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In 1985, Lee Atwater hired me through an early political action committee to begin organizing conservative support for Vice President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 run for the presidency. My work consisted of meeting with conservatives and setting up meetings for Bush, at which he was superb.

I started making trips with Bush to areas I knew, including upstate New York, where I was from. We planned a trip upstate to help incumbent Republican Rep. George Wortley, a family friend and a really terrific guy.

Flying with the vice president was a hoot, to say the least. No one stood in line, no snarly stewardesses, no invasive magnetometers, no groping pat downs by a sweaty 300 pound TSA flunky and no fighting over overhead bins. You got on, were warmly greeted by a Navy steward with a hot cup of coffee and took your seat. (Or did not take your seat, if you didn’t feel like it.)

Upon taxing and takeoff, there was no “put your seat and tray tables upright and in the full locked position.” People stood in the aisles chatting, gossiping and reading the morning’s Washington Times.

We went to Syracuse via Air Force Two.There at Hancock Airport, a motorcade swept us into town lickety split. My family was there at the event to greet us including my mother, Barbara, my brother, John and my sister-in-law, Ellen.

I introduced them to the vice president and it was like old home week. He could not have been nicer and when I stood off to the side while a photo was being taken he waved me over and said, “Craig, come over here and get in the picture.”

My brother was so impressed that the vice president of the United States knew me by name.

After the event I lingered and dawdled, but I was about to get a lesson in “Bush Time.” There is Eastern Standard Time, and there is Bush Time. I was operating under EST, chatting with my family when, to my horror, the motorcade began to leave — without me!

I’d been assigned to the second car behind the limousine Bush was riding in and I saw Rich Bond, a Bush aide and someone else in the back seat, furiously waving to me to get in as the car began to pull away. It pulled away very quickly. I literally dived into the open door of the passenger side, my feet dragging, Bond laughing and pulling me in, all at the same time. I got in with no bruises, except to my ego.

I went into Syracuse with new wingtips and left with slightly scuffed wingtips — and a much adjusted ego, along with a new respect for Bush Time.

Craig Shirley (@CraigSBPA) is the founder and chairman of public affairs firm Shirley and Bannister. He is the author of four books on Ronald Reagan, the New York Times bestselling “December, 1941” and the critically praised “Citizen Newt,” the only authorized biography of Newt Gingrich. He has just completed Honored Madam, the first definitive biography of Mary Ball Washington.

Vice Presidents and Versa || Townhall

Vice Presidents and Versa

By Craig Shirley and Andrew Shirley
A man was once asked if he was interested being nominated for the vice presidency; he replied, “Son, I’m opposed to vice in all its forms.” Over the years, however, the position John Adams once derided as “the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived” has grown politically, if not substantively.Many years ago, an old friend Bob Novak, the feared nationally syndicated columnist, told the elder of us how in 1960 when John F. Kennedy selected Lyndon Johnson as his running mate, his opinion of the Democratic presidential nominee changed dramatically.
Like his peers of the era, Novak assumed Kennedy was a rich, lightweight, playboy with little self-confidence or inner direction. When he selected LBJ as his vice presidential running mate, his superior in the Senate, in politics, in the Democratic Party and in Washington, Novak’s estimation of JFK grew by leaps and bounds. He knew then and there he’d been wrong about Kennedy and realized the Massachusetts senator had been far deeper, more reflective and had more self-confidence than Novak appreciated at the time.

In 1968, Richard Nixon confided to a friend at the Republican convention in Miami Beach he wished he could just run alone. He wasn’t sympathetic of the position, having eaten a lot of crap as Dwight Eisenhower’s second banana; he was simply contemptuous of the position and later, the man he chose, Spiro Agnew. Nixon was not alone. Woodrow Wilson’s vice president, Thomas Marshall, once waited a year and half just to get a meeting with President Wilson. Nixon was insecure and Wilson was arrogant.

In 1980, at the Detroit GOP convention, the sentimental favorite among many conservatives was congressman Jack Kemp of New York. Kemp was a real up and comer and many saw him as the natural second to Ronald Reagan, but he was also young, brash and undisciplined, unusual for a former pro football quarterback who’d been weaned on discipline. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were conflicted. They wanted to take Senator Paul Laxalt, their close friend, but it simply didn’t make sense as his state of Nevada had legalized gambling and prostitution. At a time when pro family and pro social conservatives were on the rise in the GOP, picking Laxalt would have risked alienating them. The Reagans decided on a full court press for former president Gerald Ford in a last minute attempt which became known as the “co-presidency.” For a few hours, everybody in Detroit engaged in the wholly impractical and unconstitutional “Dream Ticket” fantasy. At the 11th hour, though it collapsed. Fortunately.

With options narrowing, the Reagans really did not want Ambassador George H.W. Bush, whom they considered a choker after his disastrous performance in the Nashua debate and Reagan was especially mad at Bush for mocking his revolutionary tax cut plan as “voodoo economics.” Plus, culturally, they had little in common.The Reagans were not nouveau-riche but the Bushes were old money, with blood as blue as the Connecticut River. Many knew the pursuit of Ford was simply because the Reagans did not want to pick what many saw as the logical choice, Bush.

Still, to the end, even after the co-president deal fell through, Reagan only reluctantly called Ambassador Bush. Bush was in many ways his senior in the establishment wing of the party and Reagan knew he needed a unified convention of moderate establishmentarians and outsiders/conservatives if he was to have a choice against the incumbent Jimmy Carter. So he swallowed hard and called Bush. Nancy Reagan—after all the age slurs emanating from the Bush campaign over the previous two years—had to swallow even harder. She really didn’t like the Bushes.

The Reagans were so dubious of Bush’s debating skills, they scotched a planned gab fest between Bush and Walker Mondale. In another sign of confidence, every primary opponent of Reagan’s addressed the crowd in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The same cannot be said of Cleveland as not even the hometown governor, John Kasich, will be attending much less speaking to the GOP convention.

In 1988, George H.W. Bush could have chosen the well qualified Bob Dole or the now more seasoned Kemp, but chose instead the wholly ill-prepared Dan Quayle, senator of Indiana. Bush wanted someone he could control and someone who did not intimidate him. At the press conference trying to defuse the controversy stirred up by the choice of the young and immature Quayle, the much esteemed Jim Baker was asked sarcastically by a reporter if Bush chose Quayle simply because he couldn’t chose one of his own sons. Baker rolled his eyes and smiled. Bush failed his own moment of truth.

The convention city of Cleveland is also the moment of truth for Trump. In choosing Mike Pence, a somewhat respected if also little accomplished governor, who won’t “steal the show,” from Trump, he has signaled his own political insecurities. Had Trump chosen Newt Gingrich—who outranks Trump in terms of party tenure and successes and place in history—that would have signaled foresight and self-confidence. The GOP is still Reagan’s party and choosing Gingrich would have also made sense as he is the most notable heir to the Reagan legacy but again, this may have been intimidating to Trump. But Pence, who despite some festering problems with movement conservatives, won’t give Trump any problems either. Pence, while a good man, has never been associated with any great idea or cause. While in the U.S. House, he was known as a get along, go along sort of congressman. There is little chance of Pence overshadowing Trump.

The choice of a running mate is not inconsequential as many commentators falsely suggest. It is in fact the most important decision of a nominee and a tell all about the disposition and makeup of the candidate. Trump’s first decision is a good “tell,” an indication of his own psychological framework.


For Trump, the issue of abortion looms as Republican convention nears || StatNews

For Trump, the issue of abortion looms as Republican convention nears


WASHINGTON — Will Donald Trump dare to talk about abortion in Cleveland next week?

During nearly every Republican convention in recent history, the GOP presidential nominee has offered, at the very least, a strong hint that he would oppose abortion. It has been a sure-fire applause line, and an effective way to fire up the Republican base.

But with Trump, as is often the case, there are no sure things.

Trump is a former supporter of abortion rights, and clips of him talking about his belief in “choice” are easy enough to find. Trump now describes himself as “pro-life.” But he has repeatedly bungled his talking points, sent mixed signals on key issues like how he feels about Planned Parenthood, and stayed quiet at times when abortion opponents were looking for him to take a stand.

For all of those problems, though, Trump will be expected to say something — because he’ll need the anti-abortion crowd if he wants to rally a bitterly divided party behind him.

“The bottom line is, Donald Trump, to win this thing, needs a unified convention. So he needs to strike the right chords,” said Craig Shirley, a biographer of Ronald Reagan and founder of a conservative public relations firm.

Most of the recent Republican presidential nominees have worked in some reference to opposing abortion in their convention speeches. Some have been subtle, like Mitt Romney, who promised in 2012 to “respect the sanctity of life.” Others have been more direct, as George W. Bush was in 2000 when he pledged “a culture that values life,” including “the life of the unborn.”

Anti-abortion groups say they want Trump to at least repeat his recent pledges to appoint only anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. They would welcome more.

“He’s got a lot of ground, in my mind, to make up,” said Tom McClusky of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “I never meet anyone in the pro-life community who’s gung-ho, like, ‘Donald Trump, yay, let’s buy a T-shirt.’”

Even anti-abortion leaders who believe they have an ally in Trump say it’s important that he address the issue, in part because he hasn’t addressed it in a lot of depth in the campaign so far.

“You’re not just speaking to a general audience. You also want to fire up the base, and right now the base is not fired up,” said Penny Young Nance, chief executive officer and president of Concerned Women for America.

“He says he’s pro-life, and I believe him, but there are a couple of statements he’s made that have caused confusion,” said Nance.

Trump’s defenders in the anti-abortion community say he can also just remind his audience of the bottom line: A President Trump would be better for the anti-abortion cause than a President Hillary Clinton.

“Politics thrives on moments of contrast. Trump should absolutely reiterate his pro-life commitments in Cleveland and draw a clear contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton. Her extreme position on abortion is dramatically out of step with most Americans,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement to STAT.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests to discuss his convention plans.

The abortion issue is sensitive enough for even experienced politicians, but it hastripped up Trump more than most recent Republican nominees.

He explained during the first Republican debate last year that “friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn’t aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child.”

But that hasn’t always been Trump’s view, and he has had to explain why he has“evolved” since his days as a supporter of abortion rights, when he told NBC’s Tim Russert that “I hate the concept of abortion” but “I just believe in choice.”

He drew heavy criticism in April for saying there should be “some form of punishment” for women who seek abortions — a view that’s not shared by the major anti-abortion groups. He also noted in a later interview that “at this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”

When the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law regulating the state’s abortion clinics last month — the biggest abortion ruling from the court in two decades — Trump didn’t say a word for three days, aggravating some anti-abortion groups.

“I think the campaign knows it was a missed opportunity,” said Nance. “We let them know that, and they agreed.”

Other anti-abortion groups, however, have lined up behind Trump, saying he has made specific commitments. In addition to assuring Christian conservativesin New York last month that he’ll appoint anti-abortion judges, Dannenfelser noted that he has promised to sign legislation banning abortion after five months and cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition and a Trump supporter, said his critics are “nitpicking … Throughout the whole campaign, he has made pro-life an issue, and he’s been pretty clear about it.”

Still, Trump caused confusion in the anti-abortion ranks during a February debate, when he said he would defund Planned Parenthood because of abortions — yet added that “millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood” through its women’s health services.

Nance said she’d like Trump to promise to support legislation that would redirect all of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding to the nation’s community health centers, which she said provide the same women’s health services.

Clarke Forsythe, acting president and senior counsel at Americans United for Life, said Trump “needs to be vocal about the kinds of judges he will appoint to the courts” in his convention speech, and should also pledge to write permanent restrictions into law against the use of public funds for abortions.

Most of the recent Republican nominees have found ways to work the abortion reference into their speeches — although that’s not true of the one who may be most fondly remembered by religious conservatives.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan accepted the presidential nomination for the first time, he didn’t say a word about abortion. That’s largely because he didn’t talk much about his anti-abortion views in any of his other speeches, even though they were well-known to his supporters in the religious right, according to Shirley, the Reagan biographer.

Instead, Reagan built his ties to religious conservatives in more general ways, Shirley said, such as the meeting with evangelicals in Dallas that summer in which Reagan told them, “I know that you can’t endorse me, but … I endorse you and what you’re doing.”

“He was saying to them that he approved of their work on the life and family issues,” Shirley said.

It was the first George Bush, who had more to prove to win the trust of conservatives, who went farther in 1988.

“Is it right to believe in the sanctity of life and protect the lives of innocent children? My opponent says no — but I say yes. We must change from abortion to adoption,” Bush said. He added for emphasis: “I have an adopted granddaughter. The day of her christening, we wept with joy. I thank God her parents chose life.”

In 2000, George W. Bush, who campaigned hard for the support of religious conservatives, promised to “value life” and vowed to sign legislation banning so-called partial birth abortions. Four years later, he declared that “we must make a place for the unborn child.”

Even John McCain, who had trouble winning the enthusiastic support of religious conservatives, noted in 2008 that “we believe in … a culture of life.”

With such a lengthy history of abortion references in the Republican convention speeches, Trump would be well within the mainstream if he works even a short passage into his speech. Nance says it would be “a fantastic opportunity for him to drill down more.”

And as McClusky put it: “It will be noticed if he doesn’t say anything.”

Trump urged against ‘pandering’ with female VP pick || Washington Examiner

Trump urged against ‘pandering’ with female VP pick


Top Republicans are urging Donald Trump not to pick a woman running mate just for the sake of trying to win the female vote.

“We should definitely not choose a woman simply because she is a woman,” said longtime conservative adviser Bay Buchanan.

“The Democrats will have a woman on top of the ticket. Those who would vote for a ticket simply to advance a woman will clearly vote for Hillary Clinton. However, if there is a qualified person who adds significantly to the ticket, they should be seriously considered. If that be a woman all the better,” she said with a nod to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who said last week that she did not want to be considered for vice president.

Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, whose next book is about Newt Gingrich, said that “pander politics really turns off a lot of Republicans.”

Shirley said Republicans try not to play gender politics. “It goes to the very essence of being a Republican instead of a Democrat. Being a Democrat is about identity politics and group consciousness, and being a Republican, at least ideally, is about ideas and intellectualism and individuality, not based on who you are but based on what you are.”

Clinton insiders said she is unlikely to pick a woman partly because it would interfere with her historic role as the first female presidential candidate and maybe president.

NAFTA haunts Newt Gingrich VP bid as Donald Trump rails against trade deal || Washington Times

NAFTA haunts Newt Gingrich VP bid as Donald Trump rails against trade deal 

– The Washington Times – Sunday, July 3, 2016

Speaking on the House floor in 1993, then-Rep. Newt Gingrich termed the vote on the pending North American Free Trade Agreement a “magic moment” — a chance to strengthen ties with Mexico and to spur an economic boom in the U.S.

Now Mr. Gingrich is reportedly one of the short-listed candidates for ticketmate with the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who has staked his campaign on opposition to trade in general and NAFTA in particular, likening it to rape and calling it the “worst trade deal in the history of the country.”

Mr. Gingrich also supports granting legal status to illegal immigrants, has mocked Mr. Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims being admitted to the U.S. and backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq — all at odds with Mr. Trump’s major stances.

That he’s still one of the few names who keep popping up, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, underscored just how tricky the veep search is for Mr. Trump’s team, which must try to match their candidate’s brash style and populist politics with a GOP still very much in the grips of Bush-era Republicanism.

Craig Shirley, author of “Citizen Newt,” a biography of the former speaker, said the differences between Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Trump on trade reflects fundamental differences in their governing approaches.

“Newt is as much a Reagan conservative today as anybody in the national party,” Mr. Shirley said, pointing out that former President Reagan proposed a North American free trade accord in 1979. “Trump is not a Reagan conservative,Trump is a Nixon conservative.”

Less than two years after that 1993 floor speech, Mr. Gingrich would become the first Republican House speaker in four decades, would oversee welfare reform and laid the groundwork for a series of balanced budgets to close out the Clinton administration.

He himself was gone from office by then, damaged by the fallout from investigations into President Clinton’s misbehavior and impeachment, and ousted in the end by a conservative rebellion within his own party. He ran for president in 2012, winning a stunning victory in South Carolina’s primary but fading soon thereafter.

Mr. Gingrich, who writes a column for The Washington Times, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

But on Sunday fuel was added to Gingrich speculation when the former speaker won a Republican vice presidential straw poll of attendees at a major conservative gathering of more than 4,000 attendees that Mr. Trump himself had addressed Friday.

Mr. Gingrich took 194 of the 985 votes (20 percent) cast at the seventh annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver, followed by Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, who took 148 votes, or 15 percent.

Mr. Christie, meanwhile, received only 15 votes and failed to crack the top five.

The New Jersey governor is serving his second term, having flamed out in this year’s primaries and then quickly backing Mr. Trump.

During the primary campaign, Mr. Christie blasted Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, mocked his plans to build a border wall and questioned his experience and temperament. Mr. Trump was just as critical of Mr. Christie, blasting his management of New Jersey.

Now, with two weeks to go until the convention, Mr. Trump is narrowing his potential picks and those bad feelings — and the discordant policy stances — are forgotten.

Over the weekend Mr. Trump also met with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who some conservative activists are pushing as a vice presidential pick.

It’s noteworthy that all three men have supported legalization of illegal immigrants — though Mr. Pence’s stance is perhaps closest to Mr. Trump’s since he calls for immigrants to go home, then apply to return, though perhaps in as fast as a week.

Conservative activists say they’re closely watching Mr. Trump’s pick, hoping the choice will ease their fears about the brash businessman.

But Terry Holt, a GOP consultant who worked on Capitol Hill and for the 2000 and 2004 Bush campaigns, said Mr. Trump’s choice has little to do with his chances for success.

“The vote in November will be about Trump,” he said. “Mickey Mouse could be the veep and it wouldn’t matter.”

Still, Mr. Shirley said someone like Mr. Gingrich has the potential to help Mr. Trump.

“He is a unifying force, and that is what Trump needs right now. He needs to unify the party,” Mr. Shirley said. “Plus, he knows Washington, but he is not part of the Washington culture. He is an original Reaganite, and having someone with binding ties to Reaganism will help Trump.”

Mr. Trump could announce his pick before the convention in hopes of ramping up excitement for his candidacy before thousands of Republicans converge on Cleveland.

Mr. Shirley said the pick will help set the tone for the rest of the race.

“It is astonishingly important because it unifies the convention or it divides the convention,” he said. “If it unifies the convention, they generally go on to win in the fall. If it divides the convention, they usually go on to lose.”