History of the presidency
RON RAE, Guest columnistThis past week I received a couple of phone calls I wouldn't have typically answered because caller ID displayed numbers alien to my personal contacts. Of course, the calls weren't extraterrestrial, a point of debate since both were political in nature.
Published: October 14, 2012
Published: October 14, 2012
The first was a robo-call which wasn't surprising since it came from the party whose candidate makes effective use of pre-scripted teleprompters. The three questions were quick, to the point. My touchtone responses were immediate. Yes, I plan to vote in the General Election. Yes, I will vote for Obama. And, I am 'somewhat' supportive of Obamacare.
The second call, two days later, came from a lady who identified herself as with the Republican Party. Her primary inquiry was the likelihood of me voting for Mitt Romney. My apologetic "No" was expressed with sincere disappointment as was her acknowledgement of my response.
She didn't ask, not did I offer, an explanation. Actually, my occasional dismay with the Republican Party goes back to 1976 when Gerald Ford was the Republican nominee for president.
Although an incumbent, he became so after (a) replacing Spiro Agnew as Vice President due to allegations of bribery and tax evasion and (b) taking office as President after the resignation of Richard Nixon for direct involvement in the Watergate scandal.
Ford selected Nelson Rockefeller to fill the office of Vice President. When Rockefeller was prompted to drop out of the re-election process, Ford chose Bob Dole as his running mate. Dole happened to be my favorite political figure. I voted Republican.
As odd man out, Ronald Reagan was a serious contender opposing a sitting president. Ford won the nomination on the first round with but the slimmest of margins, 1187 to 1070 votes. The Democrat ticket, Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale, won the presidential election 50 percent to Ford's 48 percent and a narrow 297 to 240 Electoral College vote.
Ford's two years and five months as president were uneventful. And yet, if not for his pardoning of Nixon, Ford may have won the election. And, if not for Ford being the presidential nominee, in my estimation Bob Dole would have made peanut butter out of Jimmy Carter. The problem with re-writing history to my liking is not to displace the legacy of Ronald Reagan.
For all these decades, I have remained annoyed that Dole was never given a fair shake at representing the Republican Party in a presidential election. Dole considered Richard Nixon, 10 years his senior, as his mentor beginning in 1968 when the latter became the 46th President of the United States and the former won his first term as U.S. Senator from Kansas.
The close association led to Dole becoming Majority Leader of the Senate and Chairman of the Republican Party. Although Nixon shunned, then abandoned Dole as he cloaked himself with questionable characters involved with Watergate, that same association was by all accounts a hindrance to his ability to secure the presidential nomination until it he became inconsequential.
In 1980, a wiser voting public ousted an ineffective Carter for Ronald Reagan, still a celebrated champion of the Old Guard, who chose as Vice President the only candidate who had posed a challenge during the primary, George H.W. Bush. I voted Republican, as I did with the 1984 re-election of Reagan. In 1980, Bob Dole was a nowhere man. Eight years later, he was a short-lived contender.
With Bob Dole achieving early wins in the 1988 primaries, Bush's strategy of portraying Dole as a tax raiser was a major factor in Bush's eventual nomination. By March's end, Dole had no choice but to withdraw from the primary, leaving Bush without opposition at the Republican National Convention. Unfortunately, the bitterness between the two left it inconceivable for Bush to consider Dole as his running mate.
It was an anticlimactic convention until the Party openly expressed their displeasure when Bush chose Dan Quayle as his running mate. Bush/Quayle routed Democrats Michael Dukakis/Lloyd Bentsen – 426 to 111 electoral votes. Again, I voted Republican. It would prove to be the last time I voted for a Republican presidential candidate.
Bush's economic policy, reneging on a campaign pledge of "no new taxes", the ending of the Gulf War without removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, the near doubling of oil prices due to continued tensions in the Middle East, the slow recovery from the October 1987 Black Monday stock market crash, and the savings and loan crisis were all contributing factors to Bush losing his 1992 re-election bid to Bill Clinton with the electoral vote of 370 to 168.
The 1992 election redefined the Republican Party. Bush's chief opponent for re-nomination was Pat Buchanan. The influence of the far right was apparent when Buchanan was awarded the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. Hail to the New Guard! A precursor to the emergence of the Tea Party.
By cow-towing to conservative extremists, the presidency of Bush the First impaled the Republican Party. Years later, the misguided excesses of Bush the Second would devastate the nation. Then, as now, the far right tends to stifle the successes expected of the Republican Party. "Reagan" is shouted as a battle cry but they are uncompromising, adversaries to all – the world, and all living things, be damned.
In 1996, Dole became the de facto candidate, a mannequin of undefined political intent, a puppet to a party faction; a trend that exists to this day within the Republican Party. Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes posed no threat for the nomination. Dole, with running mate Jack Kemp, lost to populist President Bill Clinton in an embarrassing way – another landslide electoral vote of 379-159 votes.
For so long I had hoped for a Dole nomination. But by the time he became the candidate, had he been elected, he would have been the oldest candidate to win a presidential election. He appeared stiff and pasty, and came across as an amicable opponent prepared for defeat. Alas, not even I could cast a vote for the politician I had always held with such great esteem.
But, true to form, recent comments made by Bob Dole reflect the very thoughts and concerns of myself and, may I hope, other Republican moderates.
In an August interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dole said, "We have got to be open. We cannot be a single-issue party or single-philosophy party." He added, "There's a big split in our party. There's this undercurrent of rigid conservatism where you don't dare not toe the line."
He was referring to what should now be an admission that the Republican Party must present a platform appealing to the needs of minority groups and the young. Without the involvement of these voters, the prospect of Romney winning the presidency is improbable.
As I reflect again on those days of 1968, and my initial interest in politics, if my birth date had been eleven days earlier I would have been of voting age for the General Election. I hawked over every Sunday edition of the Detroit Free Press, keeping tabs of the start-to-finish run of the Detroit Tigers toward the American League Pennant and the World Series Championship. I was also fixated with the presidential primaries.
My dream ticket would have pitted Democrat Eugene McCarthy against Republican George Romney, Governor of Michigan, my home state. I guess it was my rebellious side of youth that saw McCarthy as an alternative to Lyndon Johnson, whose anti-war sentiment came too late.
It was the rational side of me that realized Romney as a more sober choice. But, to many of the Republican hierarchy, he was too moderate. He was one of the first business executives supportive of profit sharing for rank and file employees, generous pay increases and cost-of-living raises. He implemented Michigan's first income tax and greatly expanded the size of government.
But George was as a very savvy businessman, successfully challenging the dominance of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler with newly created American Motors. He was the first to refer to The Big Three automakers as "gas-guzzling dinosaurs."
He introduced the first subcompact car to the American public – the Gremlin, also the first hatchback. By coincidence, my first new car purchase. (It was an excellent car. I kept it six years, four of which were in Florida. Without air and an interior that kind of disintegrated from the heat, I traded for a Ford.)
After his third successful election as governor, George Romney was an early front runner for the 1968 Republican nomination. Few men were as effective in the board room but as a politician he was nothing but a buffoon at answering offhand questions, consistently deflecting answers for future consideration, especially on international matters.
George lost much of his support even before his November 1967 announcement as a presidential candidate. In August, he attempted to distance himself from his previous stand that the Vietnam War was "morally right and necessary" by referring to a 1965 meeting with military personnel as "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get." In February 1968, Romney withdrew from the presidential race.
Of course, I voted Republican for Richard Nixon, one of three Presidents I consider the greatest leaders during my adult lifetime, the others being Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. I was a pre-teen and oblivious to politics during John Kennedy's presidency.
Mitt Romney in no way has the political stature of his father. George was an American entrepreneur. Mitt is a renowned global capitalist. George was "brainwashed." Mitt is "wishy-washy" on just about every issue imaginable, a mirror-man to audiences of happenstance. George lost a nomination. Mitt will lose the election.
Ron Rae, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.