Yes, I think it would have been surprising to people in 1937 because the first Catholic to be nominated for President by a major party — Al Smith — had only been nominated a few years earlier, in 1928. Smith lost the 1928 election badly to Herbert Hoover (Popular vote margin: 58%-41%; Electoral vote margin: 444-87). Smith’s loss to Hoover wasn’t solely because of his Catholic faith, but it certainly played a part in his defeat, especially in parts of the South, which was solidly Democratic at the time. In 1928, Smith had to battle claims that he would be a pawn of the Pope and rule with the Vatican’s guidance — allegations which Kennedy had to face to lesser extent (but still had to face) in 1960.
The Catholic issue doesn’t seem like as big of an issue to us today until we look at the fact that a Catholic wasn’t nominated for President by a major party until Smith in 1928 and that only one Catholic (JFK) has ever been elected President. And Joe Biden is the first Catholic Vice President in American history.
Today they certainly check. If someone was elected to the Senate at 29 and didn’t turn 30 until after the new Congressional session started, the Senator-elect would just have to wait until he or she turned 30 and became Constitutionally eligible before they could take their seat. You mentioned Biden, who was 29 when he was elected, but turned 30 prior to the date he was scheduled to be sworn in. In the 1930’s, a Senator-elect from West Virginia won his seat when he was 29 and didn’t turn 30 until after the Congressional session started, so he had to wait until his 30th birthday before he could take his seat.
Back in the nation’s relatively early days it was a bit easier to slide into a Congressional seat before hitting the required age, but that could have just been due to the fact that it was easier to fudge the records at a time when record-keeping wasn’t as thorough. Or it could have simply been that the rest of the Senate didn’t make a fuss about it. Henry Clay actually took his seat in the Senate when he was still 29 years old and two other Senators in the early 19th Century — Virginia’s Armistead T. Mason and Tennessee’s John Eaton — joined the Senate when they were just 28 years old.
You have to be 30, not 35, to be a Senator. Biden was 29 when he was first elected to the Senate, but his birthday was a couple of weeks after Election Day, so he became old enough prior to being sworn-in.
Joe Biden could absolutely win the Iowa Caucus. That’s 100% retail politics and Biden is one of the two-best retail politicians in the United States. Of course, the other one is Bill Clinton, but I think Biden could definitely beat Hillary in Iowa. After that, things would get tough.
What will be interesting to see if Biden and Hillary both run in 2016 is how their campaigns are built. Even though Biden has been his Vice President for two terms, Obama will almost certainly sit the primaries out and remain neutral. Will some of the people who helped build the Obama political machine jump in early and, if so, who will they join? Will Hillary open things up and bring in outsiders who are new to Clintonworld? The nominating process isn’t about winning votes; it’s about winning delegates. That’s a mistake Hillary Clinton made in 2008 and I doubt she’ll make it again if she decides to run in 2016.
Listen, I love Joseph Robinette Biden more than any other American politician alive today not named “Bill Clinton”, but he is not made for the Supreme Court. And I think Vice President Biden would be the first to agree with that.
Joe Biden belongs in front of a big microphone and a camera with a red light on. He belongs at the table making deals, cracking jokes, knocking heads, and rocking his aviator shades. Joe Biden belongs in the Senate, in that nice little residence at the Naval Observatory, and, if there is justice in this world, maybe even the Oval Office. That’s where Joe Biden should be.
Oh, and he should also be Batman.
Because you’re a terrorist!
Joe Biden, to Muammar Qaddafi, when Qaddafi asked then-Senator Biden why the United States still classified Libya as a nation that supported terrorism
But two Vice Presidents were non-WASPs: Charles Curtis (Herbert Hoover’s VP) was 1/4th Native American was the first President or Vice President with non-European ancestry and Vice President Biden is the first Roman Catholic VP in history.
The Vice Presidency is unique in that its power and prestige is largely a modern development. Now “modern” is used in different ways for different things. Many historians say that the first “modern” campaign was the 1800 campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Some say that the first “modern” Presidential election was the 1824 contest between John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford that was decided by the House of Representatives. But when I say that the Vice Presidency’s importance is a largely a “modern” development, I mean within the lifetime of most of the people reading this.
Garret A. Hobart, McKinley’s first Vice President, was probably the first Vice President with any power or responsibility outside of the VP’s Constitutional role as president of the Senate. President McKinley had a lot of respect for Vice President Hobart and they were friends, and Hobart served in a role not too different from that of a present-day White House Chief of Staff. Hobart was an anomaly, though. After he died in office, the VP once again became “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”, as the first Vice President, John Adams, described it.
To a certain extent, Richard Nixon (as Eisenhower’s VP from 1953-1961) and Lyndon Johnson (as JFK’s VP from 1961-1963) expanded the duties a bit. Nixon was a bit more visible partly because he was a rising young star in the GOP, but also because President Eisenhower, who was the oldest Chief Executive in history upon leaving office, suffered a heart attack, a mild stroke, and serious intestinal problems during his term. LBJ despised the Vice Presidency but he was one of the first VPs regularly invited to Cabinet meetings and was given a highly-visible and important role as chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council during the space race with the Soviet Union and participated in the tense deliberations throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis.
It was Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter’s VP from 1977-1981) who helped mold the Vice Presidency into what we know it as today — an integral member of the President’s Administration with a spot in the Cabinet and National Security Council, and an office in the White House itself. George H.W. Bush (Reagan’s VP from 1981-1989) and Dan Quayle (Bush 41’s VP from 1989-1993) weren’t quite as powerful as Mondale, but still much more involved in the workings of the Executive Branch than most of their Vice Presidential predecessors.
Al Gore (Bill Clinton’s VP from 1993-2001) and Dick Cheney (Bush 43’s VP from 2001-2009) took the Mondale model of the Vice Presidency and, with the blessing of their Presidents, made the position into one of the most powerful posts in the world. Clinton and Gore, both Southerners, close in age, and not too far apart politically, changed the idea that running mates should be different from one another and balance each other out. Once elected, Clinton gave Gore tons of responsibility and power — not quite a co-Presidency, but something more than second fiddle to the Oval Office.
Cheney, of course, was so influential that many people considered him the power behind the throne — a dark force who was the instrument pushing through the most controversial policies of George W. Bush’s Administration. Now, that isn’t quiet correct. It’s clear now that George W. Bush had far more control of his Administration than people gave him credit for and that Cheney’s power and influence was largely neutralized in Bush’s second term as Cheney’s allies were forced out of the Administration and Bush became more confident in his duties.
As for Vice President Biden, he took the role as Barack Obama’s running mate with the promise that he would have the President’s ear. Biden wanted to scale back some of the seemingly limitless power that Cheney supposedly held at the beginning of George W. Bush’s term, but Biden also wanted a real role in the Obama Administration and he has had one. Because of his lengthy experience in the Senate and political connections, and Obama’s relative inexperience, Biden has been called upon time-after-time to close the deal on important legislation from the Affordable Health Care Act to the negotiations over the debt ceiling and economic policy. Biden is the Mariano Rivera of the Obama Administration — a superstar legislative liaison with a unique skill set that most Vice Presidents have lacked. Vice Presidents Mondale, Bush, Quayle, Gore, and Cheney all served in Congress, but none of them had the experience on Capitol Hill that Biden had. And none of them built relationships with Senators and Congressmen like Biden did for nearly 40 years. He has been more than active and influential — Joe Biden has been invaluable to the Obama Administration.
I’m looking forward to reading the book. I didn’t get an advanced copy of Double Down: Game Change 2012, so I probably won’t get a chance to read it until the beginning of next week.
I’m not surprised that the Obama campaign thought about dumping Biden for Hillary — it’s politics, and while Plouffe said they never seriously considered it, I’m sure they did because there was a point where it looked like Romney could actually win the election. But as I said last year when I was asked whether they SHOULD dump Biden for Hillary, Joe Biden has been a hard-working, loyal, and incredibly influential Vice President. They only reason that they should have done the switch and made Hillary VP and Biden Secretary of State is if Biden wanted to do it. He deserved that much. Biden has been the closer on several significant pieces of legislation with Congress. Obama has needed Biden, no matter how much Biden might tend to go off page (and I think his tendency to speak his mind if both overrated and refreshing).
By the way, there’s no way Hillary Clinton would have taken the Vice Presidency in the second term of an Obama Administration. She spent most of her time as Secretary of State traveling the world, and the best possible strategy for her potential 2016 run was getting the hell out of government. If she was Vice President, whoever her opponents are in 2016 (both Democrat and Republican) could tie her to whatever goes wrong in Obama’s second term.
I think both parties need to dump their leadership in both chambers of Congress in order for things to have a shot at turning around. We are in the midst of a strange situation — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate are abysmal, don’t have the influence or power to whip their caucuses in line, aren’t respected by junior members within their own party, can’t work together effectively with the opposition or the President, and yet they are entrenched in their respective leadership positions. It’s as if the coach of a football team was terrible at his job, couldn’t win a game, lost the respect of his players, had no chance at out-coaching the opposition, but couldn’t be fired for some reason.
The House of Representatives isn’t a legislative body; it’s a tar pit. The Senate is no better. A big part of the blame belongs to us. It is our job to toss out shitty, ineffective, inefficient members of Congress. The Senate is tougher to do that with because they have six-year-long terms and only a third or so of the Senators are up for reelection every two years. But we have the ability to make changes in the House of Representatives every two years. We could fire every single member of the House and replace them with someone new in 2014. Will we? Of course not. The voters are partly to blame.
The senior members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — are largely to blame for the day-to-day bullshit that has brought the government to the place that it has been in for the last six years or so. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer should not have jobs. They are the party leaders of the worst Congress in American history. I didn’t include the Senate whips — Dick Durbin and John Cornyn — because I think those two are the only party leaders in Congress who are worth a shit, but I wouldn’t put up a fight if they lost their jobs, too.
The party leaders in the House and the Senate should have control of their respective caucuses at all times. If not, they aren’t leading. I’m stunned at how little respect many of the junior members of Congress — even freshmen in the House of Representatives! — have for the leaders of their own party. Raul Labrador, a Republican member of the House, was elected in 2010. In 2011, as a freshman Congressman, Labrador stood up in a GOP conference told John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” That’s right, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives — one of the five most powerful positions in the country when there is someone useful in the job — implored his fellow Republicans to work together, a freshman Congressman from Idaho straight up told him no in front of every other House Republican. Speaker Boehner should have remembered that disrespect and in 2012, he should have CRUSHED Labrador. He should have withheld RNC money from Labrador. He should have built up a primary challenger against Labrador. He should have pulled together every powerful Republican that can breathe and walk, flown them to Idaho, and campaigned against Labrador. Instead? Nothing. Labrador was reelected last year. That’s just one example.
The Democrats are just as bad. They control the Senate and they have a Democrat in the White House. But Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and the Democrat from Nevada is, hands-down, the worst Majority Leader in American history. Nobody is intimidated by him, nobody is influenced by him, nobody respects him. And why should they? Why should the White House defer to him? In 2011, Vice President Biden met with Senator Reid to help pass the two-year extension to the Bush-era tax cuts. The White House wasn’t ecstatic about the deal that they made with Republicans to extend the tax cuts, but politics require compromises. Progress requires compromise.
So, when the Democratic President sent his Vice President to settle the issue with the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, how did Harry Reid decide to help out his President and Vice President? He said this to the President and Vice President of the United States:
"You guys went and did this deal. You go sell it. Not my deal, not my problem. Not telling you I’m against it, not telling you I’m for it, not yelling at you, just saying you guys made this deal. Hope you can line up the Senate Democrats behind you because I’m not going to."
Harry Reid wasn’t taking a stand because of a strong, ideological position that he was absolutely opposed to compromising on. No, Harry Reid was acting like a fucking baby because the White House closed a deal that Harry Reid simply couldn’t do on his own. If FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, or Bush 43 were President, Harry Reid would be working in a pawn shop in Las Vegas tonight. But Harry Reid is still the Senate Majority Leader.
I know that I am ranting, but the whole subject pisses me off because the problems are so clear and the solutions are so simple. The party leadership — Majority and Minority, Democrats and Republicans — from both chambers of Congress — House and Senate — NEED TO GO.
There is one more person who deserves some blame for how shitty the 112th Congress (9% approval rating, by the way) was and the 113th Congress has been, and he’s not a member of Congress: President Barack Obama. As I mentioned above, every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, would have absolutely smashed individual members of the House and Senate, specific blocs of voters, and each chamber of Congress as a whole if they had been as intransigent, disrespectful, and ineffective as these last two Congresses have been. It wouldn’t have gotten as bad with many of those Presidents because they either had a mastery of the legislative process or they used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to win the public opinion war. President Obama has done none of these things. Junior Senators and freshman House members from Obama’s own party have no problem openly criticizing the President or opposing Administration goals. That should NEVER happen. Joe Manchin should be working in a coal mine in West Virginia instead of taking shots at his own President whenever he feels like it. Manchin’s predecessor, Robert Byrd, earned the right to be independent whenever he wanted, but even after 50 years in the Senate, Byrd knew to support his President. What’s even worse is that Obama’s top Cabinet members are legendary Senators — Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Whenever a President wants something from his Democrats on the Hill, he should get it. If not, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel should be laying the "Johnson Treatment” on anyone who needs it. They have to because Obama obviously doesn’t have that weapon in his arsenal. As embarrassing as Obama’s influence with his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill has been, can you imagine how bad it would be without Joe Biden doing the dirty work with Congress over the past four years?
There’s a lot of anger in this post and I know that it is all over the place, but I am truly angry about this subject. As I said, the problems are clear and the solutions are obvious. And the past 80 years of Presidential/Congressional relations are a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t. We need new party leaders on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress. And we need a President whose approach to dealing with useless Congresses and intransigent, disrespectful Congressmen is more FDR/Eisenhower/LBJ than Carter/Obama.
"Remember, I got criticized for saying I support gay marriage….I just decided I couldn’t be quiet about it anymore, and everybody was stunned that that’s where the public is. And I’m not stunned; it’s where the public’s been for a while. Talk to any of your kids, for God’s sake."