Think Veep….It’s Important
by RUTH KING
July 19, 2012
Rumors are swirling about Governor Romney's pick for a running mate. It's no small matter. An active Vice-President can influence policy, be an effective spokesman for legislation, and if necessary take over the administration and finish an interrupted term. A vice president is also poised to run for election and complete the agenda of a successful predecessor.
The Vice President is first in the line of succession to a President who is removed, resigns, becomes incapacitated or dies. The Vice President as designated by our Constitution, is also the President of the Senate and can break tie votes. That can be crucial in a closely divided Congress.
In the past, electors in the Electoral College, were permitted two votes and the candidate who came in second became the Vice President almost automatically but since 1940 the candidate chooses the potential Vice-President.
The only modern Presidential candidate who did not pick a Veep and had Congress do it for him was Adlai Stevenson, a pompous poseur who lost to Dwight Eisenhower whose Vice President was Richard Nixon.
The qualifications for Vice President are exactly like those for President ....an individual must:
- Be a natural born U.S. citizen
- Be at least 35 years old
- Have resided in the U.S. at least 14 years
Too bad. That leaves Ileana Ros- Lehtinen the doughty Representative from Florida (District 18) out. She is a she, is savvy, great on defense and foreign policy and Hispanic. But, she was born in Cuba.
Although the President is limited to only two terms, a Vice-President has no limit of terms. Thus, Joe Biden can be Vice-President for life as long as a Democrat is President. And Al Gore could do so too.
In fact, Al Gore could have become President if Bill Clinton had been removed from office after the impeachment. He would have had almost two full years to cool America.
What a chilling thought.
The office of Vice President has evolved greatly. At one time it was seen as ceremonial and virtually a sinecure. However, the influence and prestige of the office grew markedly in the last century. Perhaps because a seemingly unprepared and unprepossessing figure like Harry Truman became a worthy successor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
President Roosevelt who was ill for much of his time in office actually had two Vice Presidents before Harry Truman. John Nance Gardner, a governor of Texas was the Veep in the first two terms (1933-41). Gardner did not think much of the office. He is quoted as saying "the office is not a bucket of warm piss."
Henry A. Wallace, a Republican progressive served during Roosevelt's third term (1941-1945). Wallace was an apostle for the "New Deal" and an apologist for Russia. Fortunately President Roosevelt dumped him in 1944 and selected Harry Truman. Imagine America if Wallace had become President. He certainly would have attempted a radical transformation and one can only guess at how the war in the Pacific would have ended.
In 1947 when Wallace tried to run for President a writer described his effort as ""the closest the Soviet Union ever came to actually choosing a president of the United States."
Harry S Truman of Missouri was elected Vice President for Roosevelt's fourth term, but served only a few months (Jan-May 1945) before becoming president. The office of the Vice President became vacant when Harry Truman succeeded to the presidency in 1945 and remained so until 1948 when Alben Barkley of Kentucky, was elected.
Barkley was a likeable chap who was seventy years old when he was sworn in as vice president. Age did not crimp his style and he courted and wed a widow half his age while in office. He had a long career in national politics that took him from the House to the Senate to the vice-presidency. However, he took no real part in the tumultuous events of the Truman Presidency and never had an office in or near the White House.
Barkley left no real footprints but the term "Veep" which he coined has lasted and is now being recycled by the media.
Many Veeps subsequently were elected Presidents. Two were outstanding:
John Adams was the First Vice President and the Second President of the United States.(March 4, 1797 - March 4, 1801)
Thomas Jefferson was the second vice president (1797-1801) and the 3rd president (1801-09)
One was acceptable:
Martin Van Buren, elected President in 1836 was both the eighth Vice-President and the 8th President.
One Veep left a muddy legacy:
Aaron Burr was Thomas Jefferson's third Veep (1801-1805). During his term he challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel and fatally injured him. America lost one of the greatest founding fathers and although Burr was acquitted for Hamilton's death, he was subsequently tried for treason, and again acquitted, but he left tattered legacy.
Some were contentious:
John Caldwell Calhoun served two Presidents in the role of Veep. From 1825 to 1829 he was John Quincy Adams' Vice President, but Adams loathed him for his open support for Andrew Jackson, an Adams antagonist. Jackson triumphed in 1828 and Calhoun was again elected Veep but In 1832, after serious political incompatibility with Jackson, he resigned. He was elected to the Senate where he became a staunch and eloquent supporter of the principles of states' rights.
Some became Presidents when the standing President died :
The 10ths President, John Tyler was the first Veep to become President in 1841 when William Henry Harrison, at 68, the oldest President to take office until Ronald Reagan, was the first to die in office...only 31 days into his administration. It was unclear at that time if the Vice President immediately became the President rather than an "acting president." Tyler challenged congress, insisted that he was the President, served out the term and did not seek re-election. He was called "His Accidency" by his detractors. The campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" only references the fact that he served under William Harrison who was the hero of the battle of Tippecanoe.
Millard Fillmore, who became the 13th President when President Zachary Taylor died, served only the remaining three years. It is noteworthy that his only education was six years of grade school. He did no real harm.
Some became President when a sitting President was assasinated: One was notorious:
Vice President Andrew Johnson, a known drunkard, replaced the assassinated Abraham Lincoln and served out the term (April 15, 1865 - March 4, 1869) as the 17th President. Johnson was the first President to be impeached on February 24, 1868 for flouting "high crimes and misdemeanors) which really consisted of his violation of a "Tenure of Office Act" when he fired Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War and replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant. He was acquitted by one vote.
One was really boring:
Vice President Chester Arthur became the 21st President when James Garfield, was assassinated and served out the term (September 19, 1881 - March 4, 1885). The Arthur Administration enacted the first general Federal immigration law. Arthur approved a measure in 1882 excluding paupers, criminals, and lunatics.
Some more modern Veeps became outstanding:
America's 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt became Veep when the stodgy New York Republicans could not wait to get rid of this "compassionate conservative" Governor so they pushed for his nomination. When President William McKinley was killed by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz in 1901, he became, at 43, America's youngest president. He was elected again to a full term and decided not to seek re-election. (Alas, when he did run again, he lost.) He was an explorer, hunter, historian, soldier, author and charmer. He was a true "progressive reformer" and a real conservationist and a survivor whose safari in the South American jungle rivals that of the famous African explorers. In 1906 he won a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between Russia and Japan.
This is what Theodore Roosevelt said about immigration in 1909, which should be required reading for all candidates:
"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith, becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American... There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Dear old under estimated "Silent Cal" Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States on August 3, 1923 when Warren Harding died. He then was re-elected and served with honor and principle as a true fiscal conservative. In fact, he was the favorite of Ronald Reagan. His quips were legendary as was his wit. He once explained to Bernard Baruch why he often sat silently through interviews: "Well, Baruch, many times I say only 'yes' or 'no' to people. Even that is too much. It winds them up for twenty minutes more."
This brings us back to the legendary Harry Truman, who replaced FDR.
He was an unassuming man without the aristocratic demeanor of his predecessor. As president, Truman ushered America through the conclusion and victory of World War II. He rose to every daunting challenge in domestic as well as foreign affairs. America was plagued by shortages and strikes and the threat of the spread of communism as Stalin implemented his despotic rule. Truman understood the necessity to purge government employees with strong pro-Soviet loyalty; to end segregation in our armed forces; to rebuild Europe with the Marshall Plan; create NATO; and to use nuclear force in Japan to end the war. He also defied the entrenched prejudice of the State-Department when he recognized Israel in 1948 in spite of a tantrum by George Marshall. Although he was pelted by the media and had low rankings in his lifetime, many historians consider him one of America's top ten presidents.
One completed the ambitious agenda of his predecessor:
The 38th President Lyndon Johnson, replaced John Kennedy who was assassinated after 1000 days in office. Johnson ushered in the utopian, and disastrous policies of "The Great Society" but has left his stamp on history by enacting the end of segregation in the United States.
One was a most tragic figure.
During the Eisenhower administration, Vice President Richard Nixon, had actually served as President during Eisenhower's "heart ailment" and during surgery while the president was under anesthesia. Perhaps it was a dress rehearsal for his tragic administration. He was elected America's 37th President and served from 1969 -1974 when he had to resign due to the Watergate Scandal. His term was filled with the short lived and rather insipid presidency of Gerald Ford, our 38th President - although we could have had Spiro Agnew, who was removed from the Veepship due to bribery charges. He was worse than insipid.
One could not complete the agenda or compete with the legacy of his predecessor:
President Reagan's Vice President, George Bush Sr. was elected as America's 41st President and was in office when the Berlin Wall was toppled and Eastern Europe was liberated. The credit will always belong to Ronald Reagan. He served only one term.
Some just slipped by in history:
Choosing a Vice -President can have major historic consequences. The choice for Mitt Romney is critical.
The times demand it. The favorite du-jour is Condoleeza Rice, a former Secretary of State with an impressive record of failures. She is no Truman or Coolidge. There are others who would bring real energy and excitement to the ticket.....Stay tuned.
Ruth King is a freelance writer. She has written a book and articles on gardening, and also writes a monthly column in OUTPOST, the publication of Americans for a Safe Israel.