In last Sunday's editorial "Drafting Mr. Iacocca," we erroneously stated that Philip Caldwell is the present chairman of Ford Motor Co. Mr. Caldwell retired from that position in January 1985, and it is now held by Donald E. Petersen.
IT WAS NOT quite Gen. Sherman's statement, but a certain asperity is apparent. "I am not a candidate," said the auto executive in Highland Park, Mich., adding that he does "not plan to be a candidate, and see no circumstances that would change my mind." You don't have to be told that it was not General Motors' Roger Smith or Ford's Philip Caldwell speaking; it was Chrysler's Lee Iacocca. Estimable businessmen and exemplary citizens Mr. Smith and Mr. Caldwell may be. But neither has written an autobiography that became a No. 1 best seller, neither headed the hugely successful fund-raising drive for the Statue of Liberty, and neither is plausible as the subject of a political draft.
Lee Iacocca is. And the draft itself is not quite as quixotic an enterprise as you might think. Its leaders include seasoned political consultants Greg Schneiders and Terry O'Connell and former Michigan Democratic chairman Morley Winograd, who heads one of the Democrats' quadrennial rules reform commissions. Mr. Iacocca's disavowal of their work doesn't put the draft committee out of business; it will file disclosure statements like any other political action committee, and Mr. Iacocca can no more tell it to shut up shop than he can any other PAC (except maybe Chrysler's). The committee is operating on a shoestring right now, since it doesn't have to charter a jet to fly its candidate around (he won't even talk to them on the phone) and isn't cutting TV spots for a man who has already appeared in more gross rating points' worth of TV commercials than most politicians do in a lifetime.
Draft campaigns have worked before, nominating Wendell Willkie in 1940 and producing a write-in victory in New Hampshire for Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in 1964 while he was ambassador in Saigon. But conventional wisdom says they can't work anymore, that you have to campaign full-time for two or three years to win. We wonder. In 1988 the Democrats will be choosing from a field of little-known candidates and will be forced to decide almost in one fell swoop: the southern regional primary has 26 percent of the delegates chosen by the second week of March, and Texas in its upcoming special session may join the list. The draft committee could urge write-in votes for Mr. Iacocca, run delegate slates pledged to him, or run one or more surrogate candidates for him; a surrogate's campaign could collect contributions and maybe even qualify for federal matching funds.
Mr. Iacocca could put the kibosh on this by a truly Shermanesque statement or by making some dreadful gaffe. To date, anyhow, he has done neither.