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.