Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tragedy Tomorrow: Comedy Tonight

Tonight is the big night for the two Vice Presidential candidates, and we’re all biting our nails to see how it goes. Live coverage, controversy over the moderator, discussions about what each candidate needs to accomplish. Ye gods! You’d think these two people were actually running for an important office, not the much maligned office of Vice President of the United States.

John Nance Garner was one of FDR’s veeps (another of which, Harry Truman, actually became President when FDR, inconveniently, died) and when Lyndon Johnson told him JFK had asked him to be the Vice Presidential nominee on his ticket, Garner told him, in a much repeated quote: “The Vice Presidency ain’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.” Although they say he may have used another word instead of spit.

“I never wanted to be Vice President of anything!” is a quote attributed to Nelson Rockefeller, who disdained the number two job in the nation mostly because he was rich and had gone to the right schools and pretty much figured he ought to be the guy in charge. Still, he was a heartbeat away from 1974 to 1977 when he served as the appointed Vice President to Gerald Ford who himself became President in the wake of the resignation of Richard Nixon. It was enough for Nelson. He quit politics after that.

And then there is Finley Peter Dunne, who, back in the early 20th century wrote a series of columns for the Chicago Post under the name of “Mr. Dooley,” a fictional Irishman expostulating on politics from his seat in a Chicago pub. “The Presidency is the highest office in the gift of the people,” said Mr. Dooley. “The Vice Presidency is the next highest and the lowest. It isn’t a crime exactly. You can’t be sent to jail fer it. But it’s a kind of disgrace. It’s like writing anonymous letters.”

So Sarah Palin and Joe Biden have a lot at stake tonight. The one who comes out ahead and helps his ticket win in November, will disappear into the office of the Vice President of the United States and probably never be heard from again.

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