The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power

The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power

Language: English

Pages: 592

ISBN: 1588344711

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The American Vice Presidency is an all-inclusive examination of the vice presidency throughout American history. Acclaimed political journalist and author Jules Witcover chronicles each of the 47 vice presidents, including their personal biographies and their achievements--or lack thereof--during their vice presidential tenures. He explores how the roles and responsibilities were first subject to the whims of the presidents under whom they served, but came in time to be expanded by enlightened chief executives and the initiatives of the vice presidents themselves. Constitutionally assigned only to preside over the Senate as they stand by to fill a presidential vacancy, early vice presidents were left to languish in irrelevance and ineffectiveness; only in recent decades have vice presidents received--or taken--more power. In particular, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden have undertaken greater and more significant responsibilities. Witcover reports the political maneuvering and manipulation that transformed the vice presidency from mere consolation prize to de facto assistant presidency. The American Vice Presidency, an insightful, revealing look at this oft-dismissed office, is a must-have for lovers of behind-the-scenes political history.

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with renewed efforts to achieve peace through negotiations with France, while urging Congress to build up America’s defenses, particularly against attacks and plunder of American shipping at sea. The equipping of three new navy frigates was authorized to put some muscle behind Adams’s words. Meanwhile, the armies of the young French general Napoleon Bonaparte were attacking Austria and Italy and reportedly contemplating an invasion of Britain, increasing the Adams’s urgency to avoid outright war

and commanding independence would offer a promise of lifting the much-maligned vice presidency out of the shadows. CHARLES G. DAWES OF ILLINOIS One of the most accomplished of all American vice presidents joined the second presidential term of the accidental president Calvin Coolidge in 1925. But his outspokenness and gruffness in contrast with the mild-mannered Silent Cal produced one of the most unusual odd couples to share the two highest offices in the land up to that time. Charles G.

Massachusetts, and his running mate, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. In a bravado gesture to the conservative Republican anti-tax crowd in his acceptance speech at the convention, Bush proclaimed, enunciating each word, “Read my lips! No new taxes!”24 It was a crowd-pleasing gambit he would come to regret later. In a major surprise, Bush chose a lightly regarded Republican senator from Indiana, J. Danforth Quayle, grandson of the conservative Indiana and Arizona newspaper entrepreneur Eugene

224. 26. Solberg, Hubert Humphrey, 284. 27. Ibid., 290; Eisele, Almost to the Presidency, 244. 28. Eisele, Almost to the Presidency, 250. 29. Solberg, Hubert Humphrey, 317–18. 30. Witcover, 85 Days, 28. 31. Witcover, The Year the Dream Died, 102. 32. Ibid., 142. 33. Witcover, 85 Days, 290. 34. Eisele, Almost to the Presidency, 336. 35. Witcover, The Year the Dream Died, 321. 36. Ibid., 360. 37. Ibid., 372. 38. O’Brien, No Final Victories, 259–60. 39. Ibid., 261. 40. Humphrey, The

foot.”41 As for Hamlin, he told his wife he would not “ask favor of the Administration to prevent me from going to the poor house. So you see I have some pride.”42 In his final duties as president of the Senate, Hamlin tallied the election results and announced the Lincoln-Johnson ticket the winner, and on Inauguration Day he accompanied his successor to the ceremony, with ramifications to be related in the next chapter. Two days after paying a farewell call on Lincoln, Hamlin headed home to

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