Monday, October 26, 2009

The Men Who Would Be King (even Leslie King)

Part 10 of 12: JFK to Ford

Old school Vice Presidents, like Tyler, Fillmore, Johnson, and Arthur, were, let’s be honest, shitty presidents. In the 1800’s, no one cared. Presidents didn’t do much back then, and VP’s were just put on the ballot by the party to balance the ticket. After WWII, we had this nagging Cold War, so suddenly the people demanded a VP who was actually competent.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Senator, Democrat) 1961-1963 (assassinated) VP: Lyndon Johnson; FL: wife Jaqueline

Historians have started downgrading this old fornicator’s god-like status to something a lot more average. His appeal had a lot more to do with his image than his actions. In his short time, he handled the crises before him deftly, but he didn’t accomplish anything overly groundbreaking, and based on his record, he wasn’t on his way to accomplishing much more. He did, however, start a grand modern tradition of the young, inexperienced candidate raising the grandeur of his ticket by attaching himself to a long-time Washington insider.

Lyndon Baines Johnson (VP, Democrat) 1963-1969 (inherited then elected) VP: Hubert Humphrey; FL: wife Lynda “Lady” Bird

For all the flack he gets as flower children’s enemy #1, LBJ was the fucking man. He was the McKinley of his time. He knew every inch of Washington and as president, he furthered Kennedy’s agenda better than Kennedy ever could. He morphed the New Deal into the Great Society, highlighted by the Civil Rights Act. Then Vietnam happened, which was arguably Kennedy’s fault, and the honeymoon promptly ended.

Richard Milhouse Nixon (VP, Republican) 1969-1974 (re-elected, resigned) VP: Spiro Agnew, Gerald Ford; FL: wife Pat

Unfortunately, Johnson was so widely hated, the American people actually turned to Richard fucking Nixon to save them from him. Back when he was Eisenhower’s VP, he was a young buck, ready to take on Washington. By 1968, he had morphed into Tricky Dick, ready to take the presidency back for the Republican Party, who by the way turned on him when he lost to Kennedy 8 years earlier. His accomplishments don’t fucking matter because he destroyed the office of the president forever.

Leslie Lynch “Gerald Rudolph Ford” King, Jr. (VP, Republican) 1974-1977 (never elected) VP: Nelson Rockefeller; FL: wife Betty

In 1967, the 25th Amendment finally established clear guidelines for passing power to the VP. The Amendment covered presidential incapacitation and resignation, but also the procedure for filling a vacancy in the VP’s office. Just 6 years later, the Amendment was used 3 times in less than a year: replacing the resigned Spiro Agnew with Ford, replacing the resigned Nixon with Ford, and filling Ford’s empty VP office with Nelson Rockefeller. I’m only focusing on cool historical precedent because Ford himself didn’t do much worth giving a crap about.

Next Up – Carter to H.W. Bush: The Donkey Party is Over

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