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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Reagan and Ford Considered a Co-Presidency in 1980

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Most people thought the 1980 Republican National Convention would be a bit of a snoozer. Presumptive presidential nominee Ronald Reagan had nearly pulled off the improbable feat of snatching the 1976 nomination from the incumbent, Gerald Ford, four years earlier, and he had ripped through the competition throughout the primaries this time around. How did the convention end up becoming one of the most interesting places in the space-time continuum, then? There was still one bit of lingering suspense when the GOP headed to Detroit for the convention: who would be Reagan's running mate?

Reagan's camp had an offbeat choice to fill out the ticket: former President Ford.

By having Ford run for the vice-presidency, the Republicans could trot out a "dream ticket" against Jimmy Carter. Ford's midwestern roots would provide some geographic balance for a Californian like Reagan, and Ford obviously had tons of Washington experience, something Reagan lacked.

The plan quickly hit a snag, though. Ford was apparently amenable to the idea of jumping back into the political ring, but he wasn't going to just roll over and be Reagan's second-in-command. Ford allegedly agreed to run, but only if he would be given such vastly expanded power as vice president that he and Reagan would form a team of de facto "co-presidents."

The idea didn't sit well with Reagan's advisers, but Ford had a pretty strong team to make his case. Ford's representatives in these negotiations included Henry Kissinger, Alan Greenspan, and Dick Cheney, who had been Ford's White House Chief of Staff. Ford's team allegedly wanted a heavy say on foreign policy matters; rumors later emerged that Kissinger would have become Secretary of State in the co-presidents' cabinets. As one might imagine, Reagan and his team weren't too keen on giving up their foreign policy powers. (The same problems supposedly derailed talks of a deal for John McCain to run as John Kerry's vice-presidential candidate in 2004.)

On the Wednesday afternoon of the convention, Ford sat down for an interview with Walter Cronkite, and by the end of the recording, the whole nation had received signs that the "dream ticket" might be coming together. Excitement built throughout the convention's halls, and the deal seemed imminent.

According to both Reagan and Ford's camps, though, by the time the country got the news, the idea was already all but dead. Reagan had realized that getting Ford on the ticket probably wasn't worth giving up so much autonomy, and Ford had concluded that such an arrangement probably wouldn't work anyway.

In the end, of course, the Reagan camp chose George H.W. Bush to fill out the ticket. The choice was a sensible one, particularly since Bush had run a (distant) second to Reagan in the primaries. Like Ford, Bush would help give the ticket geographic balance and provide valuable experience in the federal government. Unlike Ford, he wouldn't want to become a co-president. Still, for a few hours in 1980, it looked like we might have ended up with a team of presidents, which has to be one of the most fascinating "What if?" scenarios in American political history.

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Barack and Michelle Obama's Next Move: Producing Content for Netflix
Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Barack Obama's first talk show appearance after leaving office was on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, David Letterman's six-part series on Netflix. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that one of the Obamas' first projects since moving out of the White House will be a storytelling partnership with Netflix.

On Monday, the streaming service announced that they've entered into a multi-year deal with Barack and Michelle Obama, who produce films and series under a company called Higher Ground Productions. So what can we expect from the former president and first lady? According to Netflix, they will be producing a "diverse mix of content," which could take the form of scripted and unscripted series, documentaries, and features.

"One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience," Barack Obama said in a statement. "That's why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix. We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world."

The former first lady added that Netflix was a "natural fit" for the kinds of stories they want to tell. According to The New York Times, Barack Obama said he does not intend to use the platform for political ends.

Last year, the Obamas signed a joint book deal with Penguin Random House worth $65 million. Michelle's memoir, Becoming, will be published on November 13, while details about Barack Obama's memoir are forthcoming.

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The Time Ben Franklin and John Adams Shared a Bed
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iStock

Ever been on a road trip where the sleeping conditions were less than ideal? Such indignities aren’t just for average citizens like you and me. Even Founding Fathers and future presidents had to bunk with one another on occasion. 

In September 1776, just a few months after the thirteen American colonies announced their independence from Britain, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams got stuck shacking up together for a night. As part of a delegation sent by the Continental Congress, they were on their way from Philadelphia to Staten Island to negotiate with Admiral Richard Howe of the Royal Navy for a possible end to the Revolutionary War. As they passed through New Brunswick, New Jersey, the negotiators—Franklin, Adams and South Carolina politician Edward Rutledgedecided to stop for the night and find a place to sleep. 

The local taverns and inns were nearly full, though, and there were only two rooms for the three men. “One bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me,” Adams wrote in his autobiography, “in a chamber a little larger than the bed, without a chimney and with only one small window.”

That window would be a problem for the two men.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Adams, who was “an invalid and afraid of the air in the night,” closed the window before they got into bed. 

“Oh!” said Franklin. “Don’t shut the window. We shall be suffocated.”

When Adams explained that he didn’t want to catch an illness from the cold night air, Franklin countered that the air in their room was even worse. 

“Come!” he told Adams. “Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”

Contrary to the lay wisdom of the day (and everybody’s grandmother), Franklin was convinced that no one had ever gotten a cold from cold air. Instead, it was the “frowzy corrupt air” from animals, humans, and dirty clothes and beds, he thought, that led people to catch colds when they were “shut up together in small close rooms.” Cool, fresh air at night, he believed, had many benefits. 

Franklin’s ideas were inconsistent with Adams’s own experiences, he wrote, but he was curious to hear what Franklin had to say. So, even at the risk of a cold, he opened the window again and hopped into bed with Franklin.

As they lay side by side, Adams wrote, Franklin “began a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration.” 

“I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together,” Adams wrote. “But I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep.”

The strange bedfellows were out like a light, and continued on their way in the morning. The peace conference they were traveling to lasted just a few hours and produced no results. 

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