Numbers 10 - 6
Who are the worst of all time?
Mitt Romney is shortening his list and getting ready to select his running mate for the 2012 election. No matter who he picks the hope is that someday they won't end up on this list. FDR's first vice-president, John Nance Garner famously said the job is "not worth a bucket of warm piss". Some view the job as a stepping stone to someday becoming president themselves. To others it is a reward for a long, distinguished career in public service. It is a fairly easy job, you just have to avoid becoming a punchline and hope nothing happens to the boss.
What makes one a bad vice-presidential pick? Embarrassing the top of the ticket and/or costing the election certainly qualifies. Becoming a national joke while in office could put you in contention. Scandals gain you points on this list. Many have served distinctly, if not memorably, yet these ten go down as the worst vice-presidential picks of all time.
10. John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun was Vice-President of the United States from 1825-1832. He wanted power so badly that he didn't care about positions on policy or anything else, he just wanted to be the man. Calhoun was vice-president to John Quincy Adams who was anti-slavery. Calhoun was pro-slavery but that didn't bother him, after all he wanted the job so bad he had supported both candidates during the election! When Adams lost re-election, Calhoun managed to stay on and was also vice-president to Andrew Jackson! No other man has been vice-president to two different presidents. Scandals during the Jackson presidency brought the wrath of the president. President Jackson fired most of his cabinet who he saw as corrupted by Calhoun. From that point forward Calhoun was irrelevant as he served out his term.
9. Dan Quayle
James Danforth Quayle was not really a bad vice-president, he had the confidence of President Bush and had been highly respected as a Senator. However the media destroyed him, pouncing on every gaffe (and there were a lot of them). Quayle was made into a national joke. Johnny Carson even thanked Quayle during his final week for making the joke writing so easy.
The biggest gaffe Quayle made was during the vice-presidential debates where he compared himself to John F. Kennedy. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, running mate of Michael Dukakis, responded "I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." The damage was forever done.
It didn't get any better after he was in office. Vice President Quayle made the famous mistake during a spelling bee of telling a student he was missing the "e" on the end of "potato". Some other great quotes from Dan Quayle include, "There is nothing that a good defense-cannot beat a better offense" and "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."
In 2000, Vice President Quayle ran for the presidency. His campaign never made it off the ground. He came in eighth in the Iowa straw poll and he withdrew shortly after.
8. Geraldine Ferraro
Geraldine Ferraro was a brave pick in 1984 by Walter Mondale. She was the first women to ever run for vice-president or president. Ferraro was an Italian-American congresswoman from New York. At first she electrified the ticket, people couldn't believe a women was running in a national campaign. She was a hard campaigner and her selection narrowed the gap considerably between Mondale and Reagan.
Then the scandal broke. Her husband had some shady financing and they filed their taxes separately. Ferraro promised that her husband's tax returns would be released then later back tracked. The public was outraged and Ferraro reversed course again releasing the tax returns and paying $53,000 in back taxes that she said were caused by an error. Her rags to riches image was marred when it came out she and her husband were worth over $4 million dollars.
Mondale/Ferraro went on to lose one of the biggest landslides ever. The following year her husband pled guilty to bank fraud.
7. Henry Wallace
Henry Agard Wallace was the second of FDR's three vice presidents. Wallace was known as very progressive for his time. He received endorsements from U.S. Communist Party. As a longtime friend of Franklin Roosevelt, Wallace had served as Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Commerce before becoming Vice President of the United States. He was very sympathetic to Russia and a very ill FDR dumped him from the ticket in 1944. Henry Wallace missed being president by less than three months.
6. James Stockdale
Vice Admiral James Stockdale was an American hero. He was a former P.O.W and also wore the Medal of Honor along with four silver stars. For over seven years he was held by the Vietcong as a prisoner of war. When he was released he could barely stand. During his captivity his back had been broken, both shoulders wrenched from their sockets and one leg shattered. He could not return to flight duty due to his physical condition so he served at the Naval War College.
In 1992, Ross Perot electrified the nation when he ran for the presidency as a third-party candidate. A billionaire, Perot could afford to mix it up with both Democrats and Republicans. After several appearances on Larry King Live his popularity skyrocketed, he eventually received 19% of the total vote. Perot picked Admiral Stockdale to be his running mate.
Stockdale was not a politician and was out of his depth debating Al Gore and Dan Quayle. He was even parodied by Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live after coming off as lost during the debate. He famously opened up by saying, "Who am I? Why am I here?" Unfortunately America never got to know the true man and Stockdale was a caricature through the rest of the campaign.
1 - 5 and honorable mentions
In our next article, we look at the top five worst vice-presidential picks of all time and take a look at honorable mentions.