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by Doris O'Brien


Whew! After many weeks of nail-biting, adrenalin-rushing anticipation, we at last know the two vice presidential picks.  Actually, as soon as Democrat Joe Biden began eluding reporters and claiming, "I'm not the guy!" we all knew that he was.  Anyone who has served over a third of a century in the US Congress cannot be expected to tell it like it is.

On the Republican side, Alaska's Governor  Sarah Palin was a well-kept secret.  The buzz had long been for others, including Independent Joe Lieberman, who's been there, done that.  Considering how Joe has gone from a Party pet to its pariah in the eight years since he was tapped as Al Gore's running mate back in 2000, it's understandable that he would be reluctant to run again, even on a different Party ticket.

In Joe's last reelection, things go so nasty for the Connecticut senator that he had to run as an Independent against not only a Republican, but  a brash Democrat newcomer supported by all the Party faithful.  Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed Lieberman, who does not support Obama, as "totally irresponsible."

In fact, if you examine the subsequent misfortunes of America's  recent vice presidents (or wannabe candidates) one wonders why anyone would covet that office in the first place. John Edwards, for  example, ran a robust campaign as John Kerry's vice presidential choice in 2004.  But you'd have to be a hermit not to know what's been going on lately with the guy with the $400 haircut.  Perhaps if the Kerry-Edwards ticket had been successful, things for John No. 2 would have been different.  Maybe he would have been too busy presiding over the Senate to find time for a tryst with a nubile neophyte photo-journalist, who wangled a job in this presidential campaign for something like $125,000.

Those who were elected vice presidents didn't necessarily fare much better.  There was Dan Quayle, for instance, now largely remembered for his misspelling of "potato." And Jimmy Carter's vice president, Walter "Fritz" Mondale, beaten soundly in his presidential bid against Ronald Reagan, who won a second term by a landslide.

Geraldine Ferraro, who ran as a vice presidential nominee on that ticket with Mondale, recently resurfaced during this year's Democratic primaries as an outspoken fan of Hillary Clinton, and is now persona non grata with Obama supporters for her claim that he would never have gotten this far had he not been black.

Then there was Lyndon Johnson's running mate, Minnesota's own Hubert Humphrey, who was trounced by Richard Nixon after Johnson refused to seek another term.  And Nixon's initial running mate?  None other than Spiro Agnew, who had to resign because of tax evasion and bribery. Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon when he resigned, but he was not re-elected. Nelson Rockefeller, who served as Ford's Veep, died shortly after his term in office of a heart attack under unsavory circumstances involving a young aide.

If there's any promising news about recent vice presidents, it could conceivably relate to Al Gore and George H.W. Bush.  Gore, of course, never realized his dream of becoming president.  But he did become a prize-winning icon among the Green set.  Bush, Sr. was one of the few vice presidents to successfully succeed the president he served.  But during his only term in office, he uttered the fateful words "read my lips: no new taxes," and was ousted in favor of Bill Clinton.

There's little point in pursuing the past, but a rare success story is that of Vice President Harry Truman, a little-known Missouri politician who upon the death of four-term president Franklin Roosevelt, presided over the end of World War II.  It is said that Truman had a strained relationship with FDR, and was not even made privy to the existence of the atomic bomb.

Most of the other vice presidents and also-rans for that office have been forgotten over time.  Keep this in mind when you hear the hoopla over the current picks.


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