Monday, April 25, 2005

The Curious Case of the Vice President

If you are looking for pure realism, you probably are not going to be too happy if you watch 24. While the show shines in many ways, the show stretches believability at least once a show. Still, I enjoy the show and it provides the occasional thought-provoking nugget from time to time. In the past two episodes, for example, involving the vice-president turned acting-president plot-twist has done just that. In 24, the veep's ignorance and timidity makes one think about what kind of vice presidents future presidents choose as our country continually faces important challenges.

It used to be that the vice-president was not taken seriously. At first, the VP was not part of a ticket but actually just the person who received the second highest total of electoral votes. (Imagine having this today: John Kerry as Bush's VP.) Thankfully this quickly changed after the 1800 tie between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson sparked the passage of the twelfth amendment soon after. Afterwards, the idea of a ticket was clearly entrenched into the election process. However, the thought of a premature end to a president’s term has long been put on the backburner when choosing a VP. The risk was not as apparent in the beginning and when it was, would-be presidents probably prefered to think about the VP gaining them a key state rather than being there because of a premature death. By accident, we now have a VP in Dick Cheney-that whatever you think of the current administration-is certainly no lightweight and is involved enough in the president’s agenda that we would not worry much about leadership if we lose our president. (I say by accident because Bush chose Cheney in order to counteract his lightweight image among the media and not because he wanted to have a good relief pitcher waiting in the wings.)

In the future, though, even the most experience public servant-turned presidential nominee should look to pick a vice-president that could clearly step in should he leave the office prematurely. Then once he’s elected, he should include the vice-president in his decision-making so that his replacement will not miss a beat. To encourage this, voters should be looking for the ticket not with the sexiest choice for VP, but the one that would best meet these criteria. Otherwise, we may find ourselves with poor leadership at a most critical time for our country.

(An interesting aside: many thought the VP would only take over prematurely and then call for a special election. The precedent from our first VP turned president, John Tyler, has now been fully accepted.)

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