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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in VP (6)


    "INSIDE THE EAGLETON AFFAIR" Documentary: When a VP Selection Went Terribly Wrong

    Before there was the controversial Sarah Palin pick in 2008, there was Thomas Eagleton, George McGovern’s ill-fated selection in 1972. The Eagleton affair, in fact, ultimately changed how vice-presidential running mates are now made.

    With political watchers on veepstakes alert for Mitt Romney’s eventual VP pick, below a mini-documentary on the Eagleton affair.

    A little backstory: When McGovern arrived at the Democratic convention in Miami during the summer of '72, his campaign priority was to fend off rival Hubert Humphrey's last-ditch attempt to win the nomination through an obscure rule change. Picking a running mate was relegated to the backburner. After officially gaining the nod, McGovern was left with only an hour and a half to choose a No. 2 -- and he hastily settled on Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), a man with whom McGovern had only spoken twice.

    "Vetting" the candidate was an afterthought, a decision that came to exemplify VP selection gone bad. 

    Watch my documentary for the full behind-the-scenes story on NBC's First Read Blog or below:



    Uneasy Allies: William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt & A Twist of Fate

    Theodore Roosevelt's legacy has largely overshadowed that of President William McKinley, under whom he served as Vice President before ascending to the job himself. But despite his popularity at the time, his inclusion on the GOP ticket in 1900 was not exactly welcomed with open arms. 
    After the persistent lobbying of Henry Cabot Lodge Sr., who thought TR would strengthen the ticket after the death of then-VP Garrett Hobart, Roosevelt was compelled to publicly decline the offer of the Vice Presidency. Stating to the press, "it is proper for me to state that under no circumstances could I or would I accept the nomination for the vice-presidency," Roosevelt appeared to be firmly against the idea, however he sent Nicholas Butler to speak to McKinley and gauge his support. In his book Across the Busy Years, Butler told the story of his meeting with the President: 

    After laughing with me a little about some of T. R.'s characteristics, [McKinley] told me to talk the matter over with Senator Hanna. The Senator was explosive and abundant in expletives. He banged on the table and said that he proposed to control the Philadelphia convention absolutely and that under no circumstances would or could T. R. be nominated for the Vice-Presidency. He, Senator Hanna, would not have it. 

    Word that neither President McKinley nor his closest political ally, Mark Hanna, believed that Roosevelt was suitable for the office soon reached TR.  It clearly irked him "to find in how little political esteem he was held by the President and Senator Hanna," and he was soon whistling a different tune: he would reconsider seeking the office. 
    While it's difficult to say whether he decided to pursue the office in spite of President McKinley and Senator Hanna sentiments, he clearly flip-flopped in a letter to Lodge, "By the way, I did not say on February 12 that I would not under any circumstances accept the Vice Presidency," -- a complete reversal of his unambiguous statement, "under no circumstances could I or would I accept the nomination for the vice-presidency".
    Roosevelt was easily nominated at the 1900 Republican National Convention, but without an endorsement from McKinley, who had stated through his secretary that, "Any of the distinguished names suggested would be satisfactory. The choice of the convention will be his choice." Despite being uneasy allies, TR helped the campaign tremendously, rode McKinley's reelection coat-tails into the White House.
    In retrospect, Mark Hanna proved to have been strangely prescient when he exclaimed "Don't any of you realize that there's only one life between this madman and the Presidency?"

    Vice President Biden Hates When His Academic Credentials Are Questioned

    As Donald Trump makes new demands to see President Obama's college records, it's interesting to note that Vice President Biden had an unpleasant history of having his academic credentials questioned -- something that he has loathed since his first run for president, back in 1988. Check out the below video from the 1988 Democratic Primaries to see how hard he pushed back after a reporter asked about his academic standing in law school: 


    Ford Dumps Rocky, Picks up Dole for '76

    President Gerald Ford dropped Vice President Nelson Rockefeller for Senator Bob Dole a full year before the 1976 general election after much deliberation. Disguised as a "decision of his [Rockefeller's] own," Ford was concerned that Rockefeller might cause him to lose support amongst the conservative wing of the party, thus threatening his nomination at the '76 RNC. It was a decsion that he later came to regret, as Thomas DeFrank reported in his 2007 book Write It When I'm Gone (which, to the consternation of his publisher, was originally titled Write It When I'm Dead). Saying he was, "embarrassed that I didn't tell the hard right-wingers that Rockefeller had done a good job and would be a good vice president for a four-year period," Ford bowed to the pressure from his cabinet.  

    What's more interesting is that it was his chief of staff at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, who pushed President Ford the hardest to replace the veep -- which DeFrank contends was namely because Rumsfeld hoped to replace Rocky himself. While Dole was an acceptable candidate, it was in his VP debate against Walter Mondale in which he crudely remarked that World War I, WWII, Korea and Vietnam were all "Democrat Wars":

    While Ford survived a convention challenge against Ronald Reagan (who had previously run a low-key battle for the GOP nom against Nixon and Rockefeller in 1968 -- a little discussed fact), he would eventually lose the 1976 general election to Gov. Jimmy Carter. Confessing to his own "cowardice" in his memoirs, Ford's politically expedient move begs the question: is it ever prudent to drop a sitting vice president?