Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

So You Wanna be Vice President?

So you Wanna be Vice President?
Good Luck with That!

Now that Mitt Romney has secured the Republican nomination for president, the media is all abuzz with speculation about Romney's potential running mate. Whoever Romney picks, that person will have to go a long way to be as big a national disappointment as the average vice presidential candidate in recent years.

Our current Vice President, Joe Biden has been an exception to the rule of vice presidential disappointments. Despite right-wing efforts to paint Biden as a senile, goofy gaffe-factory, the truth is that Biden has been a steady voice in the administration helping to shape both foreign and domestic policy. Biden has been especially strong in supporting President Obama's efforts to end the Iraq War and draw the Afghanistan War to a close.

Sure, he said that health care reform was a "big f***ing deal" a little too loudly while standing a little too close to a microphone. But, despite the salty language, he was absolutely right.

Let's go down the list of recent winning and losing Vice Presidential candidates and see how history has treated them.

Sarah Palin (John McCain's running mate in 2008):
- Possibly the most shrill and divisive figure in current American politics
- Quit halfway through her term as Alaska governor
- Cashed in on her fame to get a job lying on Fox News as often as possible
- Has a national approval rating in the 30s
- Teased her die-hard Tea Party fans with a potential presidential run in 2012 but polled behind President Obama in a potential match-up even in her home state of Alaska

Dick Cheney (George W. Bush's running mate in 2000 and 2004):
- Credited for much of the mismanagement of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Shot a man in the face while in office
- Frequently compared to Darth Vader for his mean streak
- Got a new heart (triggering countless jokes about the doubts that he had a heart before the operation)
- Had an approval rating just above 10% when he left office

John Edwards (John Kerry's running mate in 2004):
- Dumped by his popular wife while she was dying of cancer because he was cheating on her while he ran for president
- Had a child with his extra-marital lover
- Became a tabloid laughing stock
- Currently on trial for campaign finance law violations related to his affair

Joe Lieberman (Al Gore's running mate in 2000):
- Defeated in the Connecticut Democratic primary but retained his Senate seat as an independent
- Endorsed McCain for president in 2008, nearly picked as McCain's running mate, and spoke at the Republican National Convention that year
- Has gone so far right-wing on most foreign and domestic issues that his impending retirement is being celebrated by Democrats across the nation

Al Gore (Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992 and 1996):
- By most accounts, was a competent if boring Vice President
- Won the popular vote for president in 2000 but lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush due to a poor campaign, along with an improbable series of weird events in Florida and in the Supreme Court
- Fell from the great success of his climate change book and movie An Inconvenient Truth to being the butt of fat jokes
- Accused of sexual assault by massage therapist
- Got divorced from longtime wife Tipper
- Founded a news network that has some excellent talent but is so far up the cable dial that it's almost impossible to find

Jack Kemp (Bob Dole's running mate in 1996):
- Former professional football player who had a solid congressional career and served in the cabinet under George H.W. Bush
- Something of a surprise pick as Dole's vice Presidential nominee
- Appeared on the cover of Time Magazine with Dole but was upstaged by the cover headline "Life on Mars"
- Fell into the background of public life after his loosing run and died in 2009

Lloyd Bentsen (Michael Dukakis's running mate in 1992):
- Long and distinguished congressional career
- Undistinguished presidential run in 1976
- Short-term Treasury Secretary during Clinton administration
- Most famous for telling a blushing Dan Quayle, "you're no Jack Kennedy"
- Fell into the background of public life and died in 2004

Dan Quayle (George H. W. Bush's running mate in 1988 and 1992):
- The modern definition of Vice Presidential disappointment
- Misspelled "potato" as judge of children's spelling bee
- Battled fictional character Murphy Brown on the issue of single parenthood
- Appeared to be a child among adults in any serious setting
- Ran a short-lived failing presidential campaign in 2000
- Fathered a current member of congress (Ben Quayle) best known for writing articles on an x-rated web site

So … is it any wonder most of the potential vice presidential nominees are running away from consideration as fast as possible?


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