Since 1960 the office of the vice presidency of the United States has evolved into a fundamentally different institution than the one the founders envisioned, attracting better-qualified aspirants who may be called upon to perform a variety of important tasks. This book offers a corrective to the overwhelmingly negative view that Americans have had of their vice presidents by demonstrating how the role has changed over time. In addition, Baumgartner examines those who were candidates for vice president but who were not elected. The book is organized thematically according to the career path of the vice president, from the selection process through campaign and nomination to election, service in office, and post-White House contributions.
John Adams famously called the vice presidency, the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. Harry Truman called it, about as useful as a cow's fifth teat. How things have changed in a world where many consider Vice President Dick Cheney the most powerful figure in the current administration.
Since 1960 the office of the vice presidency of the United States has evolved into a fundamentally different institution than the one the founders envisioned, attracting better-qualified aspirants who may be called upon to perform a variety of important tasks. No longer a ceremonial figurehead or legislative drudge, the vice president today consults closely with the president and plays an important role in executive decisions. Those who are chosen as running mates are examined more thoroughly than ever before, not merely for the boost they might give the presidential candidate in the general election, but also for the kind of president they might be if fate called upon them to serve.
In a book that is as readable as it is fascinating, Baumgartner offers a corrective to the overwhelmingly negative view Americans have had of their vice presidents by demonstrating how the role has changed over time. Setting the stage with a visit to the Constitutional Convention and a brief look at pre-modern vice presidents, he examines the 19 men and one woman who have been vice presidents or candidates for the office since 1960. His insightful book is organized thematically according to the career path of the vice president-from the selection process through the campaign and nomination to election, service in office, and post-White House contributions.
This book is a companion to my “Presidential Profiles”, published in 2008. It provides short bigraphies on each of the thirty-three vice presidents who never bcame president. Most readers are familiar with those like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who did rise to the presidency and so I have decided to write about those less well known.
Because most of these vice presidents are virtually forgotten today and yet were very prominent and important figures in their time, I have subtitled the book: “Our Forgotten Leaders.” In each biographical sketch, the reader will learn about the childhood and youth of the subject, his educational background, his marraige and family life, his career before becoming vice president, his vicepresidency and his life after leaving office.
What Do You Know about America's Vice Presidents?
(The official quiz that you, the reader, should take right now to determine if you need this book)How many vice presidents went on to become president? How many sitting presidents died or were forced from office? How many vice presidents shot men while in office? Who was the better shot? Who was the first vice president to assume power when a president died? Why did he return official letters without reading them? What vice president was almost torn limb form limb in Venezuela? Which former VP was tried for treason for trying to start his own empire in the Southwest? How many vice presidents were assassinated? In the next presidential election, should you worry about the candidates for vice president?
(Bonus challenge: For extra points, name the men that the vice presidents shot!)
See answers below. No cheating!
The vice presidency isn't worth "a bucket of warm spit"
That's the prudish version of what John Nance Garner had to say about the office--several years after serving as VP under FDR. Was he right?
The vice presidency is one of America's most historically complicated, intriguing, and underappreciated public offices. And Jeremy Lott's sweeping, hilarious, and insightful history introduces readers to the unusual and sometimes shadowy cast of characters that have occupied it:Aaron Burr, the only VP tried for treason John Tyler, president without a party Andrew Johnson, defiant drunkard Thomas Marshall, who should have been president Richard Nixon, underdog and daredevil Gerald Ford, icon of the 1970s Al Gore, the most frustrated man in America And, of course, the real Dick Cheney
With crisp prose, Lott focuses on their bitter rivalries and rank ambitions, their glorious victories and tragic setbacks. At the end of hundreds of historical vignettes, interviews, and pilgrimages to obscure places, Lott concludes that the vice presidency is an invaluable political institution that tends to frustrate the ambitions of America's most ambitious politicans--an ungainly launch pad for future political success and a drunk tank for those who would imbibe too deeply of power.
Answers to Quiz!Fourteen of the forty-three presidents were vice president It's happened eight times so far Aaron Burr and Dick Cheney Aaron Burr John Tyler Because he insisted on being called "president," not "vice president" or "acting president" Richard Nixon Aaron Burr (him again!) None, though an assassin was hired to kill Andrew Johnson See answers one and two and then ask yourself, "Does America feel lucky?"
Answers to bonus challenge: Alexander Hamilton and Harry Whittington
0-4 You are a novice who should probably buy this book
5-8 You are a history buff who should love this book
9-12 You are a smart cookie who should appear on Jeopardy--and buy this book for show prep
Americans have long been defined by how they face adversity. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in how the nation’s chief executive has tackled myriad issues upon entering the White House. The ways that U.S. presidents handle the vast responsibilities of the Oval Office determine the fate of the nation---and, in many cases, the fate of the world.
In this fascinating narrative, presidential historian Mark Updegrove looks at eight U.S. presidents who inherited unprecedented crises immediately upon assuming the reigns of power. George Washington led a fragile and fledgling nation while defining the very role of the presidency. When Thomas Jefferson entered the White House, he faced a nation bitterly divided by a two-party schism far more severe than anything encountered today. John Tyler stepped into the office of the presidency during the constitutional crisis left by the first death of a sitting president. Abraham Lincoln inherited a divided nation on the brink of war. Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to quell America’s fears during the depths of the Great Depression. His successor, Harry S. Truman, was sworn in as commander in chief at the close of World War II, and John F. Kennedy stepped into the increasingly heated atmosphere of the cold war. In the wake of Watergate, the first unelected president, Gerald R. Ford, aimed to end America’s “long national nightmare.”
As the forty-fourth president takes office, Updegrove presents a timely look at these chief executives and the challenges they faced. In examining the ways in which presidents have addressed crises, Baptism by Fire illustrates the importance of character in leadership—and in the resilience of America itself.
This comprehensive two-volume guide is the definitive source for researchers seeking an understanding of those who have occupied the White House and on the institution of the U.S. presidency. Readers turn Guide to the Presidency and the Executive Branch for its wealth of facts and analytical chapters that explain the structure, powers, and operations of the office and the president’s relationship with Congress and the Supreme Court.
The fifth edition of this acclaimed reference completes coverage of the George W. Bush presidency, the 2008 election, and the first 3 years of the presidency of Barack Obama. This includes coverage of their handling of the economic crisis, wars abroad, and Obama’s healthcare initiatives. The work is divided into eight distinct subject areas covering every aspect of the U.S. presidency, and all chapters in each subject area have been revised and updated:
Origins and Development of the Presidency, including constitutional beginnings, history of the presidency and vice presidency, and presidential ratings
Selection and Removal of the President, including the electoral process, a chronology of presidential elections, removal of the president and vice president, and succession
Powers of the Presidency, including the unilateral powers of the presidency and those as chief of state, chief administrator, legislative leader, commander in chief, and chief economist
The President, the Public, and the Parties, including presidential appearances, the president and political parties, the president and the news media, the presidency and pop culture, public support and opinion, and the president and interest groups
The Presidency and the Executive Branch, including the White House Office, the Office of the Vice President, supporting organizations, the cabinet and executive departments, presidential commissions, and executive branch housing, pay, and perquisites
Chief Executive and Federal Government, including the president and Congress, the president and the Supreme Court, and the president and the bureaucracy
Presidents, their Families, and Life in the White House and Beyond, including the daily life of the president, the first lady, the first family, friends of presidents, and life after the presidency
Biographies of the Presidents, Vice Presidents, First Ladies
This new volume also features more than 200 textboxes, tables, and figures. Major revisions cover the supporting White House organizations and the president’s role as chief economist. Additional reference materials include explanatory headnotes, as well as hundreds of photographs with detailed captions.
Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises in U.S. Presidential Campaigns
Today’s political pundits express shock and disappointment when candidates resort to negative campaigning. But history reveals that smear campaigns are as American as apple pie. Anything for a Vote is an illustrated look at 200-plus years of dirty tricks and bad behavior in presidential elections, from George Washington to Barack Obama and John McCain. Let the name-calling begin!
• 1836: Congressman Davy Crockett accuses candidate Martin Van Buren of secretly wearing women’s clothing: “He is laced up in corsets!”
• 1864: Presidential candidate George McClellan describes his opponent, Abraham Lincoln, as “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon!”
• 1960: Former president Harry Truman advises voters that “if you vote for Richard Nixon, you ought to go to hell!”
Full of sleazy anecdotes from every presidential election in United States history, Anything for a Vote is a valuable reminder that history does repeat itself, that lessons can be learned from the past (though they usually aren’t), and that our most famous presidents are not above reproach when it comes to the dirtiest game of all—political campaigning.