One of the Times’ blogs highlights this post from a member of the FireDogLake crew on the posthumous revelation that Ford had his doubts about the Bush Iraq strategy:
But when a reporter is in possession of information that is vital to the country, that might change whether we go to war or whom we elect for president, and the only reason for withholding the information is to protect the person interviewed from embarrassing his own party — well, there must be some other principle that applies, don’tcha think?
This argument is less than persuasive for a couple reasons. First, barring time travel, nothing said in July 2004 could have stopped Bush from invading Iraq in March 2003. Unless Scarecrow is predicting a future War in Iraq fought for lack of candor from Gerald Ford about this one. Or expecting Gerald Ford’s criticism of the War in Iraq to keep us out of a war with Iran.
Which brings us to the second problem with this argument: Gerald Ford doesn’t sway swing voters. If the man had endorsed John Kerry, that would’ve been big news. Expressing doubts about the Bush plan for Iraq is just what every respectable conservative neither working for George Bush nor running to succeed him nor named Rush Limbaugh was doing two years ago. That includes Paul Bremer.
Henry Kissinger, who many more folks credit or blame with the foreign policy of the 1960s than Gerald Ford, expressed concerns at least as strong about the Iraq invasion, and he did it before the invasion happened. And yet it happened anyway.
Of course the expectation that ex-Presidents should be elder statesmen in a way that doesn’t include weighing in on the performance of current Presidents is silly. And swallowing criticism of your party’s nominee in the months before the election is less than courageous (here’s looking at you, Christie Todd Whitman). And no story you broke four decades ago is an excuse to cozy up to the President for as long as he remains popular. But did George Bush ride to reelection on the imagined confidence of Gerald Ford? Not so much.
Last night I was complaining to two friends from New Jersey about the relative silence of their former Governor, Christie Whitman over the extremism of the Bush administration’s environmental agenda, to which most attributed her resignation as EPA Chief. She owes it to us, I ranted, to write a scathing book attacking ideologues in the Republican Party and threatening the loss of moderate Republicans’ support. So here’s some credit where it’s due:
Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor who was President Bush’s first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has written a book that touts the importance of moderates to the future of the Republican Party and flays Bush and his team for ignoring the country’s middle. Whitman charges on Page 3 that Bush’s three-percentage-point margin in the popular vote is the lowest of any incumbent president ever to win reelection, the WASHINGTON POST reports in coming editions, newsroom sources tell DRUDGE. IT’S MY PARTY TOO: THE BATTLE FOR THE HEART OF THE GOP AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA streets during inauguration week, insuring heavy media coverage. “The numbers show that while the president certainly did energize his political base, the red state/blue state map changed barely at all, suggesting that he had missed an opportunity to significantly broaden his support in the most populous areas of the country,” Whitman writes. “The Karl Rove strategy to focus so rigorously on the narrow conservative base won the day, but we must ask at what price to governing and at what risk to the future of the party.” Whitman details her many scars and frustrations in dealing with what she calls the “antiregulatory lobbyists and extreme antigovernment ideologues” that she suggests hold too much sway over the Republican party.