The Perfect Life #24 by Dr. Perfect
For Love of Vices
Dear Dr. Perfect,
My family has been arguing non-stop for 48-hours. Maybe you can help us.
Who is the best Vice President in American history: Dick Cheney or Spiro Agnew?
A Passionate Historian
I commend your adherence to heated family political debates outside the bold strokes of presidential narratives. For once, someone is making the case for or against Vice Presidents as opposed to tossing them into history’s dustbin. VPs are like the Art Garfunkel of the executive branch, largely relegated to clerical duties during their tenure. Sometimes they even become president after languishing in the shadows for years.
Their names often elude the average American, who can barely muster the will to find the right pair of socks in the morning. Those we do remember only stand out if they’re lucky. Some names just stick. Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, was sworn in after President McKinley’s assassination by a deranged anarchist. Gerald Ford took over after Nixon’s completely unwarranted resignation, and Lyndon Johnson killed his boss for the top spot in 1963. It was a crazy time back then.
Not all VPs ascended to the presidency after assassinations, conspiracies, or scandals. Some just leveraged the popularity of the president they served, thoroughly unable to retain the same magic or prestige. Harry Truman, George Bush Sr., and our current Crypt Keeper-in-Chief are perfect examples of this underwhelming phenomenon. But Truman did drop an atomic bomb on Japan, so that’s saying something.
What irks me the most about your family’s argument is their complete lack of historical perspective. Dick Cheney can’t hold a candle to Martin Van Buren, and Spiro Agnew wasn’t fit to shine Levi P. Morton’s shoes! (His friends called him LP). Don’t settle on those two Republican lightweights, when there are luminaries to choose from. What about Aaron Burr? He was Thomas Jefferson’s VP and most famous for shooting Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Broadway musical Hamilton.
George Clinton (our fourth VP) is noticeably absent from your list too in a glaring oversight. He served under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in addition to starting a Parliament-Funkadelic collective in the seventies. What of Millard Fillmore, who succeeded to the presidency after the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850?
He was a member of the Whig Party, one of the coolest cliques in American history. And I supposed we can just forget about Andrew Johnson and the enormous task of succeeding Lincoln after the Civil War. The poor bastard.
Your family’s dismissal of Dan Quayle, VP under George Bush Sr., needs to be addressed as well. Quayle served his office with distinction and honor, while being ridiculed as a child and a buffoon by the liberal media. The knives were out the minute he criticized Murphy Brown—the late-1980s sitcom that featured Candice Bergen as the eponymous journalist and news anchor. Her character had a kid out of wedlock, and Quayle made a speech, criticizing the show for its empty values. We could sure use some of that patented “Quayle magic” today.
He may have been the butt of many jokes during his heyday, but the man had magnificent hair, unlike Dick Cheney. He also didn’t shoot his friend with a hunting rifle last time I checked or preside over two endless wars. Under Quayle and Bush Sr. we only had one war, the Gulf War, and it was over in a jiffy. We gave Saddam Hussein the proverbial kick to the keister, and all was well.
Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s shady henchman, may have had thick hair, but he resigned too easily. Didn’t he know how things are done in Washington? When you’re accused of bribery, extortion, and criminal conspiracy, you double down on your innocence until the next news cycle. Deny everything and let the chips fall where they may. Simply put, he was no Dan Quayle. He wasn’t even an Al Gore. Now, there’s a VP with moxie, and who knows his way around a PowerPoint™ presentation. Time for your family to go back to the drawing board.