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.


















After their inaugurations, Roosevelt’s reservations about having to preside over the Senate proved to be unwarranted. The usual winter special session lasted only four days and adjourned until the following December. But McKinley seldom consulted Roosevelt on policy and appointments, instead generally looking upon him with a certain wariness toward his combustible nature. At the end of summer, he and McKinley each undertook a tour, the president visiting the Pan-American Exposition, at Buffalo,

showed no sign of concern, even hosting seventy guests at a lavish ball in a wooded site in which unseen musicians were hidden to serenade strolling couples.28 In anticipation of the worst, however, he wrote an “apologia” for later publication in which he again engaged in slippery semantic games, saying basically he hadn’t said anything against Burr that many others had not often said. Although he was strongly opposed to dueling, Hamilton said he felt obliged to accept the challenge to maintain

took a back seat, and upon the defeat of the Republican ticket of Senator John McCain of Arizona and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, Cheney returned to Wyoming, where he regularly expressed criticism of Democratic efforts to end the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the summer of 2010, he again underwent a successful implant of an electronic device to assure the proper functioning of his heart. Of all other American vice presidents up to Cheney’s time, none had made more of the

President George Bush, news conference, Kennebunkport, Maine, July 1, 1991. 14. Witcover, Joe Biden, 270; Senate Judiciary Committee, First Session, part 4, 5. 15. Witcover, Joe Biden, 273. 16. Ibid., 344. 17. Lott, Herding Cats, 238–41. 18. Witcover, Joe Biden, 347. 19. Author interview with Biden, December 21, 2009. 20. CNN, August 12, 2003. 21. Witcover, Joe Biden, 386. 22. Wilmington News Journal, January 5, 2008. 23. New Yorker, October 13, 2008. 24. Author interview with David

difference of opinion on this subject.”18 With little surprise, Harrison won overwhelmingly in the electoral college and brought Tyler in with him, although the popular vote was much closer—only six percentage points separating the old general from the former Democratic president, who struggled under the campaign taunts “Martin Van Ruin” and “Van, Van, he’s a used-up man.” Harrison’s death only a month into his presidency and Tyler’s sudden elevation to the office after having just recently

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