Thursday, September 4, 2008

Really, What DOES a Vice President Do Anyway?

Vice-Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin in July:

From government classes in high school, most of us remember that the only responsibilities assigned to the Vice-President by the U.S. Constitution are:

a) To assume the "powers and duties" of the presidency, should the president die or become disabled while in office; and

b) To preside over the Senate, casting tie-breaker votes in the body when needed.

Regarding a): thirteen vice presidents have gone on to become president, eight because of the death of a president. (The rest were elected to the office.)

So what else does the No. 2 have to do?

Here's some wisdom from someone who ought to know.

Former senator, former vice president, and, of course, the first presidential candidate to select a woman as his running mate, Walter Mondale was quoted in the New York Times on Wednesday:

Whether Republicans or Democrats win in November, “there will be messes on the Hill. And that’s what I did a lot of as vice president,’’ he said. “I spent a lot of time cleaning up messes on the Hill.’’

The second is to act as an early-warning radar for brewing problems – which means having deep connections in the government, with people honest enough to say things they might not say to the president. Ms. Palin, he said, “seems like a lovely person’’ but is so detached from Washington that she is unlikely to serve in that role.

The third, he said, is to “extend the president’s power abroad.’’ When he was vice president to Jimmy Carter, he noted, he spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and dealing with the Chinese. (Under President Clinton, he came back to government to serve as ambassador to Japan, and he played a significant behind-the-scenes role managing the first nuclear crisis with North Korea, in 1994.)

Then there’s the unglamorous part of the job, he said. “Remember, the vice president is the only other officer of the government without a bureaucratic constituency. You have to be able to hear out all sides, and know how what you’re hearing is being affected’’ as members of the cabinet maneuver for more budget, or more authority. Full article.

Clearly, one role all modern vice-presidential candidates must play is in campaigning. In Governor Palin's case, she is helping to motivate the right wing of her party. The fervent applause given after her speech to the Republican National Convention shows that she is well primed for this particular task.

Here are some interesting bits about Vice-Presidents:

Nine succeeded to the Presidency:

John Tyler became President when William Harrison died. Chose not to seek full term.
Millard Fillmore became President when Zachary Taylor died. Sought the Whig nomination in 1852, but lost to Winfield Scott. Four years later, ran and lost as the candidate of the American and Whig Parties.
Andrew Johnson became President when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Sought the Democratic nomination in 1868, but was unsuccessful.
Chester A. Arthur became President when James Garfield was assassinated. Sought a full term, but was not re-nominated.
Theodore Roosevelt became President when William McKinley was assassinated; then was elected to full term. Did not seek re-election. Four years after leaving office, ran again and lost.
Calvin Coolidge became President when Warren Harding died; then was elected to full term. Did not seek re-election.
Harry S. Truman became President when Franklin D. Roosevelt died; then was elected to full term.
Lyndon B. Johnson became President when John F. Kennedy was assassinated; then was elected to full term. Did not seek re-election.
Gerald Ford became President when Richard Nixon resigned; then lost election to full term.

Four sitting Vice Presidents were elected President:

John Adams (1789–1797) was elected President in 1796.
Thomas Jefferson (1797–1801) was elected President in 1800.
Martin Van Buren (1833–1837) was elected President in 1836.
George H. W. Bush (1981–1989) was elected President in 1988.

Previous positions:
Every vice president as of 2008 except John Adams, Chester A. Arthur, Henry A. Wallace and Garret Hobart has served as a congressman, senator, or governor.

There's more Veep trivia in this article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice and intrestingss story.