Remembering Number Two
On this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember some of our too often forgotten past number twos [snickering potty mouths should sober up in embarrassment as they read on]: Elbridge Gerry, Daniel Tompkins, Richard Johnson, George Dallas, Schuyler Colfax, Henry Wilson, William Wheeler, Thomas Hendricks, Levi Morton, Garret Hobart, Charles Fairbanks, James Sherman, Thomas Marshall and Charles Curtis. These distinguished Americans were among those who had the honor of serving as Vice President of the United States.
This weekend, John McCain is hosting some of his potential running mates at his ranch. I guess having a ranch is now a pre-requisite for a Republican who would like to be President, which is probably why Rudy's campaign never got off the ground. And as Barack Obama wraps up the Democratic nomination, talk of his possible running mate is warming up, with Hillary's name unfortunately still popping up. I suspect the number of Hillary supporters who claim they will not vote for Obama is equaled or exceeded by the number of Obama supporters (like me) who regurgitate at the thought of Billary back in the White House.
The VP spot originally went to the number two vote getter in the race for President, but as political parties developed, that concept was dropped and the VP became a running mate perceived as no more than a second fiddle. Indeed, since VP Van Buren won promotion to President in 1836, nobody was able to do it again for 152 years, with Bush I winning the job in 1988 only to be voted out four years later.
Eight Vice Presidents have risen to the Presidency on the death of the President, and one took over when a President resigned in spite of protesting "I am not a crook". Seven Vice Presidents have died in office (the last one in 1912) and two resigned, John Calhoun to run for the Senate and Spiro Agnew who beat his non-crook President through the door marked resignation. That non-crook Nixon is the only VP who was elected President after having been out of the White House for at least four years.
Conventional wisdom nowadays says the VP choice is not crucial, and it is more important that it not detract from the ticket. A favorite son (or daughter) from a big battleground state is considered a strong possibility, so Ohio and Pennsylvania come to mind. Some say the VP candidate should balance and complement the Presidential nominee. For McCain that sounds like a young, black, religious, right wing ideologue - someone like the goofy Alan Keyes. For Obama it might be an older white conservative with Jewish appeal - oh no, not Lieberman again.
Seriously, Obama could be helped by a running mate who is a bit feisty and seems to enjoy sparring with opponents - someone like Hillary if she did not come with all the Clinton baggage. Maybe Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Clinton supporter, could do the job and bring more Clinton supporters to the polls. McCain could benefit from someone who is a solid, knowledgeable conservative who gets the facts straight and is consistent. I don't want to give the Republicans any help, so I'll stick with my recommendation above. John McCain, Alan Keyes is your man.