Friday, February 08, 2008

Veep, Veep

7:24 - Bush says that Dick Cheney is "the best Vice President in history."

Well, consider the competition.

  • indicted for murder while in office, and tried for treason after leaving office -- and should have been found guilty (Aaron Burr)

  • died in office, having never performed any official duties (William R. King)

  • openly kept his mulatto slave as a mistress (Richard Mentor Johnson)

  • later became secretary of war for a nation at war with the U.S. (John C. Breckinridge)

  • couldn't spell "potato" (Dan Quayle)

  • was Spiro Agnew (Spiro Agnew)

  • was an outright socialist and Soviet sympathizer who called capitalists "midget Hitlers" and "once dispatched a religious fanatic to Mongolia to search for proof that Christ had visited Asia" (Henry A. Wallace)

But I think the best vice-president -- that is, the man who had the best appreciation for what this orphaned office had been until very recent times, was John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner, who famously described the honor of being vice president of the United States as "Not worth a bucket of warm piss." After he had stepped down as Speaker of the House to be Roosevelt's veep, he concluded, "I gave up the second most important job in Government for eight long years as Roosevelt's spare tire."

Vice presidents since Nixon's stint at the job have become a different thing. An extra-constitutional growth on the executive, abetted by presidents of both parties. Typically, processes that have been underway for decades sped up dramatically under Bush and got noticed for the first time by generally inattentive people. Hopefully their propriety now can be debated.

A site on the vice presidency.