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Does the vice president matter?

By Julia Shaw –

It’s clear that Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan want the No. 2 job. But why?

After all, the vice presidency hasn’t always been a coveted office. At the dawn of the republic, it was a constitutional consolation prize: the vice president was the person who finished second in the Electoral College.

Few of the 47 vice presidents in American history are noteworthy. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Hannibal Hamlin or Richard Mentor Johnson. In fact, most VPs prior to the 20th century are memorable because either they became president or shot Alexander Hamilton.

Constitutionally, the vice president’s role amounts to presiding over the Senate and casting the tie-breaking vote, opening the electoral votes, and becoming president if his predecessor dies, resigns, or is “incapable of discharging his duties.”

FDR’s first Vice President John Nance Garner summarized these duties more poetically as “not worth a bucket of warm (spit).” And yet, buckets aside, the vice presidency is more today than it used to be.

Early VPs had little to do in the executive branch. They kept an office on Capitol Hill and presided over the Senate. They neither attended Cabinet meetings nor crafted policy.

But this changed in the 20th century. First, as Harold C. Relyea reveals in “The Vice Presidency: Evolution of the Modern Office, 1933-2001,” there were meetings to attend and even chair. As the first president to go overseas, Woodrow Wilson relied on his vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, to chair the Cabinet meetings in his absence.

Beyond attending meetings, FDR’s No. 2 men actively participated in Cabinet meetings, acted as liaisons to Capitol Hill, and traveled abroad in the president’s stead. Truman’s vice president (Alben Barkley) was the first to sit on the National Security Council. Richard Nixon took an even greater role in Cabinet meetings and councils.

All this changed when Vice President Lyndon Johnson established an office in the Executive Office Building next to the White House.

Then, in the 1970s Congress gave the vice president a budget to hire his own staff. Previously, VPs borrowed employees from other departments and agencies. Now, Gerald Ford had his own national security adviser and his own counsel. Walter Mondale added his own staff for domestic policy. Gradually, the vice president’s staff mirrored that of the president’s staff.

Soon, vice presidents started acting as if they were, in fact, in charge.

Proximity, staffing and personalities have made the office steadily more powerful. From Walter Mondale to Joe Biden, vice presidents not only kept offices near the boss and met routinely with him, they helped shape the policy agenda. They exercised their policy power through their membership on various policy commissions, councils, and task forces. Some, including Al Gore and Dick Cheney, had the president’s ear and his trust.

The days of selecting a vice president simply because he or she is likely to deliver a crucial state’s electoral votes are over. Obama, after all, would have won Delaware in 2008 no matter what, while George W. Bush had Wyoming’s three electoral votes sewn up far before Cheney joined the ticket.

Paul Ryan follows this trend. He may help Romney carry Wisconsin, but what he really brings is legislative experience and policy ideas. He’s an intellectual force in the U.S. House of Representatives. His budget, “The Path to Prosperity,” which the House passed earlier this year, is a blueprint for spending and entitlement reform.

Biden, for his part, touted foreign policy experience Obama lacked in 2008. While in office he’s been asked to oversee the implementation of the stimulus spending.

The vice president is now a policy driver. That’s a good thing, because America is at a crossroads. The winner of this election can either help guide the country even further along the road to progressivism, or help it begin a long, slow turn back toward the principles of the American founding.

This is the country’s choice. The ensuing debate over that choice and our options will allow the American people to determine their own future. The cast of characters is set. Let the debate continue.

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If Romney & Ryan were to get elected; Ryan would take control of your body if you were a woman and when either he or his boss spoke, you’d never know if it was truthful, that’s not the way I want to live.

Biden looks like a car dealer just waiting to screw anyone over ten ways to Sunday! Biden is about as trustworthy as a rattlesnake!


Biden was rude. disrespectful. “Russia, it’s Iran, our NUKE is done, could you sell us a already-made rocket, ok thanks” Joe were not that dumb

At least Joe with all his faults, he loves this country. Obama can’t take us down to a 3rd world status fast enough. That arrogant, loud mouth hot headed VP is steps above the President. He at least won’t sell us down the tubes. Yes what’s with emailing in ballots? Can we email in a vote for each email address while we are at it. Nothing surprises me these days.

This is the only thing that came up when I searched for “email vote”. It looks as if submariners can possibly vote by email. I can’t get further information to come up. Correct me if I’m wrong!

“Does the vice president matter?” Not as long as its slow Joe Biden is doesn’t matter.

Vice presidents do matter. Thats why McCain lost no one was going to take the chance of having that dumb ass from Alaska becoming president!

Well that dumb ass from Alaska is probably leagues ahead of where you are in life I’m sure.

Joe Biden is the crowned king of dumb asses too by the way. Nobody will doubt you on that one “my friend.”

I’m no quitter like your darling Sarah. Gave up on the people of Alaska so she could get rich off narrow minded people like yourself. How about that successful daughter of hers gets her own reality show for being a teenage tramp. I would be so proud! My daughter went to college and was on the Deans list but I’m sure you think Bristol is much better than her too.

Biden is nothing more than an Old Man acting like a juvenile idiot on National T.V. This should have been a informative debate that was turned into a farce by a man acting like a 6th grader. It really scares me that he could end up being presiden if Obama wins again and then get impeached like he should have been in his first term. I’m just saying in my opinion.

Matt, why didn’t my previous comment go through? Why is it “awaiting moderation”? I’m a subscriber and I don’t think I’ve ever submitted a comment that wasn’t appropriate. Please explain. Thanks.

Thank goodness! I hate seeing the spam stuff. Do whatever you need to do to stop these people.

Thanks, Matt. It has to be very frustrating for you.

debating Biden is like debating your drunk uncle.

Sure, and it was just fine when Romney kept interrupting the moderator and disrespecting him. That wasn’t rude?

Biden’s performance made me very proud to have him on my side. I couldn’t have been more pleased. Ryan would be way over his head if he were ever to become president. Biden has the experience AND the knowledge.

Biden will cost Obama the women vote. The moderator was a democrat, hubby works for Obama,he came to their wedding, this was the most bias debate even, 34 time the moderator cut off the challenger, and the antics of Biden were bad. Biden was the bully we warn our kids about.

Ryan is extremely smart. He was smart enough to let Biden go on like a hyena and make an idiot of himself. Ryan has a lot of energy, ambition, and intelligence, and showed his grasp of all topics last night. Biden sat there and lied about point after point, lying through his laughing teeth. He treated Ryan with such disrespect and condescension that the moderator should have chided him for it.
Would you like to be treated like that if you were running for office and were debating the incumbent? What would you think if Mayor Bookmeyer treated an opponent in such a manner? The people on this site would be having a fit and so would you. Anyone would, even his supporters. It is just rude to be so arrogant to another person in any setting, let alone a political debate. It just ain’t “politically correct”!

Didn’t see the debate because it is a waste of time. Read the fact checker sounds like both told plenty of lies. I watched debates years ago but all the politicians are liars so why bother. Romney interrupted plenty of times in his debate but none of you were upset by that big surprise. When will all of you sheep figure it out that the democrats and republicans are to blame for the mess our country is in but you will all keep voting for them. Stupid people doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

You didn’t watch the debate, you go by the fact checker. Then you are talking blind, you have no idea what you are talking about. To me I saw 2 people, biden and the moderator both trying to gang up on Ryan, and I saw Ryan defending himself and Romney very well.I go to web pages that fact check what was said too, some fact check pages are written by democrats and some by republicans so if thats all you are going by then you are as ignorant as most people out there. You need to be diligent enough to watch and listen to what they are saying and their body language.

I don’t watch because I know they both are liars before the debate starts. You must use your body language super powers watching them and you know if they are telling the truth. You already had your mind made up who was the winner in the debate before it started. Unlike you I know that both parties are liars before the debate and could care less who is the better liar. You are the ignorant one if you think either of the vice president or president candidates will do anything to help the majority of this country. Like you they are just puppets who think they are smarter then the next guy.

I heard thats why obama picked biden, We don’t want biden as president so nobody would try anything with obama. biden was nothing but a bully last night, if I had anybody interupt me like he did last night he would be having his own argument with the floor.

Biden’s demeanor was appalling. With someone like Joe Biden representing us it is little wonder the rest of the world tends to view Americans as pompous and rude.

If something would ever happen to Obama, we are in bigger trouble than we are now. That Biden is a hot head and an idiot. He acted like he was on something and he was so rude and unprofessional. Thank goodness there is only one debate between the vice president candidates. I don’t think I could stand to watch Biden again!

I’ve got to agree with you, Concerned Citizen. I was in shock at his behavior. Our country needs some real ideas and people that are going to back up their ideas with goals.

no wonder the world doesn’t like us….Biden was arrogant.I’m an independent that was ashamed to have him as our VP….

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