August 10th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Vice Presidents: Historical do-nothings

By Tommy Andres, CNN

(CNN) - The job of vice president of the United States was once a consolation prize. It was literally given to the runner-up in the presidential election.

That led to some strange political bedfellows and laid the foundation for a job full of handshake photo ops and thumb twiddling.

John Adams, the very first vice president of the U.S., had some pointed words for the position:

[0:58] “I am vice president, and in that I am nothing.”

But despite the minimal power the office holds, the choice of a running mate can make or break a presidential campaign. And once elected, a president's poor veep choice can weigh heavily on an administration's reputation.

Take Martin Van Buren for example. He chose war hero Richard M. Johnson to be his number two. Historian Bill Kelter is author of the book, “Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance.” Kelter says it quickly became apparent that Van Buren's choice was a bad one:

[4:08] “The doorkeeper of the U.S. Senate called Johnson the most vulgar man of all vulgar men in this world. One of his slaves, Julia Chinn, was his common-law wife before she finally died in the cholera epidemic. After her death, he took up with another slave but she ran off with another man, so to punish her he had her caught, sold her at auction and then took up with her sister.”

Van Buren disliked Johnson so much that his taste for vice presidents soured all together. He ran for re-election without a running mate and lost.

So Mitt Romney better choose wisely. Because, while his political cohort may be little more than a last name on a bumper sticker, that lucky person could ultimately join a long line of historical gaffers, do-nothings, and even, some scoundrels.

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Jeff Colby

    "that lucky person could ultimately join a long line of historical gaffers, do-nothings..." like Joe Bidden perhaps?

    August 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeb

    Romney is waiting to pick his VP running mate until he can review several years of their income tax returns.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jack Taraaz

    I am SURE that Romney is leaning towards Marco Rubio to get the Hispanic vote. But, as almost 70% of citizens are AGAINST Amnesty for ILLEGAL ALIENS, and Marco Rubio authored his OWN DREAM ACT, before Obama gave his, Marco Rubio will ALWAYS be an PRO AMNESTY Politician.

    I cannot vote for Obama under ANY circumstances, even if he WAS anti Amnesty. But, if Romney chooses Marco Rubio for V.P., I will abstain from voting for the first time since 1980's, Reagan's first term. It is WAY past time to inforce the laws on Immigration, and not pander to the law breakers and their supporters.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • AustinITguy

      Good, one less moron's opinion that won't be taken into account.

      Can't vote for obama under ANY circumstance?

      How about these circumstances:

      The opposition is a member of a cult that has historically used its power to rape children and believes Adam and Eve lived in America.

      The opposition started a company which bleed America of its jobs, funneled money overseas, and was funded by rich
      Salvadorian families that hired death squads to fight off the peoples revolution in their own country.

      A man who said he would have "left the big 3 to fail", and now the american auto industry is back and stronger than ever.

      Next time just say this "I can't vote for Obama under ANY circumstance because I'm a racist white American male who is uninformed on the real issues.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Reagan and GWB served two terms and what did they do on immigration reform? Absolutely nothing! And by the way, do you just vote on one issue? What about the economy and national security...both tanked under GWB and the GOP. What about the middle class and their collective bargaining rights and Jobs? What about students and the high cost of tuition and their future? What about our seniors and medicaid and medicare? Women rights? Gay rights? Foreign policy that affects our national security and our global travel? The GOT have failed miserable in all these areas.

      President Obama inherited two wars and an economic crisis and plus he has had to deal with an obstructionist right wing congress who's only objective is to see he and America fail. And so far, President Obama has governed for all Americans regardless of their political affiliation. Furthermore, I believe it was impossible for the President to deal with all these issues and still get immigration reform on the table because shortly following passage of the Affordable Care Act, the GOP made it clear that they will obstruct every legislation thereafter and in retaliation Senators Lamar Alexander and John McCain went on CNN and said "its the end of business in Washington as we know it" and they kept up their promise to stall every legislation thereafter. And I believe President Obama has had not 4 years but rather only 2 years to clean up 8 years of GOP mess because when the GOT took control of the House in 2010, the President's agenda froze like the Cold War.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      What would Mitt Romney be doing when the phone rings at 3am? Well, he'll be gettting ready to party with his friends in the Hamptons, the French Riviera, Monte Carlo...

      And what would President Obama be doing when the phone rings at 3am? Ah, let me see..well, he'll be killing OBL.

      Obama/Biden/Roberts 2012!

      August 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Big_D

    Maybe they should be focusing on a new candidate that isn't known for fleecing American taxpayers with scams like "spray and pray" or "BOSS".

    August 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Taraaz

      Are we supposed to GUESS who you are talking about?

      August 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Big_D

    The only GOP priority is to give more tax breaks to the "job creators" that have not created a single net job since they got a tax cut from Bush.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obandon

      I agree with you. Where are these job creators? Could it be they are holding off until Congress actually begins to act like grown up adults and actually DO something to make the country more stable instead of creating all this mess? Republicans only want to help the wealthy.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dbw

    Please pick Dan Quayle again. Please.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Dan who? O' you mean Dan potatoe!

      August 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jean Sartre

    The only time that a VP pick had any measurable effect on the presidential candidate was when McCain picked the intellectually challenged Palin...

    Besides, in a secret ballot by Ann and the Tea Party, RAFALCA, was picked!

    August 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • BU2B

      I was on the fence for the last election, until McCain picked Palin as VP. That made the decision easy. The thought of Palin being one step from the white house was extremely scary. I'm sure I am not the only one that felt that way.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • Obandon

        I probably would have voted for McCain if he had chosen someone different. I use to have a lot of respect for John McCain, but he has become a whiner and a poor loser! It was scary to think of Palin as a hearbeat away from the Presidency if they had won.

        August 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
        • DC1973

          I had every intention of voting for McCain until Palin. In 2000, I changed my voter registration to Republican just to vote for him in the primaries, and if he'd won the nomination then, I'd have voted for him over Gore. Once upon a time, John McCain was a strong, honorable man who I truly believed loved this country and wanted to do right by us. It hurts me to say that I don't think he's any of those things anymore, and Sarah Palin is a big part of that.

          August 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ryan7777

    RawMoney's campaign is dead on arrival. He could pick Ronald Regan's reanimated corpse to be his VP and he still has nothing on President Obama. The GOP has gone after the President in every which way one could imagine, from the birthers to trying to slander his religious beliefs. Mittens is just simply too fake and too much of a yes-man to be liked by anyone outside of the 1% and fellow tax felons.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. James

    What will 'make' it for Romney is selecting New Mexico governor, Susana Martinez. I'm confident he will select her as his VP, this is his ONLY option if he wishes to remain viable in this election. Seriously, HER only is his best move for serious thought and consideration among the American electorate, it's clear! I'm boggled by the oft touted group of men presented by media outlets and among the CW, put on your thinking caps folks, it's S Martinez....be well

    August 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nc1965

    I want Mitt to pick Paul Ryan. You know, just to scare the h e l l out of Senior Citizens.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Revcarrie

    Remembering too, the VP choice is a heartbeat away from the Presidency. The choice might be a handshaker, know nothing, do nothing in some cases but sometimes they become president!

    August 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BeverlyNC

    Romney's campaign is already broken, with no stands on any issue, no policy statements, no solutions for anything, and constant lies and absurdly false TV ads. Romney is dishonest, a tax cheat, a weasel on hiding his money all over the world to avoid paying taxes but yet taking everything he can from the government while paying nothing in, Can he be anymore unAmerican?? I don't trust him. No one does. He doesn't even know what the Presidency is – he just wants power and that is a very dangerous person and scenario. Romney is already self-destructing and when People understand the Ryan plan he endorses that kills Medicare, Social Security, healthcare, education, food stamps – he will be truly done. Why is it Romney hates the poor so much and criticizes welfare when he is a corporate welfare king himself. He is for giving corporations making billions corporate welfare in subsidiies – oil companies need govt help? Romney is a destroyer not a rebuilder of America.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |