VP: Critical job or bucket of warm spit?

Why would anyone want to be vice president? John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner forever set Americans’ perception of the job when he called it “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” Contemporary accounts de-fanged the expression to “warm spit.” I think it’s the word “bucket” that did the trick.

Garner, a former Speaker of the House, was vice president in the 1930s. Bill Clinton modernized the vice presidency somewhat by giving Al Gore real assignments,...

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Why would anyone want to be vice president? John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner forever set Americans’ perception of the job when he called it “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” Contemporary accounts de-fanged the expression to “warm spit.” I think it’s the word “bucket” that did the trick.

Garner, a former Speaker of the House, was vice president in the 1930s. Bill Clinton modernized the vice presidency somewhat by giving Al Gore real assignments, unlike Franklin Roosevelt. Many a federal manager working now fondly recall the days of “reinventing” government so it “works better and costs less.” Gore involved the career workforce deeply in that 1990s reform effort.

If you like the mechanics of politics, the selection process for vice presidential candidates is a thesis-worthy subject all by itself. Mostly, it’s a matter of cold calculation of which electoral votes the veep candidate can reliably be expected to deliver. Sometimes the president and vice president seem to genuinely like one another. That appears to be the case between President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Relationships among seasoned and obscenely ambitious politicians are probably never fully trusting.

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A Politico story last month detailed all the machinations of how Hillary Clinton chose Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Partly a big data exercise with 150-question forms, partly an electoral calculation, and partly a soul-mate search, the process makes Clinton look … thorough.

The New York Times had extensive coverage on the process by which Donald Trump settled on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Here, too, there was much vetting. Whereas Clinton used political old-timers, Trump used his son as the go-between. Donald Trump appears to have worked through a longer list than Clinton. The process, not surprisingly, makes Trump look more gut-dependent. In many ways,Pence is the vying to Trump’s yang.

Supposing Pence or Kaine ends up in Garner’s “bucket.” Let’s further presume that the president assigns civil service and governmental operations responsibility to the vice president, like Bill Clinton did. There will be no end of issues to deal with. Pay, whistleblowing policy, Veterans Affairs reform, contractor mandates, overlapping federal programs as identified by the Government Accountability Office, and cybersecurity come to mind. In the IT area, the current federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott hasn’t quite landed the number of aloft initiatives he promised, so the whole modernizing-cloud-cyber-consolidation complex will likely confront the next administration.

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