Former President Ford says Bush won't easily win White House
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush faces a real "horse race" against his
Democratic rival for the White House, according to former Republican President
Former president Gerald Ford
The nation's 38th Chief Executive Monday refused to predict whether Bush
would win against Vice President Al Gore in November. "I think in this case,
who is the vice presidential nominee will make a difference where it's very
close," Ford said in response to questions at a National Press Club luncheon.
"I hope the candidate for vice president will broaden the ticket," Ford
said, "I think we need a team that reflects the broadest possible spectrum of
the Republican philosophy."
He said that could mean finding someone who is pro-choice, or "at least
more so than some would like."
Ford did not suggest any names, but said Bush will be well served in the
selection process by having named Dick Cheney to lead a search panel. Cheney
was Chief of Staff during the Ford administration.
Ford, who turns 87 next month, also reflected on the nature of Congress
and how he believes it has changed since his years representing Michigan as a
"The Speaker should look upon his job as Speaker of the House, not speaker
for the Majority," Ford said, "when you're the speaker for the Majority you
become overly partisan. The role of the Speaker is to manage the House."
On other topics, Ford said he is encouraged by newly-elected Russian
President Vladimir Putin, while predicting he will be a tougher negotiator in
talks with the U.S. than his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
"We apparently will be dealing with a more stable head of the Russian
government in Putin rather than Yeltsin," Ford said, "I was always apprehensive
about Russia under Yeltsin's leadership, with his instability -- mentally,
Some of Ford's strongest remarks concerned U.S. military readiness after a
trend of downsizing personnel and Pentagon assets.
"When we've made these reductions, we have sustained our commitments and
added more," Ford cautioned, and rattled off a long list of troop deployments
and locations around the world.
"How much more can you add to our responsibilities militarily and at the
same time cut back on your active duty personnel?" he asked, "we're leaving
ourselves vulnerable to some serious challenge to our security."
Ford drew applause when he declared "I hope and trust that the next
president, working with Congress, will come up with more funds to strengthen
our military capabilities, particularly if we're going to have added
responsibilities on a global basis."
He also urged more caution when deciding whether to add such