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Former speechwriter says Ford oustedRockefeller from GOP ticket in 1976

By CLAY F. RICHARDS, UPI Political Writer

WASHINGTON -- President Gerald Ford called his vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, at home one weekend to tell him bluntly he did not want him on the ticket in 1976, according to a new Rockefeller biography.

When Rockefeller returned to Washington the following Monday, he sent Ford a letter as requested saying he did not wish to be considered for the vice presidential nomination.

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Ford called a news conference and said: 'The decision by Vice President Rockefeller was a decision on his own ... under no circumstances was it a request by me.'

Rockefeller's long time speechwriter, Joseph Persico, in 'The Imperial Rockefeller' (Simon and Schuster), disputes Ford's statement. He said on Nov. 3, 1975, when Rockefeller drafted the letter, an aide asked if this was necessary and the vice president replied, nodding his head, 'The president called and told me at home yesterday.'

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Persico says when Rockefeller was named vice president he expected to run domestic policy at the White House while his protege Henry Kissinger ran foreign policy as secretary of state.

'The Ford staff, however, refused to roll over and play dead,' Persico says, adding that White House chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld, a former congressman, thwarted Rockefeller.

'In the end, Rumsfeld outboxed him,' the book says. 'Nelson moved like an aging heavyweight, dazzled by a fast, younger puncher.'

By the time Ford decided to announce a huge tax cut, Rockefeller was quoted as saying: 'This is the most important move the president has made and I wasn't even consulted.'

In the end, Ford left Rockefeller with little to do and the vice president drifted into limbo, occasionally dreaming up, but never making public schemes like having the United States buy Greenland because it was becoming an economic strain on its parent, Denmark.

Persico said it was not just politics that made Ford decide to dump Rockefeller from the ticket. By that time Rockefeller had so little duties that he became a 'commuter vice president,' arriving in Washington Monday morning and returning to New York Friday afternoon.

'The White House was a seven-day-a-week operation, and he (Rockefeller) was simply not on the scene when much of the action took place.'

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Persico sheds no new light on the night Rockefeller died in his Manhattan townhouse in the company of a young woman aide, Megan Marshack. The official account said they were working on an art book, Rockefeller's last project.

'There is no way that Nelson Rockefeller was working at 10 o'clock on Friday night' in his office, Persico said he told his wife when he was told that Rockefeller had died.

Persico hints strongly the two were having a love affair. He said during Rockefeller's staff farewell party as vice president Miss Marshack 'remained at his side, which had become the custom in recent months.'

'When a man reached Nelson Rockefeller's age -- he was then 68 -- it was not enough that he enjoyed the attentions of a younger women, the world had to know about it.'

Persico writes that Rockefeller became a womanizer when he first came to Washington to work for President Franklin Roosevelt a few years after his first marriage to Mary Todhunter Clark. In the 1960s he divorced her to marry Happy Murphy, the wife of a Philadelphia doctor, but the new marriage did not stop Rockefeller's 'wandering eye' Persico said.

Yet, Persico says that Rockefeller maintained a strong, probably loving, relationship with Happy, saying they had probably reached some sort of agreement.

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Persico also discusses the strong relationship between the Rockefeller family and the Shan of Iran.

In January 1979 Kissinger came to Rockefeller and his brother David, the head of Chase Manhattan Bank, and told them their old friend would apparently soon be toppled from the Peacock Throne.

Kissinger asked the Rockefellers to find a home for the Shah in the United States and a Rockefeller aide located a huge estate near Warm Springs, Ga. Rockefeller contacted Ardeshir Zahedi, the Iranian ambassador in Washington, who visited the estate and found it suitable.

Before the Shah could use the site, Nelson Rockefeller died, and U.S. policy toward the Shah became more hostile, although David Rockefeller was still able to negotiate his admission to the country for medical treatment.

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