Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Mitt and Paul Show

Mitt Romney has always struck me as a decent human being, one who
believes deeply in his God, his country and his money, not
necessarily in that order.

I also believe he is a bit of an empty suit, a robotic politician
whose only real brush with notoriety came when he inadvertently laid
the foundation for Obamacare.

He is the Republican nominee because his primary opponents were a
bunch of bungling gunslingers who couldn’t sell their slash-and-burn
vision of governance and misguided moral engineering to their own

At least Romney was smart enough to pick Congressman Paul Ryan as his
running mate, a man who also wants to slash the size of the federal
government but who, unlike a lot of Republicans, actually has a
specific plan to do it. He has read the spread sheets. He has
crunched the numbers.

How much of the Ryan plan Romney buys into remains to be seen. But at
least it just might elevate the campaign rhetoric from personal
attack mode to a real debate on how this country should manage
itself. That’s a lot to hope for but we can dream, can’t we?

For now, the pundits are putting the cart before the horse,
speculating on whether the choice of Ryan is brilliant or boneheaded.
Of course, we won’t know the answer to that until election day.

It got me to thinking, however, about who were the best and worse
vice presidential picks in history. So I mixed a bit of Internet
research with my own views and came up with a list. Take it for what
it’s worth.

Some in the best category are easy. Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and
Lyndon Johnson, all thrust into the Oval Office as the result of the
death of a president, rose to the occasion.

Some are more difficult to categorize:

Dick Cheney brought a wealth of Washington experience with him when
he joined George Bush and was heavily involved in decision making.
Indeed, he became known as the “shadow president.” Unfortunately, he
was perceived as a real life Darth Vader, with some justification.
The architect of the war on Iraq, he eventually became to most
unpopular member of an unpopular administration.

Al Gore was indispensable to Bill Clinton when he arrived in
Washington. Gore knew Washington inside out, while the new President
was fresh out of Arkansas. But Gore suffered from a personality
disorder --- he didn’t have one –-- and managed to lose the
presidential election to George Bush which is astounding to this day.

Richard Nixon delivered California to Eisenhower but more importantly
did the behind-the-scenes dirty work while Ike basked in the glow of
an adoring public. Nixon liked his job too well and his affinity for
dirty deeds would be his undoing.

Nominees for the worst of the lot:

Sprio Agnew. Nixon’s White House was filled with shady characters but
Agnew was the shadiest. An investigation by the U.S. Attorney for
Baltimore revealed that he had accepted $100,000 in bribes during his
tenure as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland and Vice
President of the United States. He resigned his office and pleaded no
contest and received no jail time but was disbarred and fined.

Aaron Burr. While serving under Thomas Jefferson, he killed Founding
Father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. What else do you need to know?

Thomas Eagleton. Democratic nominee George McGovern was in trouble
from the get-go running again incumbent Richard Nixon. He didn’t help
his chances by choosing Eagleton who, as it turns out, was once
treated by electro-shock therapy for depression. McGovern dumped
Eagleton, brought in Sargent Shriver and went on to win only one
state in the election. Eagleton went on to be reelected to the Senate
twice, then served as a professor of public affairs at Washington
University in St. Louis.

Sarah Palin. She was young, vibrant and attractive, just the thing
John McCain needed to revitalize his sagging campaign against Barack
Obama. Unfortunately, the governor of Alaska also possessed a
backwoods level of political sophistication, that was exploited by
the Democrats and the media. If that wasn’t bad enough, she was
criticized by McCain staffers for “going rogue” when speaking her
mind on issues. It clearly wasn’t a marriage made in heaven.

Dan Quayle: Selected by George Bush the Elder as his running mate, he
is remembered mostly for saying really stupid things. Such as
“"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother
and child" and "If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure" and
"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is
being very wasteful. How true that is." Enough said.

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