Picking Through Ford's Cabinet

Dec. 27, 2006 — -- History does indeed repeat itself and when looking at the cabinet that has served President Bush, President Ford's footprint is unmistakable.

Vice President Dick Cheney, arguably the Bush administration's most influential member, first rose to national prominence under Ford.

This year at the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize Luncheon in Washington, Cheney spoke of his time in the Ford administration as the 38th president's White House chief of staff.

"In working with him every day, it struck me that whatever the circumstance, whatever the political temperature, whatever the challenge of the moment, I was always dealing fundamentally with the same man," Cheney said.

"He's been a mentor and a friend, and a source of good advice to me and so many, many others," Cheney said.

And Cheney is not alone in the gang of Ford alumni who made a comeback in the current administration.

Rumsfeld Makes History Twice

Donald Rumsfeld, Ford's secretary of defense, also made a reprisal under Bush -- in the same position. When Ford appointed him secretary of defense, he was the youngest person to ever hold the job -- and under Bush he became the oldest.

Bush chose not just one, but two treasury secretaries who had previously served in the Ford administration: Paul O'Neill and John Snow.

David Gergen -- a former Ford adviser and current ABC News consultant -- says Ford was perfectly happy having people around him who were smarter than he was.

"Gerry Ford was so comfortable in who he was and was so, I think, so surprised to be president and has never even planned on that, that he wanted to have people, the best people in the country he could find," Gergen said. "Knowing that they might be a lot better at their jobs than he would ever be, he wanted people like that around him. He looked for talent."

Rumsfeld was Ford's chief of staff before his move to the Pentagon. That made room for Cheney to become the White House chief of staff.

Cheney had been close to Ford's chief economic adviser, Alan Greenspan, so it is perhaps no surprise that Bush kept Greenspan in his role as Federal Reserve chairman -- until his retirement in 2006.

Ford told the Financial Times, "They were all my boys. I am very proud. What I see today is a re-endorsement of our policies some 20 years ago."

Different but the Same

That may be overstating it, though.

Only Cheney remains an active figure in the Bush administration today, and some, most notably Rumsfeld, left under difficult circumstances. In terms of policy, the Bush administration has been much more conservative than the moderate, centrist Ford.

"Gerry Ford stood for a lot of Midwestern values, and he was a more traditional Republican," Gergen said. "I think George W. Bush is cut out of a very different cloth -- he's much more conservative."

But Ford personified the Grand Old Party of his day, much like President Bush has personified the Republicans of his own time in office.