Monday, June 25, 2007

"not worth a pitcher of warm piss"- John Nance Garner

"The most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." John Adams

"Once there were two brothers. One went away to sea; the other was elected vice president. And nothing was heard of either of them again." Thomas R. Marshall

The vice Presidency of the United States has for much of American history been considered a death bed for ambitious politicians: thus, it was mainly occupied by politicians in the twilight of their career, those who had no future prospects and posed no threat to the incumbent president. The negative perception of the office stems from its dearth in constitutional responsibility (successor to the president; president of the senate and overseer of the electoral college) and the largely ceremonial aspects of the job (attend funeral; greet dignitaries etc...). Beyond that, the VP’s role is decided by the president.

The position, today, is not necessarily seen in the same stark terms as in the past (see quotes above). With the advent of the television era (Nixon in the 60's), the VP has become more visible and involved in matters of government: and the position has come to been seen as a potential launching pad to the presidency (only two sitting VP's have ever won the presidency on their own right: Van Buren and Bush). However, it is still largely looked at suspiciously, especially by ambitious politicians.

However, their may be a sea change in the future. With Dick Cheney as VP, the role of this position has seen a dramatic change; Cheney is widely considered to be the most powerful VP in the history of the nation. Having accrued more power in the executive branch and the White House in particular, the vice president has managed to change the old conception of the office as being presidential substitute; to being an important role player in policymaking, at par with cabinet officers. Cheney is an intimate advisor of the president, and plays a major role in all policy decisions (especially those regarding national security).

It is not clear whether this more activist role shall survive the Bush/Cheney era, but the increased visibility and power of the current arrangement is likely to enhance the allure of the position; and lead to a radical change on politicians' views of the position. No more shall a potential VP candidate be heard to quip: "I do not intend to be buried until I am dead."- Daniel Webster


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