Monday, July 09, 2012

Test your VP Knowledge!

This article talks about forgotten VPs. It showcases the VP musuem, which is in Illinois in the boyhood home of Dan Quayle:
Huntington, Indiana, an industrial town that was never much and is even less today. It’s also the boyhood home of our 44th vice president.

His elementary school is unmarked, a plain brick building that’s now a senior citizens center. But across the street stands an imposing church that has been rechristened the “Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center.” Inside the former chapel, you can see “Danny” Quayle’s report card (A’s and B’s), his toy truck and exhibits on his checkered tenure as vice president. He “accomplished more than most realize,” a caption states, noting Quayle’s visits to 47 countries and his chairmanship of the Council on Competitiveness.

But the learning center isn’t a shrine to Quayle—or a joke on its namesake, who famously misspelled “potato.” It is, instead, a nonpartisan collection of stories and artifacts relating to all 47 vice presidents: the only museum in the land devoted to the nation’s second-highest office. This neglect might seem surprising, until you tour the museum and learn just how ignored and reviled the vice presidency has been for most of its history. John Nance Garner, for one, said the job wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

The VP museum, which once used the advertising motto “Second to One,” isn’t kind to the nation’s founders, either. It was they who are largely to blame for the rogues, also-rans and even corpses who have often filled the office. The Constitution gave almost no role to the vice president, apart from casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate. John Adams, the first to hold the job, called it “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.”

The article talks about how the VP has moved from a non-job into a position with at least some function today:
It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that vice presidents began to emerge as more than a “contingent somebody,” or “nullity” in Washington (the words of Lincoln’s first VP, Hannibal Hamlin, a cardplayer who said the announcement of his candidacy ruined a good hand). As government rapidly expanded during the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt used “Cactus Jack” Garner, a veteran legislator, as his arm-twister in Congress. During World War II, Roosevelt made his second VP, Henry Wallace, a globe-trotting ambassador and head of wartime procurement.

Harry Truman, by contrast, served FDR for only 82 days and wasn’t consulted or prepared for the top job, a deficit he set out to correct as president. His VP, Alben Barkley, joined the National Security Council and cabinet meetings. Truman raised the salary of the office and gave it a seal and flag. Barkley’s tenure also bestowed an enduring nickname on the job. A folksy Kentuckian who disliked the formal “Mr. Vice President,” Barkley took his grandson’s suggestion and added two e’s between the title’s initials. Hence “Veep.”

The status and duties of vice presidents have risen ever since, along with their political fortunes. Four of the past 12 VPs became president; two others, Hubert Humphrey and Al Gore, just missed. In 1988, George H.W. Bush became the first sitting vice president to win election to the top job since Van Buren in 1836. The perks of office have also improved. A century ago, VPs still paid for their own lodging, car repairs and official entertaining. Today, they inhabit a Washington mansion and West Wing office, have large salaries and staffs, and merit their own anthem, “Hail Columbia.”

You can end by taking this quiz from Smithsonian Magazine on VP trivia. I have to say that a lot of the questions were guessable,even if you don't know the answer.

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