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MY TURN: VP selection and the consequences

by BOB HOLLINGSWORTH/Guest Opinion
| July 21, 2023 1:00 AM

The importance of selecting a vice president and the consequences of it.

Here are just a few important examples of vice presidents who assumed the presidency.

When Washington retired, Adams and Jefferson ran for president. Adams received 71 electoral votes and Jefferson received 68. Adams became president and Jefferson became VP. Adams was a member of the Federalist party, so they clashed on many issues. While Jefferson was VP, he presided over the Senate with dignity and skill, and wrote a manual of parliamentary practice still in use today.

In the 1800 election, Adams, Jefferson and Aaron Burr ran for president. Because of voter misunderstanding, it was settled by the House of Representatives. Alexander Hamilton settled the tie by encouraging the house to place one vote for Jefferson. Hamilton had disdain for Jefferson but he hated Aaron Burr. Because of Hamilton’s influence, the House selected Jefferson as president and Burr as VP. In 1800, the constitution was amended and the electors specified president and VP.

The brilliance and accomplishments of Jefferson are well-known. The Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark expedition, the Rectangular Survey, and even the vegetables we eat today.

In the 1804 election, Jefferson won by a large majority.

When William Henry Harrison died in office after serving only 30 days as president, VP John Tyler assumed the presidency. Actually, he was acting president, as no provision in the constitution had been made for a VP. As president, he vetoed the creation of the Third Bank of the U.S. twice and it was sustained to the chagrin of his own party who soon abandoned him. He annexed Texas just prior to leaving office.

Zachary Taylor, a famous general for the war with Mexico, died in office. VP Millard Filmore became president.

In 1865, upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln — which also included the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Seward, who is the great-great-great-uncle of our own beloved Rick Seward here in Coeur d'Alene — VP Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached.

After James Garfield was assassinated, Chester A. Arthur became president. Both his older son and his wife died before he became VP, leaving him with two small children. He continued the spoils system instituted by Andrew Jackson. His administration was also corrupt.

William McKinley selected Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate in his second term and was assassinated Sept. 6 and died Sept. 14, 1901, at which time Theodore Roosevelt became president. Roosevelt was a two-term president. Thousands of pages have been written about the magnitude of his presidency: The Trust Buster, Panama Canal he negotiated and built, the Big Stick policy, five national parks, and 150 million acres for the beginning of the United States Forrest Service, Roosevelt Dam, 25 irrigation projects out west, and our own little Teddy Bear, to name a few. He was our youngest president at the age of 42. He appointed William Howard Taft Secretary of War and later as his trouble shooter. Roosevelt used to say, “Taft kept the lid on things because he was sitting on the lid.”

The Executive Mansion was officially named the White House by Roosevelt in 1901. When Roosevelt left office, he said, “I do not believe anyone else has ever enjoyed the White House as much as I have.” When Taft left the presidency, he told Wilson, “It was the lonesomest place in the world.” Eight years later, he became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He said it was the highest honor anyone could have.

Warren G. Harding died on Aug. 2, 1923, in San Francisco. VP Calvin Coolidge was at his father’s farm in Vermont. At 2:45 a.m., he went downstairs and, placing his hand on the family Bible, his father a notary public administered the oath of office. Eighteen days later, he was administered the second oath by Chief Justice Taft. Coolidge tried to restore dignity and prestige to the presidency after the cronyism and scandals of the Harding administration. He let business flourish and reduced the deficit by $1 billion per year. Coolidge was frugal with government money as well as his own words. On Aug. 4, 1927, while in South Dakota, he handed reporters a slip of paper. It said only, “I do not choose to run for President in 1928.”

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, during his fourth term, Harry Truman became president. He had not been briefed on the atomic bomb and was only in office 113 days when the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. We were still engaged in two wars. Truman had to make tough, controversial decisions. There are a few of them: The Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (May 8 and 9, 1945); the Japanese surrender on Aug. 14, 1945; the Marshall Plan; NATO; the Berlin Aircraft; and the Korean War. Social Security was given to 10 million more people. His national health care plan was defeated. Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur of his command in Korea.

Lyndon Bains Johnson took office upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy Nov. 22, 1963. Johnson’s Great Society, War on Poverty, and the escalation of the Vietnam War were some of his main agendas.

Richard M. Nixon was VP under Eisenhower and became president in 1968. During this time, he managed to bring the country together, end the American fighting in Vietnam and improve relations with the U.S.S.R. and China. Certain environmental laws were passed during this administration which are still in force today. In 1972, Nixon’s administration became embroiled in the Watergate break-in scandal. In 1973, VP Spiro Agnew resigned due to his own scandal. Gerald Ford became VP. Nixon, plagued by Watergate and almost certain impeachment, resigned Aug. 9, 1974, and Ford became president. Governor Nelson Rockefeller became VP who himself always wanted to be president.

Ford acted to return tranquility to the nation, revive the nation’s economy, remove regulations on business and energy, curb government spending, and secure world peace. Two assassination attempts were made during his presidency.

George H. W. Bush became VP in 1981. Reagan gave Bush extra latitude and trust during the eight years as VP. He served as president for eight hours while Reagan was undergoing cancer surgery. Reagan was nearly assassinated on March 30, 1981. George H. W. Bush was one of the most qualified VPs in history: a Navy pilot, Yale graduate, Congressman, businessman, director of the CIA and because of his envoy to China.

George H. W. Bush became president Jan. 20, 1989. He dealt with a number of obstacles during his tenure in office including the Savings and Loan bailout, Los Angeles riots, manual Noriega and the invasion of Panama, the Lebanese Hostage Crisis, the Gulf War, a deteriorating economy, the Clean Air Act, and a democratic Congress.

Joe Biden was VP under Obama, and was elected president and took office Jan. 20, 2021. He selected Kamala Harris as VP.

So what is the point? Let’s take a look at the consequences of a few of these vice presidents who became presidents. There were 15 vice presidents who ultimately became president (eight of them due to the death of the president): Adams, Jefferson, VanBuren, Tyler, Fillmore, Johnson, Arthur, Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, George H. W. Bush and Joe Biden.

If history is not corrupted, Joe Biden will be known as our worst president in history. Many people who run for president only want to be selected for the running mate. The future looks dim, however, with strong leadership, we can regain our strength as a nation and our respect throughout the world.

This may be our last free election of America. We are in the most precarious time in our history.

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Bob Hollingsworth is a Coeur d’Alene resident.