Vice Presidents

Back when U.S. Vice Presidents were given major res had nothing to do except break tie votes in the Senate and wait for the President to die what did they do to occupy their time?

Is this in English?

Not really. Here is what I think he meant:

Back when U.S. Vice Presidents weren’t given major responsibilities, they had nothing to do except break tie votes in the Senate and wait for the President to die. What did they do to occupy their time?

Sorry, I previewed and edited, and then forgot to preview again. But that is what my question was supposed to be.

They performed the responsibilities delegated by the President … which might be a lot or very little. As the U.S. became a world power, Vice Presidents tended to handle a lot of the ceremonial duties – if the Crown Prince of Latveria is getting married, you want to have a major public figure present, but you also don’t want the President or the Secretary of State tied up for several days in Latveria. The VP has the prestige and the free time to do the job diligently.

Some Vice Presidents “floated trial balloons” – if a program was likely to be controversial, and the Administration favored it but wanted plausible deniability if it attracted too much opposition, the VP could be the guy who pushes publicly for it, and can then back down without giving the Administration as a whole a black eye when the entire Midwest is up in arms about the idea.

Nixon did both the above jobs ably for Ike’s administration – state visits by our #2 man to cement alliances, and being the “hatchet man” when something nasty or otherwise problematic needed to be said or done. Humphrey was the front man for the more controversial Great Society programs. Agnew was the guy who publicly denounced liberal ideas that Nixon opposed.

Many Presidents kept their VPs at arm’s length – he is, after all, a walking, talking incarnation of your own mortality if you’re President. Since the VP had often been a significant political figure in his own right, a rival of the President for his party’s nomination before the convention, this often led to a “heir apparent faction” wheeling and dealing in the best approved political manner behind the scenes. Cactus Jack Garner is a leading exponent of this sort of behavior – eight years as VP under FDR, after decades of public life, and his position on issues had to be taken into consideration to win the support of him and his faction.

Duel other politicians?

To quote John Adams’s thoughts on the new vice president post he occupied at the time:
“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet the common fate.”
Letter to Abigail Adams (December 19, 1793)

Yep… emo’s nothing new.

Apparently "Cactus Jack was his own man, despite the, perceived, insignifigance of the office, he’s the man responsible for the infamous “warm bucket of spit (sic)” comment, among others:

Before Vice Presidents were given executive responsibilities by presidents, they took their constitutional role of presiding over the Senate more seriously. They were in the chair most of the time the Senate was in session and performed many of the tasks handled by the majority leader today, including scheduling debate, referring bills to committee, appointing members to conference committees, and so forth.

For many years, the Vice Presidency was a pretty useless job. You presided over the Senate, broke the odd tie. If you were from the Senate, you could perhaps talk to your old mates and help the President pass a bill or two. You provided geographical or ideological balance during the election.

It wasn’t until Nixon in the 1950s that the VP became involved in Cabinet meetings.

Sen. Daniel Webster once said when offered the job “I do not intend to be buried until I am dead”.

Hannibal Hamlin, who served under Lincoln, despised the job and made a number of negative comments about the role including that he was “a fifth wheel on a coach” or that he was just “a contingent somebody”. Ironically, he would have become the President had he kept his mouth shut and stayed on the ticket in 1964.

Wilson’s VP was completely shut out of decision-making after the President had a stroke which would not be tolerated today.

He probably wouldn’t have been on the ticket anyway. Lincoln ran for re-election as the “National Union Party” candidate, which was a combination of the still unestablished Republican party and the pro-war faction of the Democrat party. As such, the party wanted a pro-war Democrat on the ticket for Vice-President and Andrew Johnson was chosen.


Hamlin got confused and ran against the wrong Johnson.

Yes Goldwater was looking for geographical balance on the ticket.

Sorry about that, another tard moment for me.

In the department of strange bedfellows, I found it an absolutely fascinating bit of trivia that the two most successful national politicians of the 20th century were Nixon and FDR. Both ran for national office five times and won four of them:

1920 - Ran for VP, lost
1932 - Ran for Pres, won
1936 - Ran for Pres, won
1940 - Ran for Pres, won
1944 - Ran for Pres, won

1952 - Ran for VP, won
1956 - Ran for VP, won
1960 - Ran for Pres, lost
1968 - Ran for Pres, won
1972 - Ran for Pres, won

Thomas Jefferson wrote a manual of parliamentary procedure for the Senate while he was Veep - apparently it still remains the foundation of the Senate’s current procedural rules.

Tyler, the first Veep to succeed to the presidency, was back home in Virginia when President Harrison died. The messengers sent to give Tyler the news found him playing marbles with his children.

King stayed outside the country almost the entire time he was Vice-President. He was sworn in in Havana, where he had gone for his health, and came home in extremely poor health, dying shortly afterwards.

Hamlin decided that he could best serve his country during the Civil War by enlisting, rather than breaking ties in the Senate, so he enlisted as a cook for the Coast Guard.