Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "Vice Presidents"

William Rufus DeVane King of Alabama was one of the few people in American History who openly sought the Vice Presidency of the United States and when Franklin Pierce was elected President in November 1852, King finally had the opportunity to become the presiding officer of the United States Senate.

Within days of the 1852 election, King found a nagging illness to be worsening.  As the date of his inauguration as Vice President came closer, King developed a vicious cough and lost so much weight that he was almost unrecognizable to friends and colleagues.  The Vice Presidency was finally near his grasp, so King left the cold of a Washington, D.C. winter to attempt to recover his health in the tropical climate of Cuba.

In Cuba, King’s health did not improve.  Though he was supposed to be sworn in on March 4, 1853 in Washington, King found that he didn’t have the strength to even leave the island.  As a tribute to King’s long service, Congress decided to give special authorization for the most unlikely inauguration for any government official in American History.  Twenty days after Franklin Pierce became President, a representative of the United States government met an emaciated William Rufus DeVane King in the small seaside village of Matanzas, Cuba.  King couldn’t stand under his own power, so he as he was helped to his feet and steadied, he took the oath of office as the 13th Vice President of the United States.  King is the only President or Vice President to be inaugurated in a foreign country.

Vice President King never made it back to Washington, D.C.  Determined to return to his country, he made a arduous journey back to his plantation in Cahaba, Alabama.  By the time he arrived in Alabama, King was completely weakened by tuberculosis and near death.  On April 18, 1853, William Rufus DeVane King died at his home at the age of 67.  King served only 45 days as Vice President, a shorter term than all but two Vice Presidents — John Tyler and Andrew Johnson — who served brief terms before succeeding to the Presidency upon the deaths of William Henry Harrison and Abraham Lincoln respectively.

Today, if King is remembered at all, it is not for his brief term as Vice President or the fact that he was inaugurated in Cuba.  What King is most well-known for is probably the long-standing rumor that he and James Buchanan, the 15th President, may have been involved in a homosexual relationship.  Nothing is certain and the rumors can never be proven true, but I’ve written about the allegations before.  What is a fact is that Buchanan and King were incredibly close, lived together for 15 years, were widely considered to be lovers by their contemporaries, wrote long and loving letters to one another (most of which were later destroyed by Buchanan prior to his death, and were the only President and Vice President respectively to remain lifelong bachelors.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you have to be 35 years old to be VP too?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes.  The Constitutional eligibility requirements for Vice President are exactly the same as the requirements for President.  That’s why a term-limited former President (Bill Clinton, for example) could not be elected Vice President.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm confused and think you can help. In House of Cards there is a scene where the VP is being referred to as Mr. President. Was that a mistake? I don't understand.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

In the scene you’re referring to, the Vice President is addressed as “Mr. President” because he is in the Senate chamber executing his only Constitutional responsibility — presiding over the Senate.  Although the Vice President is President of the Senate, he rarely presides over it unless there is some important reason or if he is needed to break a tie.

There is a president pro tempore of the Senate — generally the longest-serving Senator of the majority party — but the day-to-day duty of presiding over the Senate is usually rotated from Senator-to-Senator.  During debate, anyone who is sitting in the chair presiding over Senate activities is addressed as “Mr. President” as part of parliamentary procedure.

I have no hesitation in saying that Calhoun is one of the most base hypocritical and unprincipled villains in the United States…(his) vote in the case of Mr. Van Buren, has displayed a want of every sense of honor, justice or magnanimity.”

Andrew Jackson, on his own Vice President, John C. Calhoun, after Calhoun cast a tie-breaking vote against Jackson’s nomination of Martin Van Buren as Minister to Great Britain

Asker Anonymous Asks:
can the president fire the vice president? what would happen if the vp didn't want all of his responsibilities
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

1. No, the President cannot fire the Vice President. The VP has won a national election and has taken a Constitutional oath. He can be impeached by the House and removed from office if convicted by the Senate, but the President can’t just arbitrarily get rid of the VP.

2. Technically, the Vice President is only responsible for presiding over the Senate and casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Besides assuming office in the case of a President’s death, incapacitation, resignation, or removal, the Vice President has no other Constitutional duties.

The Vice President does not have to be an integral part of the Administration. Most Vice Presidents throughout our history have had little to no professional relationship with the Presidents that they were elected with. Most VPs were considered to be legislative functionaries rather than members of the team running the Executive branch.

If, for some reason, the next President shut the VP out of their Administration and we only saw that VP presiding over the Senate once in awhile and breaking the rare tie vote now and then, it would seem completely alien to us. But that’s what the traditional role of the Vice President largely was basically until the second half of the 20th Century. A Vice President with an important Executive branch presence and an office in the White House or the OEOB is a surprisingly modern development.

"[Spiro Agnew has] tremendous brain power, great courage, and [an] unparalleled legal mind. He has vigor and imagination and, above all, he acts." — Richard Nixon, explaining why Agnew was qualified to be his Vice President, 1969

"By any criteria he falls short. Energy? He doesn’t work hard. He likes to play golf [instead]. Leadership? [Nixon simply laughs at the idea]. Consistency? He’s all over the place. He’s not [even] really a conservative, you know?" — Richard Nixon, explaining to aide John Ehrlichman why Agnew was not qualified to be President

I now know the difference between a cactus and a caucus — in a cactus, all the pricks are on the outside.

Lyndon B. Johnson, to reporters, after meeting with the Senate’s Democratic Caucus following LBJ’s election as Vice President, January 1961

Jerry, you’re a damn fool to do this.

Betty Ford, to Gerald Ford, on his decision to dump Vice President Nelson Rockefeller from the ticket in 1976 in favor of Bob Dole

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Your blog is so interesting! I learn so much. I was wondering, what would happen if no one ran for president? (I realize this would only happen in some crazy alternate universe, but let's just say for some reason there are zero candidates.)
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Oooh…interesting question!  

It is hard to visualize a situation where there are absolutely no candidates for President, so let’s look at it this way:  What would happen if nobody actually won a Presidential election?  Let’s say an election was disputed or undecided and we arrived at Inauguration Day without a President-elect or Vice President-elect.

Now, something like this has never happened, and when it comes to Constitutional crises where things aren’t clearly defined there is always some room for surprises.  For example, when President William Henry Harrison died a month into his term in 1841, most American political leaders believed that the Vice President, John Tyler, would only be “acting President”.  Tyler, however, quickly assumed the office of the Presidency in name, trappings, and all the power that came with it and set the precedent which all future Vice Presidents who assumed office would follow (and which was eventually codified in the Constitution with the 25th Amendment).

So, if no President or Vice President was been elected or qualified for office as of Inauguration Day, the 20th Amendment (ratified in 1933), states that “Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified”.  

In other words, it would be up to Congress to decide HOW the President or Vice President should be selected and WHO the President and Vice President would be.  Most likely, the House of Representatives would choose the President and the Senate would choose the Vice President.  I make that assumption because that’s what would happen if no candidate won an Electoral College majority — the Presidency would be decided by the House and the Vice Presidency would be decided by the Senate.

Good question!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Were there any non WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) presidents (other than Obama [not white] and Kennedy[not a protestant])?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Nope. 

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.

Can you give any examples on how Joe Biden is one of the most "active and influential" VPs?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Yes, quite a few of our Vice Presidents have died in office, actually — SEVEN out of 47 total, so about 15% of the VPs didn’t survive their term.

There are several reasons why that’s not a better-known fact.  First of all, it hasn’t happened in the last 100 years.  The most recent Vice President to die in office was James Schoolcraft Sherman, VP under President Taft, in 1912.  Since Sherman’s death, three Presidents have died in office (Harding, FDR, and JFK), so the memory of a Vice President dying office has been a pretty distant one for decades.  Secondly, no Vice President has been the victim of an assassination.  The fact that all seven who died in office passed away from natural causes also makes it less shocking or sensational and not quite as memorable as the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy.

More than anything, the low profile, relative powerlessness, and lack of influence of Vice Presidents of the 19th Century and early-20th Century is why most people don’t know that so many VPs died in office and why people often overlook the remarkable fact that since 1789 the Vice Presidency has been vacant for a whopping cumulative total of 37 years, 290 days.  I’ve written a few times about the lowly position the Vice President was in until the mid-20th Century and I’ve also detailed all of the situations due to a death in office, resignation, or assumption of the Presidency which left the Vice Presidency vacant with no mechanism for a replacement until the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967.

Here’s a look at the Vice Presidents who died in office:

George Clinton (1739-1812), 4th Vice President (1805-1812)
Clinton (no relation to Bill) served as VP for two Presidents — Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  A military leader during the Revolutionary War and the 1st Governor of New York, Clinton actually opposed the ratification of the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was included.  He served as VP during Jefferson’s second term (1805-1809) and Madison’s first term, but died in 1812 at the age of 72 as Madison was preparing to seek reelection.

Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), 5th Vice President (1813-1814)
With George Clinton dead, President Madison turned to Elbridge Gerry to be his running mate in 1812 despite Gerry being nearly as old as Clinton was.  Vice President Gerry lasted for less than two years, dying in November 1814 at the age of 70.  James Madison is the only President to have two incumbent Vice Presidents die in office.

William Rufus DeVane King (1786-1853), 13th Vice President (1853)
King had an incredible resume featuring a long career full of political and diplomatic experience when he was tabbed to be Franklin Pierce’s running mate.  Unfortunately, King, much like Clinton and Gerry, was one of the oldest Vice Presidents in history.  Even worse, King was dying of tuberculosis.  King was in Cuba hoping that the climate would help rehabilitate his health at the time of President Pierce’s inauguration and was so ill that Congress granted him permission to be sworn in as Vice President while he was in Cuba.  His health continued to fail and he headed home to Alabama where he died at the age of 67 after just 45 days as VP.  Vice President King never set foot in Washington, D.C. during his brief Vice Presidency.

Henry Wilson (1812-1875), 18th Vice President (1873-1875)
With his first term Vice President Schuyler Colfax tainted by scandal, Ulysses S. Grant turned to Henry Wilson as his running mate for his second term.  Wilson was born into devastating poverty as Jeremiah Jones Colbath and spent 10 years as an indentured servant before he was able to pay for his freedom.  Wilson changed his name, self-educated himself, and became a shoemaker before entering public service.  Shortly after becoming VP in 1873 Wilson suffered a minor stroke but was recovering well and returned to his duties in the Senate.  In November 1875, the 63-year-old Vice President suffered a series of strokes at the Capitol.  In a scene eerily reminiscent of the final hours of John Quincy Adams’s life, Vice President Wilson was carried to a room inside the U.S. Capitol building where he died shortly thereafter.

Thomas Andrews Hendricks (1819-1885), 21st Vice President (1885)
Elected as Vice President for the first of Grover Cleveland’s two non-consecutive terms, Thomas A. Hendricks was briefly Vice President — he died just eight months into his term at the age of 66 — at a tumultuous time which left the Vice Presidency vacant so much that Americans could easily be lead to believe that the position was simply abolished.  In the eight years between James Garfield’s inauguration (1881) and the end of Grover Cleveland’s first time (1889) the Vice Presidency was vacant for 2,457 out of 2,922 days — that’s 84% of the time!  The reason for such a high vacancy rate is because, as I mentioned, there was no way to fill a VP vacancy until 1967 and there was quick turnover in the Vice Presidency from 1881-1889.  Garfield was assassinated just a few months into his term in 1881 leading to the succession of Chester A. Arthur and resulting in an VP vacancy from September 1881 until March 1885.  Hendricks was inaugurated alongside President Cleveland in March 1885 and finally filled a Vice Presidency that had been empty for nearly four years, but Hendricks was dead eight months later, leaving the office vacant again from November 1885 until March 1889.  To show how little the Vice Presidency meant at that point in history, most Americans didn’t even notice that the office was vacant for all but a few months for the last eight years.  Fortunately, the country didn’t have to face the possible Constitutional crisis that would have occurred if President Arthur or President Cleveland had died in office without a Vice President to succeed them.

Garret Augustus Hobart (1844-1899), 24th Vice President (1897-1899)
As I have written on many different occasions, Garret Hobart, the VP during William McKinley’s first term, was truly the first “modern” Vice President in the way that we think of the VP today and the most influential VP from the position’s creation in 1789 until arguably Walter Mondale in 1977.  President McKinley was close to Hobart personally, he trusted him professionally, and he made the VP a member of his Administration whereas Hobart’s predecessors (and most of his successors) had no role in the Executive branch and basically spent entire terms half-heartedly presiding over the Senate (if they did it), casting the rare tie-breaker vote, and checking to see if the President had a pulse.  Vice President Hobart wasn’t simply a Constitutionally-mandated tie-breaker, he was a full-fledged Presidential advisor and McKinley confidant.  Unfortunately, Hobart was seriously ill with heart disease and his health began failing about a year into McKinley’s first term.  By November 1899 it was clear that no amount of rest or fresh ocean air was going to save his life and the 55-year-old Vice President was dead by the end of the month.  Had Hobart’s health held up, he almost certainly would have continued as McKinley’s running mate in 1900 (a spot that instead went to New York’s young Governor Theodore Roosevelt) due to his value to the Administration and his relationship with President McKinley.  And, of course, had that happened, we would know him better today as President Hobart because he would have assumed the Presidency upon McKinley’s assassination rather than TR.

James Schoolcraft Sherman (1855-1912), 27th Vice President (1909-1912)
Now we return to where we started — the most recent VP to die in office, President William Howard Taft’s running mate, James S. Sherman.  Like Hobart, Sherman was relatively young when he died; he had turned 57 years old less than a week before his death.  President Taft beat back a challenge from his former close friend and confidant, Theodore Roosevelt, to win the GOP nomination in 1912 and the Republicans renominated Vice President Sherman alongside Taft.  Sherman was the first incumbent Vice President to be renominated by his party in over 80 years.  Unfortunately, although the 360-pound President looked unhealthy, it was the genial, “Smiling Jim” Sherman who was dying of Bright’s disease when he was renominated.  A brutal kidney ailment which was incurable at the time, Bright’s disease had sapped the health of President Arthur 30 years earlier, eventually killing him.  It would also soon claim the wife of Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat who defeated Taft for the Presidency in 1912.  The 1912 campaign was a hard-fought three-way race pitting incumbent President Taft against New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson and former President Theodore Roosevelt running on a third-party ticket.  Sherman did his best to support the campaign but he wasn’t up to it.  Usually, the VP or VP candidate is the “hatchet man” during Presidential campaigns, but Sherman’s illness made it impossible for him to fill that role on Taft’s behalf and it caused some strain between the President and Vice President who already didn’t necessarily like each other.  President Taft may not have realized exactly how sick Sherman was.  Six days before Election Day, Vice President Sherman died.  It had no effect on a campaign that Taft was already certain to lose — he carried just two states and finished third in popular and Electoral votes behind Wilson and Roosevelt.  With Sherman’s death the 8 Electoral votes intended for him as Taft’s running mate instead went to Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler.

So, there you have it.  Seven Vice Presidents have died in office.  In addition, there have been eleven more times that VPs have vacated the office:  two resigned (John C. Calhoun and Spiro Agnew) and nine VPs assumed the Presidency (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald Ford).  In total, 18 of the 47 Vice Presidents — or 38% (!) — have vacated the office for some reason.  Since the 25th Amendment wasn’t ratified until 1967, only two of those vacancies have been filled by a Presidential appointment — Gerald Ford, appointed by President Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, and Nelson Rockefeller, appointed by President Ford to replace…um…Gerald Ford.

(If you’ve lasted all the way through this post to this final sentence, you win a prize for your commitment, congratulations.)

I did finally see House of Cards and thought that it was brilliant.  Once I watched the first episode, I couldn’t stop and worked my way through the entire season in one of those marathon-watching sessions that we have all been guilty of with something.

For nearly 200 years, the Vice Presidency was a pretty boring job with the most excitement coming only if there was a need for the VP to cast a vote to break a tie in the Senate.  John Adams, the 1st Vice President, didn’t take long to realize the limitations in being VP.  ”My country,” Adams said, “has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”  

Until relatively recently, the Vice Presidents who succeeded Adams found that he wasn’t exaggerating.  Presidents and Vice Presidents are almost always put together to balance a ticket, so in almost all cases, the President and Vice President don’t have much in common.  In several instances, the Presidential candidate didn’t even meet his Vice Presidential running mate until they were nominated.  Most had no real relationship before or during their time in office.  Some (Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun/Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes) flat-out despised each other.

Most Vice Presidents weren’t included in Cabinet meetings or really considered part of the President’s Administration.  It has only been within the past few decades that the Vice President has had an office in the White House.  Throughout the 19th Century and half of the 20th Century, the Vice Presidency was a thankless, powerless job with no real connection to the Executive Branch other than behind a heartbeat away from actually running it.  And despite Presidential heartbeats stopping eight times and thrusting Vice Presidents into the White House, there was still a hesitancy to keeping the VP in the loop — just in case — until the second half of the 20th Century.

The Vice Presidency was such an overlooked position that, through deaths in office, it has actually been vacant for over 37 years of its existence.  There wasn’t even a mechanism for replacing a Vice President who died in office or resigned until 1967 — 178 years after John Adams became the first VP.

The only exception until relatively recently was President McKinley’s first Vice President, Garret A. Hobart, who was personally close to McKinley and was the very first VP to be a part of the President’s inner circle of advisors.  McKinley trusted Hobart immensely — politically, professionally, and personally — and many journalists of the day were surprised to see a Vice President actually take an active role.  Before Hobart, some VPs didn’t even live in Washington, D.C., or even visit very regularly.

After Hobart (who died in office in 1899, clearing the way for Theodore Roosevelt to become McKinley’s next Vice President and, eventually, President when McKinley was assassinated a year later), things went back to normal and the VP was one again relegated to the bench for another half-century.

A shift in the Vice President’s role started slowly during the Eisenhower Administration when President Eisenhower gave his young and capable VP, Richard Nixon, various duties and allowed Nixon to be more of a visible member of the Executive Branch than previous Vice Presidents.  The expanded role that Eisenhower gave to Nixon helped prepare Nixon to temporarily guide the Eisenhower Administration when Ike was seriously ill on several occasions during his Presidency.  President Eisenhower’s successor, John F. Kennedy, also gave an expanded role to Lyndon B. Johnson.  LBJ was still restless as VP, but he had some real responsibilities outside of breaking a tie in the Senate.  JFK involved LBJ in Cabinet meetings and national security meetings or momentous events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When JFK was assassinated and LBJ assumed the Presidency, there was still no procedure for filling a vacancy in the Vice Presidency.  The next few Vice Presidents — Hubert H. Humphrey (LBJ), Spiro Agnew (Nixon), Gerald Ford (Nixon), and Nelson Rockefeller (Ford) — didn’t have quite the expanded roles that Nixon and Johnson had when they were Vice President, but they were still more active than the 19th Century and early-20th Century VPs.

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale really changed the dynamic and expanded the Vice President’s role — and power — for what seems like good.  Mondale was actively involved in debates and decisions and was the first Vice President to have an office in the White House.  The next two Vice Presidents — George H.W. Bush (Reagan) and Dan Quayle (Bush 41) — were regulars at Cabinet meetings and helped continue to establish the Vice President as an active member of the Presidential Administration.  But it has been the three most recent Vice Presidents who really built the position into one of the most powerful in the country.

At times, the relationship between President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore seemed almost like a partnership thanks to the many important roles Gore was put in control of throughout their eight years in office.  The power that Dick Cheney brought to the Vice Presidency led some to believe that Cheney was pulling the strings and was the real power behind George W. Bush’s Presidency.  Because of Cheney’s influence with Bush, his experience in government and business, and his relationships with leaders of the world (dating back to Cheney’s time as Defense Secretary under Bush’s father in a time of war), he was almost certainly the most powerful Vice President in American history during his term.  Currently, Vice President Joe Biden’s similar experiences — extensive experience in foreign relations and deep-rooted relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle — have made him similarly powerful.  President Obama has made Vice President Biden the point man on some of the most important issues of his Presidency and has relied on Biden to shepherd legislation through an inept, hostile Congress and Biden has delivered almost every time.  Because Cheney and Biden have such vastly different personalities — Cheney is shadowy and secretive while Biden is ebullient and candid — their Vice Presidencies are easily contrasted with the one another.  However, they have one thing in the common — no Vice President ever had as much influence and power as Cheney or Biden do.

For nearly 200 years, Vice Presidents didn’t used to get put out to the pasture — they never left it and were never used.  But now the VP is more than a tiebreaker and the guy to send to funerals when the President is busy.  The Vice President of the United States has become one of the most powerful people in the world.  Actually…that’s incorrect.  The Vice President still has no more Constitutional duties than John Adams had in 1789, so it’s not really power that can be exercised.  The Vice President is now one of the most influential people in the world and influence can move power definitely move power.  No American Vice President is getting put out to the pasture anytime soon.