Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Them Crazy Veeps: The Top 3

The Veeps are ranked and ready to go. We've now arrived at the top 3, best Vice Presidents in history. For the dirt, you'll have to wait until next month. For now, soak in some of this awesome. (11 of 12)

#3 - Walter Frederick Mondale (Senator, Democrat-MN) 1977-1981 (1 full term) Pres: Carter

Throughout the 20th Century, the Vice Presidency changed drastically. Ever since Truman gave the office more of a position in the executive branch, VPs have been drifting away from their Senate duties. Walter Mondale was the turning point and the mold for all future VPs. Before Mondale, VPs were mainly hatchet men, sent out to do the president's dirty work in the Senate or in the media. He established himself as senior advisor to the president, a president-in-waiting instead of a seat filler. From Mondale's example, the American people expect the VP to be able to take over at a moment's notice, to the extent they should be as presidential as the president. With the exception of Dan Quayle, modern VPs have risen to Mondale's model. Had he not been so closely associated with the failed Carter presidency, he easily would have had a chance at the White House.



#2 - Martin Van Buren (Sec. of State, Democrat-NY) 1833-1837 (1 full term) Pres: Jackson

Jackson was so popular, he was able to point to the man he thought should follow him and put into the second chair his successor, not just a man who was electable. Van Buren's counsel often stopped the president from taking his sweeping reforms too far. Presiding over the Senate, he managed to control the debate over censuring Jackson, slavery, and the Bank of the United States, even though Senate rules would not allow him to speak. He single-handedly smacked down the three strongest political forces of their time: Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun. Van Buren was one of the rare few VPs to properly balance the opposing charges of his office.

#1 - George Herbert Walker Bush (former CIA director, Republican-MA) 1989-1993 (2 full terms) Pres: Reagan

Only four sitting VPs have been elected president: Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, and Bush. If you look at the four of them fairly, Adams and Jefferson don't really count. They were never really elected VP. They came in second place in a presidential election. If the measure of a VP is ability to take over the presidency, there is no better measure than winning a presidential election. That is why Van Buren and Bush are at the top of this list. They discharged their duties, supported fully their president's agenda, and still convinced the American people they were fit to be president.

Bush ranks higher than Van Buren because he was at a serious disadvantage. Jackson involved his successor in everything, but Reagan kept his VP at arm's length. Even though he embraced the limited scope of his office, on every occassion possible, Bush showed strong judgement and character. After Reagan was shot, Bush took great pains to make sure he was still perceived as the VP, not acting president. Even when Reagan underwent colon surgery and he was technically serving as president, Bush avoided the trappings of the office. While caught up in the Iran-Contra affair, Bush showed poise and strength on television as he brushed off charges of weakness.

Starting almost immediately after Reagan's re-election, Bush began planning his eventual run for the presidency. He found the perfect balance between supporting his president and sticking to his values. Even as a moderate, he won over a lot of conservative support. His presidency yielded mixed results, and a shitty VP, but there is no doubt he used the office of the vice presidency for precisely what it was designed to be.

Coming Up - How much damage can a VP really do? Seriously, how much do you think?

(Click here to view the whole list so far)

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