Ford questioned Bush wiretaps, signing statements, Cheney prior to his death

Published: Monday November 5, 2007

Asked about Bush's NSA wiretapping program, Ford said, 'Where does he get his advice?'

Former President Gerald Ford sympathized with those who wanted Vice President Dick Cheney dumped as President George W. Bush's running mate in 2004, a new book claims.

"Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford," a series of interviews with Ford by veteran New York Daily News reporter Thomas DeFrank, was transcribed in the years before Ford's death in December at age 93. The conversations were to stay off-the-record until Ford's death.

"Dick has not been the asset I expected on the ticket," Ford told DeFrank in March 2004. "As you know, he's a great friend of mine, he did a great job for me, but he has not clicked, if that's the right word. God knows he works at it."

Ford had a generally positive impression of Bush, the book says, though he said Bush's decision to bring his father and mother into his bid for the 2000 nomination was a mistake.

"He doesn't look tough enough," Ford said, "and I must say bringing in his dad and mother was a tactical error."

"In subsequent conversations after Bush took office, Ford expressed alarm at how the president turned budget surpluses into record deficits, and he criticized the rationale given for the Iraq war, saying the White House should have focused on Saddam Hussein's brutal behavior, not on weapons of mass destruction that would never be found," the Washington Post's Peter Baker wrote about the revelations in Monday's edition. "He also seemed troubled by signing statements attached to bills in which Bush suggested he might not enforce laws he thought intruded on his executive authority. And Ford questioned the need for warrantless surveillance."

"I would never do it," he said after the New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed the program in 2005. "It surprises me they worry that they think they have to do it. I was dumbfounded when I heard they were. I didn't think it was necessary. Where does he get his advice?"

From Cheney and his circle, DeFrank replied.

"Explain to me who this fella Libby is," Ford added, referring to Cheney's then-chief of staff who was later convicted of perjury in the CIA leak case and then pardoned. "I never heard of him, and I thought I knew Dick Cheney."