Franklin Roosevelt’s first vice president was from Texas, and was the Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner. His claim to fame is he once said the job “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”
Yet, when offered the post he took it. The thought of being just a heartbeat away proved to be too tempting. Besides presiding over the Senate and casting a vote only when there is a tie, that along with being a “president in waiting,” is the total job description.
While former President Bill Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, claims to be the one who turned the office into a more powerful and influential institution, this claim, just as his claim to have invented the “internet,” is a bit exaggerated.
Of the modern vice presidents (since 1945) the one who did the most to make the office more influential within government and more powerful within the White House was Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s vice president. The key of course is having both an excellent working relationship and a high degree of personal trust. Without those components the post becomes just a box on an organization chart.
The vice presidents who have succeeded in being an asset all have in common the ability to be genuinely loyal to their president and have not tried to improve their public image at the expense of the Boss they serve. The demands of the modern presidency are such that any president can assign plenty of work to a true partner.
Of the 47 men who have served as vice president, 14 have become president, so it is a bit of a myth that being vice president is the easiest path to the White House. Since 1945, though, five did become president: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
Ironically, a vice presidential prospect sometimes gets more vetted than any presidential candidate. This is due not just to the fact the person might ascend to the office but also because selecting a running mate is now the first crucial decision showing judgment (or lack thereof) that the media holds up as a key criteria for a presumptive president. Arizona Senator John McCain’s disastrous selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008 is one example, as is South Dakota Senator George McGovern’s selection of Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton (Over Idaho Senator Frank Church), who had to withdraw after being caught withholding information about psychological treatments for depression.
Right now the great parlor game within the Beltway is trying to guess who the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees will select as their running mates. I’ve been dead wrong on almost all my “crystal ball” predictions so far this year, so I’ve nothing to lose by continuing to guess.
Conventional Wisdom says no Republican has ever won the White House without taking the state of Ohio. So, if presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump believes that to be true he has to be thinking about Ohio Governor John Kasich or Senator Rob Portman, both solid, moderate progressive Republicans who could help deliver Ohio but being on the ticket will not thrill the core conservatives that form the party’s base.
Trump has been everything but conventional this year. So why turn conventional?
The answer is he won’t. Look for the the Trumpster to surprise with the selection of someone who has never been elected to public office but already has some fairly good name recognition and fairly high favorabilities - like Dr. Ben Carson. or movie actor Mel Gibson or conservative radio host Glen Beck.
What about Hillary? Odds are she will go with a conventional pick. It won’t be Bernie, that’s for sure. Even if Bernie wins the June 7th California and Oregon primaries, she still has too much of a lead and unless there is a massive defection by the Super-delegates, suddenly worried that Hillary can’t win, the D’s will stick with Hillary and she will try to stick it to Bernie. In her mind he has stayed in too long to her detriment.
If Mrs. Clinton does the conventional many observers expect her to strengthen her standing within the Hispanic community and underscore Trump’s idiotic immigration plan by choosing one of several outstanding Latino legislators. If wagering go with California congressman Xavier Becerra. He is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, a member of the powerful Ways and Means committee and was a member of the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission (along with Idaho Senator Mike Crapo).
Another safe conventional pick would be Ohio’s Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown.
If, however, Mrs. Clinton wants to show she can be bold and go outside the box, she should look at a white male she knows well who could capably step in if called upon, someone who has the brains and ability with whom she previously worked well with; someone, however,who has never run for public office but nonetheless is a masterful political strategist and can give one hell uv a good speech, someone who could capture youth because he is still a “youngster,” someone right under her nose - Idaho’s Bruce Reed.