Tag Archives: vice presidency

Why such anger, Mr. Vice President?

Why, oh why is Vice President Mike Pence so darn angry at The New York Times?

The allegedly “failing” newspaper has published a story revealing that Pence’s political team is working behind the scenes to mount a presidential campaign in 2020. Pence is simply outraged, I tell you. Outraged that the Times would report such a thing.

Pence is like all the other men who have preceded him in the second-highest office in the land. They all want to be the Top Dog, the Big Man, Numero Uno. Is Pence so different? I doubt it. Seriously.

To be sure, the NY Times said Pence is planning a primary campaign against Donald J. Trump Sr. His plans presume that the president won’t seek re-election, or that he will be otherwise, um, unavailable to run for a second term.

What might prevent Trump from running in 2020? Let’s see:

* He could be impeached and tossed out of office over allegations that he obstructed justice in the Russia investigation or that his campaign colluded with the Russians. There might be some financial issues that arise from special counsel Robert Mueller’s expanding investigation. Will it happen? I ain’t projecting such a thing. Or … the president might resign.

* The incessant armchair psychoanalysis might determine that the president suffers from some sort of serious personality disorder that compels him to tweet so often and with so much damaging effectiveness. I won’t join that debate, either.

* Trump might figure he cannot stand the incessant failure to get anything done. He’s not used to working with those who resist him at every turn. Trump’s business background has placed him at the top of the ladder. He’s got to share that standing now with Congress and the courts.

* Or, maybe the president can just declare victory — say “mission accomplished” — and pack it all up and head back to Mar-a-Lago, Bedminster or some other posh digs that will remove him and his family from that “real dump” where they live part time in Washington, D.C.

Is it so wrong to believe the vice president is getting ready for any eventuality? Is it wrong to presume that the No. 2 guy wants to ascend to the No. 1 spot?

The media have done a great job of keeping the public informed about the goings-on related to the Trump administration. The New York Times has just racked up another scoop.

Pipe down, Mr. Vice President.

Biden deserves the high praise

A question came to me after my post about Vice President Joe Biden receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction today from President Barack Obama.

It came from a reader of this blog who asks, simply: “What were Vice President Biden’s accomplishments?” The reader recalled when Biden in 1991 chaired the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that decided whether to recommend Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. He called Biden a “duplicitous blowhard.”

My sense, though, that Biden brought a kind of maturity to Barack Obama’s inner circle. He brought decades — three decades’ worth — of Senate experience; moreover, he brought several years, before his election to the Senate in 1972, of public service in Delaware.

Was there a signature achievement? Did the vice president author a policy or a strategy that the president followed? Was Joe Biden singularly responsible for a public policy decision?

I don’t believe he was successful in an outwardly visible way that the public would recognize.

I’ll accept the president’s accolades as a testament to the guidance and wise — and private — counsel that the vice president gave him during the tough times.

The gentleman who asked the question likely knows all of this. He did ask it, though, and I believe it’s worth sharing a brief response here to others who read these musings.

I suspect a lot of Americans perhaps are wondering the same thing about what Joe Biden accomplished during his eight years as vice president. We might not see it with our own eyes, but the man with whom he served in the White House surely did.

That’s good enough for me.

Yes, Americans will miss this team

Presidents and vice presidents haven’t always had the kind of relationship that Barack Obama and Joseph Biden have developed.

Lyndon Johnson famously summoned Hubert Humphrey to the White House for a conference … while LBJ was sitting on a commode; Dwight Eisenhower once responded to a question about what Richard Nixon contributed to his administration by saying: “If you give me a week, I’ll think of something”; John Nance Garner once referred to the vice presidency as being worth “a bucket of warm piss.”

To watch the current president bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the current vice president is to witness a true friendship that doubled as a national governing partnership.

The president added a final “with distinction” honor to the presentation, noting that such an honor is bestowed only rarely. He noted that his three immediate predecessors honored Pope John Paul II, President Reagan and Gen. Colin Powell “with distinction.”

With that, Vice President Biden joins some heady company.

And he deserves to stand with them.

Their partnership and friendship no doubt will make me miss them once they leave the public stage.

VP picks really do matter


John Nance Garner once famously described the vice presidency of the United States using language that has become legendary.

He said — and I’ll use his actual verbiage here — that the vice presidency “isn’t worth a bucket of warm piss.”

The prickly Texan wasn’t called “Cactus Jack” for nothing.

Well, the office has become something a bit more significant since the time Cactus Jack served with  Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Which brings us to the present day.

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to run with him this fall. Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton selected Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia to run with her.

Both men are good picks, given the constituencies to which they appeal. My hope, though, is that the office they seek becomes worth the effort they both plan to expend to attain it.

I guess the modern vice presidency can be defined by the role that Walter Mondale assumed when he became VP during the Carter administration. It’s become an office of actual substance. Mondale showed that a vice president can serve as a key adviser to the president who selects him.

George H.W. Bush’s relationship with Ronald Reagan wasn’t particularly close. Dan Quayle brought youthful enthusiasm to the administration led by Bush. Al Gore and Bill Clinton worked closely together for eight years. Dick Cheney and George W. Bush had an extraordinarily close relationship. And Joe Biden and Barack Obama’s tenure has produced a close personal and professional relationship.

Has the office become worth more than a certain bodily fluid?


Does it matter, though, in the selection of the next president? More than likely … no.

But anyone who’s “a heartbeat away from the presidency” needs to be taken seriously.

Take this veep job and shove it


It’s been said of vice presidents of the United States that their main responsibility is to keep a bag packed in case they have to attend some foreign dignitary’s funeral.

Sure, they’re next in line to the presidency, but until the past quarter-century or so they’ve been treated with far less respect than they deserve.

As the crusty Texan, the late Vice President John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner once observed of the office — and this is the sanitized version of what he said — “It ain’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”

CNN commentator Jeff Greenfield has written an excellent essay that suggests that the vice presidency well might be relegated to its former inglorious status when the next president takes office in January 2017,

Here’s his essay: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/2016-election-vice-presidency-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-213886

His premise is a simple one?

The Republican Party’s presumed nominee, Donald J. Trump, possesses an ego so y-u-u-u-g-e that he isn’t likely to take seriously a single word of advice given to him by whomever he selects as vice president. And the Democrats’ probable nominee? Hillary Rodham Clinton would share the White House with a man — her husband, former President Bill Clinton — who would serve as her “Economy Czar” and who would provide all the political and strategic advice she’ll need.

What does that mean for the vice president?

Well, I doubt we’ll see anything like the way, for example, President Lyndon Baines Johnson treated Vice President Hubert Humphrey when he reportedly summoned HHH to his office and lectured him about something while sitting on a commode.

Someone once asked President Dwight Eisenhower about the duties he’d assigned Vice President Richard Nixon. Ike responded, “If you give me a week, I’ll think of something.”

The vice presidency, as Greenfield notes, has become a very important office.

The past three VPs have assumed vital roles in their respective administrations, according to Greenfield. Al Gore became a valuable advisor to President Clinton; Dick Cheney, many have argued, grabbed too much power while serving as No. 2 to President Bush; and Joe Biden has become President Obama’s senior advisor/father confessor.

As Greenfield writes: “None of this means the there’ll be a shortage of veep wannabees. A number of Republicans, especially those without (or soon to be without) an official public role, have already signaled their availability: Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin. And it’s not hard to imagine that any number of Democrats would readily sign up, however challenging the job might be with Bill Clinton shuttling between East and West Wings.”

Well, at least the next VP will get to live in a nice house.


Will the VP stay with the fight once he leaves office?

Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

President Obama made a stirring choice Tuesday night.

He turned to Vice President Joe Biden and declared that he would be “in charge of mission control” while leading a concerted effort to rid the world of cancer. The vice president will be the point man to find a cure for the dreaded disease.

It was a poignant moment for one major reason: Joe Biden’s son, Beau, died this past year of brain cancer; the younger Biden’s death resonated around the world as we watched the vice president and his family grieve openly — but with dignity and grace.

So it makes sense for the president to put him in charge of such a noble effort.

However …

Barack Obama’s got just about one year left as president; Biden’s time as vice president expires at the same time.

Will this team of researchers find a cure between now and then? Probably not.

So, will the vice president remain as head of the team once the Obama administration leaves office? My hope is that whoever becomes the next president — Democrat or Republican — will ask Biden to remain on the job for as long as he is able.

Joe Biden can become a serious force of nature in the effort to raise money to conduct the research needed to find this cure. Granted, it’s not as if health institutions, think tanks, research hospitals and universities haven’t done a lot already to find a cure.

Having the vice president of the United States take the point on that effort shouldn’t end once he hands his office keys to whoever succeeds him.

Happy birthday, Mr. President

On the occasion of former President George H.W. Bush’s 91st birthday, I feel moved to tell you my George Bush Story.

It’s not all that grand, but it kind of speaks to the issue of: What does one say to someone who’s done so much in his life?

The former president came to Amarillo in 2007 to speak at a symposium about leadership. The event occurred at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. As editor of the editorial page for the Amarillo Globe-News, I received an invitation to “have lunch with President Bush.” Yes, I know that sounds high-falutin’. I use that phrase to make a little fun of myself, as I was one of about 200 or so “special guests” who broke bread with the 41st president.

He said a few words, thanked all the right people and we all concluded our lunch.

Then came another special moment. I was among some in the lunch crowd who got invited to a picture-taking session with president.

So, the president left the room to prepare for what’s known in the newspaper business as the classic “grip-and-grin” session. We followed him out of the room and then stood in line.

Here’s where a bit of trauma set in: trying to decide what to say to someone who’s done what this man has done over the course of lengthy and incredibly varied public service career.

Think about it. He was a naval aviator during World War II, and was shot down on a combat mission in the Pacific; he served in Congress for two terms, representing the Houston area; he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; head of the CIA; special envoy to China; vice president of the United States; then was elected president of the United States.

Not a bad dossier, correct. Indeed, I’ve said for years that George H.W. Bush arguably was the most qualified man ever to serve as president and commander in chief.

So, what does one way when you shake this man’s hand?

I settled on nothing at all original, witty or memorable.

I merely said, “Mr. President, thank you so much for the service you gave to this country.”

The more interesting element of that 45-second encounter, though, was his response. He bowed his head as he thanked me for the expression of gratitude. He asked me for my name and what I did for a living.

I truly hope he understood I was sincere in saying what I said.

Then it was over. I received a framed picture of “George Bush and me” a couple of weeks later. It’s on my bedroom dresser. I’m proud of it.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.


VP Biden suffers another shattering loss

Joe Biden’s standing among Americans has had its ups and downs.

The vice president is known as a garrulous guy, seemingly without a care in the world.

The reality, which was driven home yet again this weekend, is that he has suffered more heartache than most of us.

Vice President Biden’s son, Beau, died of a brain tumor. He was 46 years of age. He is survived by his wife and two children.

And a grieving father.


As the essay by Ezra Klein notes, Joe Biden’s own political career almost ended before it really took off. In December, before he took office in the U.S. Senate, to which he was elected, the senator-elect’s wife and daughter died in an auto accident. His two sons, Beau and Hunter, suffered serious injury. Sen.-elect Biden was just 29 at the time he was elected and would celebrate his 30th birthday before being sworn in, making him constitutionally qualified to serve in the Senate.

He wanted to quit. His friends talked him into staying the course. He took his oath next to his son Beau’s hospital bed.

Sen. Biden would marry again. Jill Biden became his children’s new “mom,” and the couple brought more children into the world together.

Klein’s essay recalls a startling speech Biden made in 2012, in which he said how he came to understand why someone would want to take their own life. They’d been “to the mountain top,” he said,  and they knew they wouldn’t ever get there again.

The vice president has been to several mountain tops in his most eventful life. As of today, though, he is suffering the level of grief that isn’t supposed to happen. He’s having to bury a child — yet again.

Oh, the strength that lies within some of us.

As Klein noted in that remarkable 2012 speech: “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye,” Biden says. “It will happen.”

Yep, VPOTUS is an important office

Jeffrey Frank’s essay in The New Yorker lays it out clearly.

The office of vice president of the United States is the second-most important office in the country, if not the world. It took the death of a president to make that fact abundantly clear.


Frank writes about Franklin Roosevelt’s death 70 years ago, on April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry Truman was told of FDR’s death in Georgia. He was rushed to the White House and sworn in as president.

It’s what President Truman didn’t know at the time that has been the subject of discussion ever since.

He didn’t know about the Manhattan Project, which produced the atomic bomb, which then ended World War II in August 1945.

Truman only that there was something afoot in New Mexico. Secretary of War Henry Stimson told the president he had something to tell him involving a top-secret project. He informed him of the bomb and said, in effect, that if we use this device it could end the war in a hurry.

The gist of Frank’s essay is that the vice presidency was fundamentally changed after FDR’s death. Presidents have had to rely on their No. 2 men, required to keep them briefed on everything of importance that goes in the government. Why? Well, as we’ve learned, presidents can leave office quickly and without warning.

President Kennedy was murdered in November 1963. President Nixon resigned in August 1974. Both men had selected steady and seasoned men as their vice presidents who could take over at a moment’s notice. Lyndon Johnson did so while the nation grieved JFK’s death and Gerald Ford took the oath after Nixon’s resignation and reassured us that “Our long, national nightmare is over. The Constitution works.”

Presidential nominees have picked well since FDR’s time. Some have chosen not so well, as Frank notes.

But the notion that vice presidency — in the (sanitized) words of Texan John Nance Garner — “isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit” was laid to rest forever when Harry Truman was handed the keys to the Oval Office.

We’ll be sure to keep this in mind when the next nominees for president pick their VPs.


Al Gore for president?

Ezra Klein is a bright young man. He’s a frequent TV news talk show guest and once contributed essays to the Washington Post.

He now writes for Vox — and he’s put forward a patently absurd, but still interesting idea: Al Gore should run for president of the United States.

Yeah, that Al Gore. The former two-term vice president who collected more popular votes than Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, only to lose the presidency when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stop counting the ballots in Florida, which went to Bush and gave him the presidency.


What commends Gore to make the race? According to Klein, he has more unique ideas on how to govern than any of the other so-called alternatives to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Klein agrees with Gore that climate change is an international concern. He thinks Gore is credible on the issue and can make the case eloquently using the White House as his bully pulpit.

Does he have drawbacks? Oh sure.

Klein writes: “The problem with a Gore candidacy, to be blunt, is Gore. He can be a wooden candidate. His relationship with the press is challenging, to say the least. He is an aging politician in a country that loves new faces. His finances are complicated, and he made an insane sum of money by selling his cable network to Al Jazeera. His divorce from Tipper Gore means his personal life isn’t the storybook it once was. He is loathed by conservatives, who find his environmentalism to be rank hypocrisy from a jet-setting, Davos-attending mansion dweller — as politically polarized as concern over climate change already is, Gore could polarize it yet further.”

Klein’s essay attached to this blog post is worth your time.

I’m hoping Al Gore reads it and gives the notion Klein puts forth some thought.