Dean Obeidallah: Many think VP is a useless position, but it may be the best job in the country
He says it's like being a lesser Kardashian: perks, fame, salary and almost no responsibilities
Other perks are: no one wants your job, no one shoots at you; luxury to stay stupid things
Obeidallah: Quayle had a word for responsibility, and "that one word is 'to be prepared'"
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog “The Dean’s Report” and co-director of the upcoming documentary, “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy
“The vice-presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm piss.”
Those famous words were uttered by John Nance Garner to describe the office he held from 1933 to 1941.
And John Adams, our nation’s first vice president, described the position as: “…the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”
If the vice presidency is such a useless position, why are so many people now vying to be Mitt Romney’s running mate? Because they know it might just be the best job in the country – or at least in the federal government.
Being vice president is like being one of the lesser Kardashian sisters (whatever their names are). Kim – who is in essence the “president” of the clan – is a household name, but she is also subject to a lot more scrutiny and pressure. Her sisters, however, are similar to our VP: they are paid great, treated like celebrities, and have almost no responsibilities.
Look at some of the perks of being vice president: An annual salary of about $230,000, a beautiful house, a jet plane, limo service, a staff and even your own seal. All that is missing is a few product endorsement deals and the vice president truly would be a Kardashian.
But wait, there are even more benefits, such as safety. Reprehensibly, a few our past presidents have been assassinated. But no one shoots at the veep. In fact, our vice presidents have shot other people. Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face just a few years ago. And in 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr had an infamous duel in which he shot and killed the former secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. And we think that today’s political climate is rough.
Another bonus of being VP: very few constitutionally mandated obligations. The president has too many responsibilities to list. But the VP has only three: 1. president of the Senate – which is ceremonial position; 2. Cast the tie breaking vote if the Senate is ever deadlocked; and 3. Accept the tally of the Electoral College for the presidential election “in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives.”
There are assistant managers at McDonald’s who have more daily job responsibilities than our vice president. Indeed, there were 16 times in our nation’s history that the office was vacant – and in many cases for years at a time. It was not until 1967 that the 25th Amendment was adopted to establish a mechanism to replace a vice president if he left office midterm. Apparently, no one really cared too much before then if the vice presidency was vacant.
Arguably the most painful responsibility for a sitting VP comes if he runs for president and loses. The VP is still required by the Constitution to read the name of the person who beat him in the presence of the entire Congress – like Al Gore did in 2000. Awkward? Yes. Lots of work? No.
And then there are the intangible benefits. For example, not too many people want your job. People grow up dreaming of being president. You don’t hear kids say: “One day I hope to grow up and be elected to the second-highest position in the federal government.” No. We are a nation of alphas, not betas.
Plus, the media and political opponents don’t pounce on every syllable the VP utters like they do with the president and presidential candidates. (I propose that any person running for president be read in essence a presidential “Miranda warning” explaining to him/her that anything they say, can and will be used against them – even words taken out of context or are ones said by unnamed campaign advisors.)
In contrast, the VP has the luxury to say stupid things. Our current one, Joe Biden, is famous for them. His “best” may have been when he offered his public condolences to the prime minister of Ireland for the passing of his mother. The only problem was that the prime minister’s mother was still very much alive.
But the modern day “president” of vice presidential gaffes had to be J. Danforth Quayle, a.k.a. Dan Quayle. This guy made George W. Bush sound like a philosopher king. Quayle made such “insightful “statements as: “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.” And this gem: “The future will be better tomorrow.”
Soon, Mitt Romney – ironically the person seeking possibly the worst job in our nation – will tell us whom he has chosen to possibly serve in the best job in our nation.
At this point, speculation abounds who that person will be. But whoever is nominated for VP should heed these sage words offered by Dan Quayle: “One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is ‘to be prepared.’”
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.