon appointee.

Nixon's puppet by Eric LippsAlthough by this time there is general relief that the scandal-scarred Nixon is leaving office, few people expect much change. In a syndicated cartoon published shortly after Nixon's departure, the newly-installed President Ford will be depicted as a puppet on the hand of Richard Nixon.

"until victory for the forces of democracy is achieved in both nations".The impression of continuity will be strengthened be Ford's retention of key Nixon administration personnel not directly involved in Watergate, including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and by Ford's public assurances that he intends to continue the wars in Cuba and Southeast Asia "until victory for the forces of democracy is achieved in both nations".

Ford will have his work cut out for him. By the time he is inaugurated as President, both conflicts are increasingly unpopular. More than 60,000 Americans have died in both wars, some 15,000 in Vietnam since President Nixon?s declaration of the 'end of major conflict operations' there following the fall of Hanoi to U.S. and ARVN forces in December 1973.



January 7

In 1980, CIA Director George H. W. Bush presents President Rockefeller with an updated plan for the rescue of the Tehran embassy hostages. The operation is dubbed Operation Eagle Talon.

The President remains apprehensive about the scheme. However, as the hostage situation has dragged on, the national mood has begun to turn ugly as the public increasingly wonders why superpower America seems powerless to act against third-world Iran.

Operation Eagle Talon Approved article written by by Eric LippsRockefeller signs off on the Bush plan, but warns that if it fails, the U.S. may have no choice but to go to war. "Even the Nazis didn't dare kidnap our diplomats as the Iranians have done," he observes. "If we allow the Iranians to do it, we risk losing face all over the world".

Bush assures him such fears are groundless. "We have the means to make this work," he insists. "All we need is the will".
This article is set in the Ford Kill timeline in which Nelson Rockefeller assumes the Presidency in 1975.



June 1

In 1980, faced with a mounting drumbeat of calls that he suspend his re-election campaign, President Rockefeller delivers a nationally-televised address.The Rockefeller Bombshell by Eric Lipps
"My fellow Americans," he informs viewers, "in recent weeks there have been calls for me to withdraw from the presidential race, due to issues regarding to my health.

I had been reluctant to heed such calls, many of which came from supporters of my opponent in the Republican Party primaries, Gov. Ronald Reagan. However, I considered it my duty to consult with my physicians to seek their opinion as to my wisest course of action.

I must now state with regret that based on those discussions, I have decided that I will no longer be a candidate for re-election to the office I am proud to hold. Although my doctors tell me that barring any unforeseen developments I should be able to serve the remainder of my present term, they warn that the cardiac condition for which I have been undergoing treatment is likely to worsen over time. In my opinion, this presents an unacceptable risk to this nation in years to come.

I therefore announce that effective this evening, I am suspending my presidential campaign. I wish to thank all those who have supported me up until now, and to express my hope that they will support in my place the Vice-President, Paul Laxalt. I am confident that if nominated and elected, he will serve this nation as capably in the White House as he has done in other positions. "

Rockefeller's address is a bombshell. Many people are shocked that he has chosen to bow out; many more are amazed that in doing so he has explicitly endorsed the much more conservative Laxalt. There will be speculations that such an endorsement had been extorted from him as a condition of Laxalt's endorsing his letter stating his readiness to return to office under the reinstatement provisions of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. The truth, however, is less sinister: after four years of serving with him, Rockefeller has grown personally comfortable with Laxalt despite their political differences, while he dislikes Reagan.



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© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.