Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Ultimate "Vice-Precedence" Vice-Presidents List!

Hey Vice-Precedence Fans!

Sorry its been so long since I have posted a blog. Been very busy working on things for "Vice-Precedence" as well as other things. Life happens you know.

The following is a list I complied in the early days of pitching "Vice-Precedence" to production companies. I recently had the opportunity to go over it again and decided to enhance it a little. Its a list of ALL the veeps who never became President with a few intriguing and/or bizarre facts and even quotes from and about the VP's. Its a great way to familiarize yourself with all the VP's and is also good for a laugh.

The Vice Presidents Themselves:

1.Spiro Agnew - Sued the creator of the "Spiro Agnew Watch."

2.Alben Barkley - While VP at age 71 he married his 38 year old sweetheart - The only VP to marry in office.

3.Joseph Biden- “The one thing I want my kids to remember about me is that I was an athlete. The hell with the rest of this stuff.” Vice-President Joseph Biden on his 40 year political career.

4.John Breckinridge - Indicted for treason when he joined the Confederate Army; he wasn't pardoned until 1958.

5.Aaron Burr – Besides killing Alexander Hamilton in America’s most famous duel while serving as VP, he was also put on trial for treason. Died on his 80th birthday, on the same day that his divorce from his 2nd wife became final, on grounds of HIS adultery.

6.John Calhoun - President Andrew Jackson said he would "hang Calhoun as high as Haman" for his part in the South Carolina revolt of 1832.

7.Dick Cheney - Shot a guy in the face and also has lesbian daughter.

8.George Clinton - Wanted New York to be its own country, and because he was the richest man in the state, he would be king.

9.Schuyler Colfax - Nicknamed "Smiler", he was almost impeached for taking bribes.

10.Charles Curtis - Was 1/8 Native American Indian; his great-grandmother was a Kaw. "1/8 Kaw Indian and 7/8 incompetent," says one historian.

11.George Dallas - Nominated by his brother-in-law. The city is NOT named after him.

12.Charles Dawes - Won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Dawes Plan to rebuild Europe after WWI, but it put such a huge strain on the German economy that it allowed Hitler to seize power in Germany, causing WWII.

13.Charles Fairbanks – Fairbanks, Alaska is named after him. “No public speaker can more quickly drive an audience to despair.” The Nation magazine on VP Fairbanks speaking skills.

14.John Nance Garner - "The Vice-presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm piss." - Vice President Garner

15.Elbridge Gerry -The dirty political trick "gerrymandering" is named after him. At the Constitutional Convention argued that the vice-presidency was pointless and refused to sign.

16.Al Gore - The lead in one of the biggest grossing documentaries of all time. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Grammy, Oscar, and the 2000 popular vote, but not the Presidency.

17.Hannibal Hamlin - While VP served as a cook in Maine Coast Guard for 60 days, peeling potatoes, never rising above the rank of private.

18.Thomas Hendricks - Racist who voted against 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the amendments that freed the slaves and gave them citizenship and civil rights.

19.Garret Hobart - Cast deciding vote on Philippine independence, he voted to make them an American colony.

20.Hubert Humphrey - President Johnson dressed him up as a cowboy and in an oversize 10-gallon hat and paraded him in front of the press, laughing at Humphrey the whole time.

21.Richard Johnson - Never married, but had 3 common-law wives, all his former slaves. Sold one after she ran away.

22.William King – Most likely a homosexual. Nicknamed "Aunt Fancy" and "Miss Nancy," he took the oath of office in Cuba. Died 46 days later.

23.Thomas Marshall - "Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea: the other was elected vice-president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again." - Vice President Thomas Marshall. Should have been made President after Woodrow Wilsons stroke. The First Lady and presidents doctor conspired to make sure Wilson stayed President even though he was incapacitated.

24.Walter Mondale - As the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1984, Mondale won 1 state-his home state. Has been mentioned 3 times on “The Simpsons” and once on "Futurama", most memorably for having the U.S. Navy’s laundry ship named for him.

25.Levi Parsons Morton - Turned down offer to be Vice-President under Garfield, if he had accepted, would have become President within a year, due to Garfield’s assassination. Drove the first rivet into the Statue of Liberty. Died on his 96th birthday.

26.Dan Quayle - Misspelled "potato" at grade school spelling bee,was burned in the most famous VP debate in history with “You’re no Jack Kennedy.”, and argued with fictional TV character Murphy Brown.

27.Nelson Rockefeller – Was so rich he donated his VP salary to charity. Refused to live in official VP residence because his own mansion was nicer. Funded "Citizen Kane" but never had any interest in seeing it. Died of a heart attack while having sex with his 27 year old mistress.

28.James Schoolcraft Sherman – Native Americans gave him a name in their language meaning “Four-Eyes”. Nicknamed "Sunny Jim" he received 3,500,000 votes for Vice-president... after he died.

29.Adlai Stevenson - Not the one you may have heard of, but his grandfather. Nicknamed “The Headhunter”.

30.Daniel Tompkins – Signed the bill banning slavery in New York. Became an alcoholic while VP and a year after he left office died broke and drunk at 51. It turned out the state of New York owed him $100K.

31.Henry Wallace - Invented new strands of corn, strawberries and chickens. Ran as Communist and Progressive Presidential candidate in 1948.

32.William Wheeler - After he received V-P nomination, Presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes asked his wife, "Who is Wheeler?"

33.Henry Wilson - Birth name Jeremiah Jones Colbath, changed it at age 27. He was an indentured servant for 11 years. Started his own shoe factory, educated himself by reading 1,000 books, then devoted his life to ending slavery and for workers rights.

Hope you enjoyed this. Happy Holidays from "Vice-Precedence"!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Good Fight

Yes, dear reader, that is your author, Jason C. Klamm, with an almost brand-new copy of Walter Mondale's recently-released "The Good Fight," his political autobiography. Yes, that's me standing in Barnes & Noble with said book. But it's not exactly what it seems. It's actually the end of a very long story.

Let me preface the tale I'm about to tell with a sincere statement. Those of you who have read my blogs know that I have a passion for this office and - though I like to have fun with the quirkier elements - I have a deep respect for the office's place in American history. If I didn't, I wouldn't be writing a blog, book and documentary about that office, nor would I use them to make the argument that this is a highly integral office. So I can be sincere, as I will be now: Walter Mondale is one of the most important Vice Presidents we've ever had, and he changed the office massively, all for the better.

For nearly the last two years, Matt and I have been endeavoring to get Vice President Mondale to agree to an interview for the documentary. Originally, his office was concerned, perhaps understandably, about the comedic bent of Vice-Precedence. Maybe he was worried about being cornered, afraid it would turn unexpectedly into a to-be comic interview a la The Daily Show. Nevertheless, we explained to Mr. Mondale that we respect the office and have been using humor simply to tell the story. At one point, almost two years ago, he was ready to go, but his availability changed when a trip to Japan got in the way. After years of serving under President Clinton as Ambassador to Japan, it's not hard to see why he might want to get away from the cold Minneapolis winter to enjoy the comfort and respect Japan (rightfully) bestows upon him during his visits.

So we waited, hoping to approach again when we thought Mondale might be available. After all, if we could make a strong argument for our film and raise the capital for me to fly out to Minneapolis (Matt's HQ for the last two years, hence the fortuitous proximity to Mondale) to co-direct and co-interview, this would be a major accomplishment. Since 2006, we've been struggling to get a sitting or former VP who never became President (of which only four are still living) to sit down for an interview to help get an insider's perspective on the office - the ultimate perspective, really. Needless to say, we saw no harm in checking back in with Walter Mondale.

So we did. And on June 21, 2010 - two years after Matt's move to Minneapolis - we got an unexpected, but welcome, surprise:
Subject: RE: Request for Interview with Vice-President Mondale.
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2010 11:58:22 -0500

Mr. Mondale would be happy to meet with you. However, he can't do it this summer. Any chance, sometime in the fall would work?
Matt's response spoke for both of us:
Wanted you to see this for yourself. Major accomplishment. So happy I can barely contain myself!

Well, his response as directed to me. I'm sure he was more professional in his direct reply to Mondale's secretary. Later that week, things started to get solid.
Subject: RE: REPLY-Request for Interview with Vice-President Mondale.
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 11:07:07 -0500

September 11-21 does not work.
October 5-7 does not work
October 26 - November 9 does not work
How about if we schedule it sometime the week of October 18 in the morning here in Mpls.?
So we did, and Mondale's secretary penciled us in. Matt and I were ecstatic, to say the least. We had a date set. Though things were rough here in LA and in Minneapolis (Matt and I don't make a living blogging about the Vice Presidency), the plan was for me to fly out as soon as I could afford it. We started immediately putting out the feelers for crews, connecting with everyone we knew. Even though it took us awhile, we found ourselves a dedicated local Minneapolis crew, made up of fresh film students and two experienced instructors, all who were set to give us their time, lend us their equipment and expertise, and - for the film students - get their first taste of working on a feature documentary film.

After some further rough patches (my day job laying off 20% of its workers, me included), we quickly recovered, and were lucky enough to have our wonderful followers on Facebook donate $150, which came to exactly half of what we needed to get me out to Minneapolis at the last minute - to be exact, October 5, leaving this landmark interview less than two weeks away, on the 18th. I dug deep into my pockets and pulled out the difference, and received my confirmation happily. It wasn't easy financially, but the decision was an easy one to make - Mondale was a landmark Vice President, and the story of his Vice Presidency needed to come from his mouth.

Which brings me to the photo above. I bought the book the night before I bought my non-refundable airline ticket, at the local Barnes & Noble, a day before it was supposed to be on the shelves. I say local, when I actually had to drive a few miles down the street to find a Barnes & Noble that knew where to find their copies of "The Good Fight." The photo of a bearded yours truly, holding that book, sadly, was taken just last night. And no, I hadn't lost my original copy. This was the very same copy I purchased less than two weeks ago, excited at the prospect of interviewing my first Vice President.

Let me explain.

Yesterday - Friday - as I was prepping for my early Saturday flight to Minneapolis, I received a call from Matt. "Jason, I have horrible news," Matt said, not one to ease a person into bad news. "I just got off the phone with Vice President Mondale, and he's not happy with the comedy aspect. He's not going to do the interview." My heart sank. From the very beginning, the Vice President was aware that a film entitled "Vice-Precedence: Being Number Two in the White House" had a comedic edge to it. Now, after all of this effort, volunteered time, and donated money, he decided to change his mind - and all because of the word "comedy." Matt explained to him, on the phone, that we take the office seriously - that, in fact, we've been working on this film for almost five years, out of our own pocket the entire time, because we respect this office. It didn't change his mind.

Why? We can't be certain. Mondale recently appeared in Al Franken's film "God Spoke," which was filled with humor - but Franken respected Mondale, as we do. On November 22, Mondale will interview with A Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor, who, as his audience will attest, does a humorous show, and can still show respect. He laughed with Today Show host Amy Robach, who (all due respect) knows what I can almost guarantee is next to nothing about the Vice Presidency, which Matt and I have been studying for the last five years, becoming two of the country's few Vice Presidential experts.

Whatever his reasoning, this turn of events sent me packing - or unpacking, as it were. Two non-refundable tickets, to and from Minneapolis, and one brand-new hardcover copy of a memoir that I absolutely had to read in preparation for the trip were enough to leave me wondering why I ever began this journey in the first place. Four years ago, when Matt proposed the idea to me, I was skeptical, but when the stories were revealed to me and we realized these stories had never been told on film, we knew we had something - something really good.

We're going to move forward, if much slower now, due to the resources that were lost in the shuffle, but the momentum is there. The story can still be told. Even if it takes us another five years - which it well could - we will finish this project, hopefully one day having the honor to ask Vice President Mondale personally about his life's work helping those people who "are hurtin'" (to quote Mondale from The Today Show), and how he changed the office we are so passionate about for the better. Maybe he'll even sign my deck of cards from Mondale's Air Force Two. We can only hope.

As always, thank you for your support (and in this case, your financial support as well), and good Vice-Presidenting.

- Jason C. Klamm

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gerrymandering-The Movie!

Hey Vice-Precedence Fans. I've talked here before about other documentary films that have been made as we keep on trying to make VICE-PRECEDENCE. However, a new documentary coming out in wider release and has been seen at festivals around the country has a major connection to VICE-PRECEDENCE.

Its GERRYMANDERING by director/writer Jeff Reichert. The films synopsis on IMDb describes the film this way:

A wake-up-call documentary that exposes the hidden history of our country's redistricting wars, mapping battles that take place out of public scrutiny but that shape the electoral landscape of American politics for decades at time, posing a threat not just to democrats and republicans, but democracy as a whole.

The film examines the history of the practice of Gerrymandering, named after Vice-President Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts whose picture is here on the blog. Its funny, because his name is pronounced with the hard "G" so technically its been mispronounced for over 200 years. The film interviews all sorts of politicians, from Howard Dean to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Gerrymandering has been a bipartisan dirty political trick for 200 years, as the film shows with the story of how President Obama used it to put upper-class whites into his mostly black Chicago South Side area to get elected to the Senate. Along with Tom DeLays attempts to gerrymander Texas in 2005, driving state Democrats to hide in a motel in Oklahoma to prevent it happening, leading Samuel Issacharoff, a professor at NYU School of Law, to quote his daughter about the absurdity of the affair:

"While there are a lot of reasons middle aged men might be sneaking off to a motel, until now redistricting has not been one of them."

Gerrymandering is basically, a political maneuver used by incumbents to retain power by designing districts to create an advantage for the ruling party-no matter how impractical they may be or ridiculous they may look.

In 1812 near the end of Gerrys second term as Governor of Massachusetts, at a time of partisanship that makes today's political struggles look like a meeting of Lutheran housewives in a church basement for coffee and cake. Gerrys party-the Democratic-Republicans, passed a devious redistricting measure, to make sure they would retain their iron-fist grip on the State senate. Governor Gerry signed the bill, and in response, the opposition party of Federalists ripped Gerry to shreds. Famous painter Gilbert Stuart drew a political cartoon for a newspaper, turning the district into a dragon surrounding the state, and likened it to a salamander. The papers editor Benjamin Russell chortled, "Better say a gerrymander.", and the name was picked up by the opposition Federalists to mock the squiggly, salamander-like shape of Essex County and Gerrys political corruption. The term has been used ever since.

Not only is it a good sign that a documentary like this can be made, sure the guy who made it is a former publicity manager for Magnolia Pictures, so he has lots of Hollywood connections, but, still, it shows the American public is interested in docs about American history and politics. So I will be making an effort to see GERRYMANDERING with the hopes that it will make some film investors interested in VICE-PRECDENCE as well.

Click Here to see the IMDB page for the film.

Don't forget! Our on-camera interview with former Vice-President WALTER MONDALE is in less than a month, and we still really need your financial support to fly Jason to Fritz and to hire a crew. You can donate here:


Matt Saxe

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Question Of Legacies and Quayles.

In America we have no official aristocracy. The Founders didn't want any American lords or dukes or even knights popping up in American society after they were gone. On this, both Republicans and Democrats can completely agree on as it says clearly in the Constitution: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States." The country had just fought a war against a King and many of his generals had been lords and such. They didn't want Americans setting themselves up with titles and literally "lording" it up over other Americans. Americans have always been wary of titles -- Washington had been called "His Excellency" while serving as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army -- but its hard to say if he liked the title or not. When Lincoln was addressed with this same title by General McClellan at their meetings he hated it. Congressmen mocked Vice-President Adams when he presented them with a list of titles to address the President with because he found "Mr. President" too informal for the position -- leading him to be called "His Rotundity" and a reputation for being a would be monarchist -- this against the most fiery of Revolutionaries!

Sometimes I wonder if it would have been better if the Founders had just created some kind of honorific title that could be given to any American for services rendered in some way -- like knighthoods and damehoods are still in England-- for everything ranging from work in government to the arts to science and even livestock raising as the British Crown does -- that were just titles themselves, and didn't have any privileges so that Americans would stop looking for dynasties and people to give titles to. I don't see what harm it could do, but the American in me does find it a tiny bit elitist, but at the same time, it would also be kind of fun--imagine Sir and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Lady Helen Keller. They both have a nice ring to them. Even if it was just a title with nothing else attached to it. For some reason Americans are always looking for legacies and dynasties. In sports, Hollywood, and of course in politics and I think part of the reason for it is because we have no honorifics.

In sports fans love when their teams are called dynasties. Because it usually means they've won a lot of championships. The New York Yankees are of course a great example of this. Other teams have dynasties as well-and naturally they are sometimes given titles, such as the Cincinnati Reds-"Big Red Machine" or the Pittsburgh Steelers-"Steel Curtain" teams. Every sport has them -- from the Lakers and Celtics in basketball to Bear Bryants teams at Alabama (my personal favorite) and lists can go on and on. Sports reporters are always eager to find a new dynasty--as evidenced just this year when Alabama after not winning a title in 18 years after winning the National Championship in college football found themselves a week later on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the cover screaming-DYNASTY. And thats just with one title!

In Hollywood, indeed, in acting throughout the ages, people love to see the children and grandchildren go on to great heights as well, all the way back to the Booths to today with the Barrymores with a legacy that goes back generations. Its the same in businesses-as in family businesses, the Hiltons, the Buschs', the Rockefellers are all dynasties in business, politics, and philanthropy, the list goes on and on.

In politics though, its especially interesting and attractive to Americans to look for dynasties. Why its hard to say, perhaps its simply because we have no official American nobility, but from almost the beginning of the American system of government people were interested and fascinated with dynasties that were in politics and public service -- even before the Revolution the Lees of Virginia were already a powerful and rich family and dynasty that was practically American nobility with all of them becoming successful in government and the military-serving in Virginia's House of Burgesses and as governors, the Continental Congress, in the American Army, and as ambassadors overseas, their legacy would go all the way thru the Civil War and they would be married to and connected to all of the great and powerful families of Virgina and the South. John Adams our second President was the father of our sixth President John Quincy Adams. William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States, his grandfather had signed the Declaration of Independence, and he in turn was the grandfather of our 23rd President-Benjamin Harrison. Theodore Roosevelt was practically a father to his niece Eleanor who of course married her distant cousin Franklin. Together the Roosevelts were President for over 20 years thanks to FDR's 4 terms. The Kennedys are of course, practically Americas Royal Family. The Bush family has produced two Presidents. For a country with no official nobility, its interesting to see that in the history of our country, 4 families have held the title of our nations highest office multiple times. Not that different from a country with an official aristocracy is it?

So now a new family is trying to establish a dynasty -- the Quayles. As you may have seen in the news, just this week Ben Quayle, the son of J. Danforth "Dan" Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States under George H.W. Bush -- and a national joke for practically all four of those years -- won the Republican nomination for an open seat in Congress in Arizona where he lives. He defeated 9 other opponents, some who were seasoned political professionals. This was after he had been exposed for writing for a blog that was basically about nightlife and sex in the area in Arizona he lived in under a pseudonym from "Boogie Nights" where he wrote:

“My moral compass is so broken I can barely find the parking lot.”

and after he had called President Obama in one of his TV ads that he managed to pay for with the $1.3 million he raised from his dads connections:

"the worst President in history"

We reported both of these stories on the Vice-Precedence Facebook page that you can go and see for yourself. You can see the campaign ad where he says that about President Obama. And I mean-Really? Worse than Nixon who was forced to resign for being part of a criminal conspiracy? Worse than Harding who had a Cabinet full of criminals? Worse than James Buchanan who let the country fall apart into chaos and civil war? In only two years? Please.

Part of the reason he won has to be attributed to his name. He has practically no experience in government unless you count being a Congressional page experience. Its easy to remember, his dad was Vice-President of the United States. He's practically a lock to win in this heavily Republican area in Arizona. One things for sure, he knows he's in for a fight because of his name and its connection to tons of jokes-as evidenced in this quote:

“You build thick skin being a Quayle,”

He better have, because I'm sure his opponent will bring up that picture he had taken of himself with two kids who weren't his own, since he doesn't have any kids.

Is this the beginning of a new American dynasty? We'll see. Thanks for reading.

Matt Saxe

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scapegoating: The Hallmark of Public Policy

Hello, Vice-Presidenters. It's been awhile since the last regular post, what with our co-producing a show in the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the screenwriting opportunity I was recently thrown, but fear not - we are still here and loving every juicy VP tidbit, as you'll likely notice on our Facebook page, which we try to update as frequently as is possible.

Joe Biden (whose office is now considering a request for an interview, given VP Mondale's agreeing to interview) was the subject of much speculation in a recent Wall Street Journal article that asks the baseless question (that has been raised since Biden began his reign as VP) "Will Obama replace Biden in 2012?"

They name his being "gaffe-prone" as the primary reason for their own speculation, as well as the expertise as such notables as Chris Matthews and "long time Hillary watcher" Howard Fineman at Newsweek, who suggest that Biden and Clinton essentially swap spots. Really? Newsweek?

I am not an expert political scientist, or an expert historian. I'm an expert on the Vice Presidency and its role in history and amongst other political powers. What I can tell you is this - no President, especially to change his tarnishing public image and popularity - would change VPs mid-stream to half-use an existing metaphor. At least not today. It's been done before (Lincoln and FDR both had VP changes for a number of reasons) but these were the days when public scrutiny was different. Changing VP meant a change in direction. Today, with rapid-fire, thoughtless analysis (see the Wall Street Journal), any such change - though it might please those who think they are political analysts because they can also use the word "gaffe" in a sentence - would be seen as weakness. Joe Biden is the very symbol of Obama's dedication to his choices - he lets Biden speak his mind. He could easily shut the man up, reign him in - Biden is the "tell it like it is" guy and Obama - well, frankly, he's resorted to it lately, too. He has little choice. He just uses fewer F-bombs.

Jason C. Klamm, B.A.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Game Changing

In researching the Vice Presidency, one thing becomes increasingly evident - that research is, at points, impossible. Even as an office so separated from power that analyzing the social & political environment of the era in which a VP served is occasionally unnecessary, finding some piece of evidence of the office changing is one of those things you dream of.

This is exactly why the office has been the subject of so many comedic books. When they aren't comedic, there's usually some biting criticism of the office and it's uselessness. This is why our book is aimed at using the comedic bent as a tool to see if we can discover something new about the office that this perspective allows us. Rather than looking for something funny to write about, we're treating all history as inherently comedic, to see what then stands out.

Admitting our bias - embracing it, even - aside, our perspectives are pretty clear. In general, we want to see the office become more useful, by law. At any time, no matter how much a Cheney or Biden might change the day-to-day function of the office, that function might just as easily go extinct with whomever holds the office next. Solidifying it by law - even by adding one or two functions beyond the existing one - would add some legitimacy to the office, and hold the Veep accountable for something, so that we could be certain our second-in-command was ready to lead.

What do you think the VP should be required to do, by law? Right now, he breaks tie votes in the Senate. Cheney and Biden have both taken roles of power, in their own way - but we wonder if any of those powers are worth putting in stone. Let us know on Blogger and Facebook - we'll cover your suggestions in a later blog.

On a quick side note, thanks to those who continue to support Fly Me to Fritz, to allow us to complete our Walter Mondale interview in October.

Thanks once again, and good Vice-Presidenting, as always.

-Jason C. Klamm, B.A.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fly Me to Fritz

Dear Vice-Presidenters,

We here at Vice-Precedence have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity coming up on October 18th. As Matt previously reported, we will be interviewing former VP Walter "Fritz" Mondale - our first Vice Presidential interview. This is an amazing opportunity for the film, the book and the blog.

As many of you know, this is a project of passion, any expenses being out-of-pocket for the last 4 years. For instance, our sizzle reel for the documentary, which almost sold Vice-Precedence to The History Channel, was produced on less than a shoestring - perhaps the plastic caps at the end - for around $200, which was mostly for a wig and a gun. Needless to say, we do good work on very little money (if we do say so ourselves), but there are some things we can't do entirely on our own.

This is why we're asking you, the Vice-Precedence Fans loyal, to consider a donation to get me out to Minneapolis and to help us pay our minimal crew and to GET THIS DONE RIGHT. When we shot the sizzle reel, for instance, it was all shot on a 24p camera. Gorgeous though that was (and still is), we have to shoot on HD. Our sit-down with our oldest living VP would be wasted if we shot it on anything else.

If you can, please consider donating whatever you can to Fly Me to Fritz. The link is to a secure Paypal page that will prompt you to use whichever payment method you prefer.

As a way of thanking those who can donate, we're offering a number of incentives:
1. A thank you in the book and documentary.
2. A feature article about you and other donors on the blog.
3. We will take your questions for President Mondale and choose the best of the bunch.
4. A free copy of the book, on publication.

We want to thank all of our loyal readers and fans for all of your support, and hope you can see your way to donating just a little bit to helping the first documentary on the Vice Presidency get that much closer to completion.

Thanks again, and good Vice-Presidenting,

Jason C. Klamm, B.A.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vice-Precedence to Interview VP Walter Mondale!

Vice-Precedence Fans we have BIG news.

We have been working on Vice-Precedence for a long time. We have had some great successes. Like our interview with Gore Vidal, the amazing praise from fans like you and especially from Mr. Paul Zaloom, and my meeting with Sarah Palin and the subsequent blog that got a lot of attention.

We have also had a lot of frustration and setbacks. There is no denying it. I have talked about it before. I don't want to repeat myself, except to say, along with the refusals from people for interviews, there has been the idiotic remarks from TV executives -- specifically the History Channel saying in early March of 08:

"It doesn't matter who McCain picks as his running mate, no one will care, everyone will be bored by the election by September. Plus our president hates comedy."

3 months later they're showing "The History of Comedy" hosted by Lewis Black and later in the year--everyone is talking about and is obsessed with Sarah Palin.

So you can probably guess how I feel about the History Channel.

After my divorce I made plans to see my daughter in Minnesota. On my first visit here I looked up former Vice-President Walter Mondales contact information. It actually wasn't that hard, just did a Google search as I recall. I spoke with his secretary right away. An interview was a possibility but not that year since the former VP would be spending most of that year in Japan, where he had been our Ambassador. They love him there. I was just happy to have established a link to his office and secretary, Lynda Pedersen.

After I moved here to be closer to my daughter after missing her so much, I wanted to try to schedule an official interview with VP Mondale. After some more polite conversations with Ms. Pedersen, and explaining what we want to do, I sent a formal request to his office:

Dear Mr. Vice-President,

My name is Matt Saxe, I live here in Minneapolis, and I am the creator/executive producer of the comic-documentary film "Vice-Precedence". After speaking with your assistant Mrs. Lynda Pedersen, I am formally asking if I could have the opportunity to interview you for our film.

I have been producing award-winning theatre and films for over 8 years. For the last four years my company has been working on a documentary film devoted to the Vice-Presidents who were never President, focusing on the unique and strange history of the office. As you know, there have been documentaries made on individual VP's, but never one devoted to the office as a whole.

We have already filmed a two-hour interview with Gore Vidal for the film, who called us "Better interviewers than Ken Burns." You would be the first Vice-President we have interviewed. Your own experiences as Vice-President and with Vice-President Humphrey would be invaluable to our film.

We are happy to fit our interview around whatever fits your schedule best. We would want to wait at least until next month so we can make the proper arrangements. We want you to be comfortable and completely at ease for the interview. Thank you very much for your consideration. I sincerely hope for the opportunity to meet and interview you. Please pass my thanks on to Mrs. Pederson for taking the time to talk with me, I truly appreciate it.

Best to you,
Matt Saxe
Banded Artists

Within a couple days I received the following reply:

Dear Matt:

I have talked to Mr. Mondale about your request for an interview for the comic-documentary film "Vice- Precedence." Unfortunately, Mr. Mondale is extremely busy this summer and has several trips out of the country and he just doesn't feel he would have the time to be interviewed by you. I will keep your request in mind and if things quiet down, I will be sure to give you a call. He wishes you all the best with your project.


Lynda L. Pedersen
Executive Secretary to Walter F. Mondale

It was disappointing, but I understood, and it was so polite. I decided I need to let time go by and had so many other things to do for work, Vice-Precedence, plays, life, and Caitlin. So time passed.

Then on May 27th of this year after writing the Hubert Humphrey Birthday blog, I decided enough time had passed to send another request to his office. Also, in case you didn't know, Mr. Mondale was Humphreys Chief of Staff and successor as Senator of Minnesota and then to the Vice-Presidency and Democratic Presidential Nomination. Humphrey was his mentor and his career followed Humphreys almost exactly. So I decided the date seemed serendipitous to send another request.

So here it is:

Dear Ms. Pedersen,

This is Matt Saxe, of Banded Artist Productions. Last year I asked if it would be possible to schedule an interview with former Vice-President Mondale for my documentary film. At the time you informed me that Mr. Mondale was too busy to schedule something. I am hoping that this year we will be able to schedule it and decided that since today would be the 99th birthday of Mr. Mondales mentor and friend, the late Vice-President Humphrey, its an appropriate day to resend my request. Please pass this on to the Vice-President with my highest regards.

Thank you and Best to you,
Matt Saxe

Banded Artists

Dear Mr. Vice-President,

My name is Matt Saxe and I am the creator/executive producer of the comic-documentary film "Vice-Precedence", and after speaking with your assistant Mrs. Lynda Pedersen last year, I am on this day, what would have been the 99th birthday of your mentor and friend, the late Vice-President Humphrey, again formally asking if I could have the opportunity to interview you for our film.

I have been producing award-winning theatre and films for over 8 years. For the last four years my company has been working on a documentary film devoted to the Vice-Presidents who were never President, focusing on the unique history of the office. As you know, there have been documentaries made on individual VP's, but never one devoted to the office as a whole.

We have already filmed a two-hour interview with Gore Vidal for the film, who called us "Better interviewers than Ken Burns." You would be the first Vice-President we have interviewed. Your own experiences as Vice-President and with Vice-President Humphrey would be invaluable to our film.

We are happy to fit our interview around whatever fits your schedule best. Thank you for your consideration. I sincerely hope for the opportunity to meet and interview you. Please pass my thanks on to Mrs. Pederson for taking the time to talk with me, I truly appreciate it.

Best to you,

Matt Saxe
Banded Artists

A week later I received this:


Mr. Mondale would be happy to meet with you. However, he can't do it this summer. Any chance, sometime in the fall would work?


As the kids say: OMG!

After dancing around the room for about 15 minutes I called Jason to let him know the good news. It was one of the happiest phone calls I have ever made. We were both ecstatic.

After a flurry of emails dealing with the scheduling and all, we finally decided that the interview will take place in a conference room at Mr. Mondales law office on October 18th at 10AM. It will be our first interview with an actual VP. Not just any VP, but our oldest living VP and former Presidential candidate! Truly an American living legend. When Norm Coleman was forced to run against Mondale after the tragic death of Senator Paul Wellstone in a plane crash he said it was like

"...running against Mount Rushmore."

Well, now we're interviewing Mt. Rushmore. After all the refusals, it feels so amazing to have a true success. Its truly the biggest thing to happen for our film. Now we need your help. We are going to establish a fund thru PayPal to get Jason a ticket to come here to Minneapolis for the interview. We also need to find great HD equipment since we want this interview to be perfect. If all of you who LIKE us on Facebook give us just $5 to $8 or! We'd easily have enough to get Jason here and some for the equipment we want. We've never really asked for your help before, just to join our Facebook page. Which we still also want you to encourage people to do.

This interview can truly help make our film, because if VP Mondale has agreed to do it, then his fellow Democrats Al Gore and Joe Biden may agree to do it. And the Republicans won't want to be left out (and we don't want to leave them out -- we want to give people the WHOLE story) so VP's Quayle and Cheney might agree too. Please help us out. When we post the fund-raising page, please help us out and make whatever donations you can.

October 18th can't come soon enough for us.

Thanks Everyone.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1-Year Anniversary of Vice-Precedence Blog

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers!

Last night Jason informed me that its the one-year anniversary of the start of the blog for Vice-Precedence. I knew it must be around the time we had started it since I had been laid off on June 4 2009, and we started it a week later. So what have we done this year?

Well, in looking over our posts I'd have to say, we have done a hell of a job informing the public about the Vice-Presidency, whats going on with Dick Cheney and our current VP Joe Biden, and the men who have held this office in our nations history. Not to mention the fact that we were one of the first websites to break the stories of Sarah Palins resignation and the Gores divorce.

I hope that this doesn't come off as arrogant, but I am truly proud of the writing both Jason and myself have done here on the blog. People tell me that when they read it they always learn something and are entertained by it. I just wish more people would read it and that that stupid Japanese psuedo-porn site would stop trying to post their messages as responses to our posts. It drives me crazy.

At the same time, while I am proud of the blog and am truly grateful to you readers when you tell me how much you liked it, I can't help but feel frustrated about some things. Not here on the blog, but with Vice-Precedence as a production altogether. Something I haven't talked about here on the blog is that we wanted to shoot at the Vice-Presidential Museum in Indiana run by the Dan Quayle Foundation. I joined the Museum simply because I wanted to be a member. I had visited the website and admired what the museum did to preserve the memory and history of the Vice-Presidents and to educate children. After I joined I contacted the Museum director and talked with him about shooting at the museum. We discussed the film and our goals with Vice-Precedence. He had watched our trailer and other videos and understood what we were doing and found them entertaining and historically accurate. He told me to make a formal request to the Museums board of directors and he felt sure we would get permission to shoot at the museum. So I wrote a formal letter:

To President Darlene Stanley, The Quayle Commemorative Foundation, and
Whom It May Concern at the United States Vice Presidential Museum:

My name is Matt Saxe and I am a Sustaining Member of the Museum and a
professional filmmaker. Currently my company, Banded Artists
Productions, is working on a film entitled "Vice-Precedence," a comedic
documentary on the history of the Vice-Presidents who never served as
President, and the unique history of the office. We would very much
like to shoot in and use the resources of the Museum for our film.
After speaking with Director Johns, he told me that we needed to write
you for permission and explain what we want to do. That is the purpose
of this letter.

Our goal with this film is to both educate and entertain people with
the amazing history of the vice-presidency and tell the sometimes
funny, sometimes tragic, and sometimes bizarre stories of the forgotten
men who have held our nation's second highest office. We want to be
both completely historically accurate, and at the same time, give the
audience an incredibly entertaining experience. Studies have shown that
people retain information better when it is presented to them in a
comedic and entertaining way. We have accomplished this goal with other
films and we know we can accomplish it with this one.

Specifically in the museum, we are interested in highlighting unique
artifacts and displays that are there and on the Vice-Presidents from
Indiana. The museum shows that there are people in this country that
truly respect the office of the vice-presidency and believe it is
important that Americans learn about the office. We hope that by
filming at the museum and featuring it in our film, we can attract more
people to visit the museum and learn of all the great work it is doing.
While our film will emphasize the humorous stories and quotes about the
Vice-Presidency, we do not intend to mock the office or people who are
interested in it in any way. As I have said to Director Johns, we do
not want to have people laugh at the Museum or the people who work
there, we want them to laugh with us and be interested in the Museum
and the history of the office of the Vice-Presidency.

We are happy to schedule our shoot at the Museum to fit whatever is
best for the museum. The shoot would probably be 2 to 4 days at the
most. Our film does not have a large crew, probably 3 to 4 people or
so. So there would not be a big crew in the museum. We're also
interested in doing on-camera interviews with Director Johns and other
experts who work at the museum for possible inclusion in the film.
Perhaps even interviewing guests of the Museum as well.

We have already interviewed Professor Steven Tally of Purdue
University, the author of "Bland Ambition," and the legendary Gore
Vidal for our film. Mr. Vidal said we were "better interviewers than
Ken Burns". We interviewed Mr. Vidal in his home and it went perfectly,
so I can assure you, President Stanley and the Museum that we would
show the same respect towards the Museum. As a member of the Museum I
promise you the highest level of professionalism in regards to our film
and our crew. We believe shooting in the museum is one of the keys to
making this a truly great documentary. This is the first ever
documentary made about the Vice-Presidency, and we very much want the
museum to be a part of it.

Thank you and Best to you,

Matt Saxe
Sustaining Member United States Vice-Presidential Museum
Member-Minnesota Historical Society
Screen Actors Guild.

So we sent the letter in mid October of 2009, and waited. And waited. Months went by. I was assured by the director that our letter had been received and had been discussed at the Boards meeting. But we were told no decision either way.

Finally on April 5th 2010 I received the following letter.

Dear Mr. Saxe:

I want to apologize for the delay in response to your request. This has been a difficult and busy year. I should have been more prompt to reply.

Your request was presented to and discussed by the board of directors for the Center. In the end the decision was made that, although they appreciate that your project is intended to educate adults about the vice-presidency and appreciate your focus on historical accuracy, they do not believe it matches our mission of educational programming for young school children. Therefore, the board has declined your request to utilize the Center and staff for your production.

I wish your good luck on your project. As an apology for your troubles, I will be issuing a refund for your membership of $100.00. The check will be issued during the month of April.

Daniel Johns
Executive Director.
The Quayle Vice-Presidential Learning Center.

Can you believe that? Not only did they deny our request to shoot at the Museum, but they don't even want my tax-deductible donation for my membership! Wow! Sure enough within a week I had another envelope from the Museum with a check for $100 in it.

This sort of thing is what is making this production a story in and of itself. Does any other documentary ever have issues like this? Michael Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen have made it almost impossible to get interviews for a documentary. Everyone is afraid they are going be made to look like fools. I bet that in the case of the Vice-Presidential Museum this is especially a worry. Still, this has to be one of the weirdest things we've experienced in our trek to make this film.

In the end, we can only make another request and hope they will let us shoot at the museum. We have always planned on making the film appropriate for a wide audience. So that families can watch it together and learn from it. Like my father and I did when we watched Ken Burns CIVIL WAR. We also plan on making a childrens book to go with the film. Maybe these things will help to change the boards mind.

Still, the museum isn't the only one to deny us an interview. Walter Mondale, Al Gore, Sarah Vowell, all have (thru their agents or staff) denied our requests for interviews. We still haven't heard from Sarah Palins people who I contacted the day after meeting her at her book signing back in November of 2009. Even with all these refusals and obstacles, Jason and I stand firm in making Vice-Precedence the film and completing our other projects that are associated with it. Your can help us accomplish our dream.

Tell your friends and family about our production. Join our Facebook page and post comments on it about blogs, links, and pictures we put up. Anything you can do that you think will be helpful to us, we would be grateful for. You can see on the blog that people love and are interested in this production. Whenever I feel a little depressed about how things are going, I read the endorsement given to us by Paul Zaloom (Beakman of the legendary kids science show BEAKMANS WORLD, and nationally recognized political theatre performer) that Jason received and posted here on the blog:

"The trailer for "Vice-Precedence" knocked my socks off. The film deftly mixes the genuine history of the VPs, much of it astounding and weird as hell, with witty commentary, the best combination for a film on a serious and absurd and seriously absurd subject. I laughed out loud a bunch of times; that doesn't happen often enough in documentaries. I cannot wait to see the finished project."

That always makes me feel good.

I just want to finish this blog by saying "Thank You".

Thank You to Mr. Zaloom for this amazing endorsement and to the legendary Gore Vidal for actually letting us come to his home and interview him for our film and for his incredible endorsement and continued support.

Thank you to YOU-all our Family and Friends and Fans (Likers?) on Facebook and who have and continue to support our production.

Thank you to my production partner and friend Jason Klamm for all his hard work on the blog, Facebook page, and website.

Some great stuff is coming folks, and I think you'll be just as excited as we are about it. Thank You Vice-Precedence Supporters!

Matt Saxe

Happy Birthday!

As the Vice-Precedence blog celebrates it's first birthday/anniversary, I'd like to take a few moments to acknowledge how much has been accomplished in this year.

First, we're moving forward on a graphic novel based on a particular VP, with some amazing artists on board. It promises to be exciting, since we've chosen one of the most bad-ass VPs there has ever been.

Secondly, Matt got to meet Sarah Palin herself. Whether or not you (or we) agree with her politics, she's a part of Vice-Presidential history, and Matt had an insane time just waiting in line to get her to sign his book. He was part of a sideline to an historical footnote.

Thirdly, we're ever-closer to getting Vice-Precedence to the next step - as a book/movie. The book is always moving forward, as we discover new tidbits, but we're ever-closer to finding the right grant/funding to make the road trip/documentary a reality. Not everyone is on the same page as I am, but the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz very recently wrote an article that finally acknowledged, as we have been doing for quite awhile, that Joe Biden is a powerful force in the Obama Administration. The mainstream media is finally picking up on the same stuff that we at Vice-Precedence have been reporting on and analyzing, through the filter of historical vice-presidential perspective, for a year now.

It's been an amazing year for the blog, the book, the movie, and for us. A quick thank you to all of our supporters and our fans (Or "Likers," as Facebook has forced them to become), not to mention the likes of the amazing Paul Zaloom, who was kind enough to endorse our humor, and to Gore Vidal, who has remained supportive ever since our initial interview.

As always, tell your friends (you may have to leave out the whole politics & government angle at first) and send us your feedback. Here's to a fantastic year.


Jason C. Klamm, B.A.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Hubert Humphrey!

Hey Vice-Precedence Fans!

Today is the birthday of a man who truly was a champion of human and civil rights and who helped to create the modern Democratic Party, but because of his service as VP and the controversy and his subsequent loss in the Presidential Election of 1968 has been consigned to the "loser" bin in history. A place he certainly does not belong.

Today would be the 99th birthday of the original Triple H -- Hubert H. Humphrey. 38th Vice-President of the United States. I currently live in Minnesota in a suburb of Minneapolis, and with the older generations here, Humphrey is still widely respected and admired. Younger generations know of him mostly because of all the buildings named after him, most notably, the infamous Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, where the Minnesota Vikings, the U. of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team (until last year), and (until just a month ago) the Minnesota Twins played all their home games. The Metrodome is considered one of the worst stadiums in baseball history due to its lighting, the placement of its speakers, hard bouncy surface, bad sight lines, low ceiling and other odd features, primarily because it was built for football not baseball. With the moving of the Twins and Gophers to brand-new outdoor stadiums, and the Vikings demands for a new stadium -- the 29 year-old Metrodome would seem to be on its last legs and headed for destruction. A sort of fitting tribute to what the Vice-Presidency did to the the career and aspirations of Humphrey himself.

Before becoming VP, Humphrey had made a name for himself across the country as the champion of civil rights at the 1948 Democratic Convention. It was here that Humphrey demonstrated the zeal and characteristics that would lead to his nickname-"The Happy Warrior". Humphrey who at the time was the most popular mayor in Minneapolis history, and the DFL(Democratic-Farm-Labor) candidate for the Senate, gave a deeply passionate speech coming out strongly for civil rights and to leave the history of racism and segregation in the party behind. The Democratic Party-since its establishment, had always been the party of the South, and after the Civil War, it became even more so. It was believed that the party needed "The Solid South" -- all the electoral votes of the Southern states -- if it had any hope of winning the Presidency, and Democratic party leaders across the country always simply gave in to Southern segregationists in order to keep the party together. Humphrey believed that the time had come to end segregation not just in the party, but across the country. As Mayor of Minneapolis he had inherited a city that had been called "the antisemitism capital of the country" with a racist and corrupt police department and had worked tirelessly to end these circumstances. Now he wanted to do it for his party and the rest of the country. The Truman Administration and President Truman were for aggressive federal action on the issue of civil rights, but had agreed to adhere to a weaker platform at the convention to "keep the peace". Humphrey became the de-facto leader of the anti-communist, pro-civil rights liberals who wanted to break with this weak platform. Truman had already issued a 10-point civil rights program, but his aides worried that pushing the agenda too far would anger the Southern wing of the party. Aides to Truman warned Humphrey not to bring the issue to the floor of the Convention. Humphrey however, could not hold his tongue any longer on this issue he felt so strongly about, and gave an impassioned speech in favor of civil rights ending with:

"To those who say, my friends, to those who say, that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!"

After the speech one furious Southern politician wondered:

"Can you imagine the people of Minnesota sending that damn fool down here to represent them?"

However, as much as the Southern racist wing of the party hated the speech and Humphrey, it was surpassed by the passion the rest of the party felt for it and the man himself. Humphreys speech electrified the pro-civil rights members of the party and helped them push through their pro-civil rights plank into the platform of the party. This infuriated the Southern Democrats who stormed out of the convention and formed their own "Dixiecrat" party with South Carolina governor J. Strom Thurmond as their presidential candidate. They knew Thurmond was unlikely to win -- he was one of four candidates in that very unique election -- but their hope was to prove to the Democratic Party as a whole that it needed the South if it had any hope of winning the presidency and that it had to get rid of its strong civil-rights platform. But Humphrey had not just blindly gone into his speech without considering the political ramifications. He knew the adoption of the pro-civil rights platform would lose the South, but he believed it would gain enough support from blacks in big Northern cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit to make up for that. He had talked about it with those cities mayors and other Northern politicians, and they had agreed. Humphrey was determined to show it could work, and campaigned incredibly hard for President Truman. He was proven right. Truman scored the biggest upset in American political history, winning the 1948 election and demonstrated that the Democratic Party could win the Presidency without the "Solid South", and this weakened Southern Democrats and helped to trigger the shift of these Southern Democrats to the more conservative Republican Party. David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize winner "Truman" wrote that besides Truman himself, the person who did the most to help him win in 48 was Humphrey.

Besides campaigning for Truman, Humphrey got himself elected to the Senate, where he would serve for 15 years, and in the process become the greatest Senator in Minnesota history. His colleagues selected him as majority whip in 1961, a position he held until he left the Senate on December 29, 1964 to assume the vice presidency. Humphrey knew he wanted to continue his work on civil rights, but he also knew he had angered the Southern wing of his party. He knew he had to work with Southerners if he wanted to accomplish his political and personal goals, so he attached himself to a southerner and Washington "insider" -- Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Johnson showed Humphrey the ropes and how to get things done in the halls of the Senate and the two men became friends and the most powerful Democratic team in the Senate for over a decade. Humphrey began to win his fellow Senators over with his strong sense of personal honor, his deeply felt passion, his integrity, and his eloquence in his clever, if a bit too long, speeches. His behavior led TIME Magazine to say that his critics thought he was:

"Too cocky, too slick, too shallow, too ambitious."

Humphrey became known for his advocacy of liberal causes; of course, civil rights, but also arms control, a nuclear test ban, food stamps, and humanitarian foreign aid. In 1957 he introduced the first bill to create the Peace Corps -- 3 years before JFK, and in 1961 with President Kennedy's backing -- it became a reality. In 1964 as Democratic Whip he experienced his greatest moment in the Senate with the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act.

By 1964 Humphrey had become a prominent national political figure and had run for the Democratic nomination for President twice. He had lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960 after losing the controversial primary in West Virginia. JFK's billionaire father Joe had poured millions into this poor, heavily Protestant state in an effort to prove his rich Catholic son could win a national election. It worked. Humphrey couldn't match the Kennedy fortune and lost a state most thought he had to win if he was going to get the nomination, so he dropped out of the race despite winning other primaries. But in 1964 President Johnson needed a VP candidate (after Kennedys assassination he had become President and had not appointed a VP) and Humphrey wanted the job badly. After the 1960 primaries he had reached the conclusion that since he didn't have the money to win a national election, he would have to serve as VP if he wanted to ever become President. Which he wanted very much. Johnson knew he wanted Humphrey as his VP, but he also knew he had the national press in the palm of his hand while they waited for him to make his announcement of his choice. It was all too tempting for Johnson who, it must be said, had something of a cruel sense of humor. Johnson had little patience for Humphrey's windy speeches, saying:

"If only I could breed him to Calvin Coolidge." (For those of you who don't get this reference-Coolidge was nicknamed "Silent Cal" and known for not talking much)

Johnson knew most of Washington and political experts around the country expected him to tap his old Senate colleague as his VP, and he knew Humphrey expected it as well. However, he just wasn't going to let it all happen that easy. First, at a State dinner where Humphrey was present, he asked him in front of the entire dinner what he thought of Senate President Mike Mansfield as a choice for VP, embarrassing Humphrey in front of the entire dinner. Then when he finally summoned Humphrey to the White House to tell him officially he was his choice he made him wait in the limo in the driveway for almost two hours. Humphrey fell asleep waiting, and was rudely awakened by the President who derisively told him:

"If you didn't know you were going to be Vice-President a month ago, you're too damn dumb to have the office."

At the 1964 Democratic Convention, Johnson sort of made up for this treatment by announcing Humphrey as his choice for VP with much fanfare, taking his time as he praised Humphrey's many qualifications before announcing his name to thunderous applause. The next day at his acceptance speech, Humphrey made his own mark and surpassed the President with his speech, immediately taking on the role of the VP candidate as the attack dog on the other party's candidate. As reported by TIME Magazine:

Hubert warmed up with a long tribute to the President, then hit his stride as he began a rhythmic jabbing and chopping at Barry Goldwater. "Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted for an $11.5 billion tax cut for American citizens and American business," he cried, "but not Senator Goldwater. Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate — in fact four-fifths of the members of his own party — voted for the Civil Rights Act, but not Senator Goldwater." Time after time, he capped his indictments with the drumbeat cry: "But not Senator Goldwater!" The delegates caught the cadence and took up the chant. A quizzical smile spread across Humphrey's face, then turned to a laugh of triumph. Hubert was in fine form. He knew it. The delegates knew it. And no one could deny that Hubert Humphrey would be a formidable political antagonist in the weeks ahead.

Johnson and Humphrey won in a landslide, but over the next four years the two mens friendship would be strained and destroyed by the offices they held. Johnson wanted Humphrey as his VP because he wanted a "Yes Man" and he made it clear to Humphrey that was what he expected of him. Humphrey from the start was against the Presidents handling of the growing military crisis in Vietnam, but Johnson threatened that if Humphrey ever spoke to the press or public against his policies there, he would destroy Humphrey's chances to become President by opposing his nomination at the next Democratic Convention. So Humphrey kept his mouth shut, angering his liberal friends and supporters across the country. They wondered what had happened to the "Happy Warrior" and began to abandon and criticize him, weakening his support across the country. Songwriter Tom Lehrer was so distressed by Humphreys lack of support against Vietnam he wrote the song "Whatever Became of Hubert?" where inquired:

"Whatever became of Hubert? Has anyone heard a thing? Once he shone on his own, now he sits home alone and waits for the phone to ring. Once a fiery liberal spirit, ah, but now when he speaks he must clear it. ..."

Humphrey was unhappy as VP and furious at Johnson for making him not only hold his tongue, but also for his constant use of him as a court jester for his amusement. Johnson liked to think of himself as a Texas ultra-male. He rode horses, hunted, had affairs and nicknamed his penis "Jumbo" and would ask it as he got out of the shower in the morning:

"Who are we going to f**k today?"

Johnson forced Humphrey to come with him to his ranch in Texas where he took the gentle VP hunting and ordered him to shoot at two deer. Humphrey did as he was told, but first he protested. Johnson, who had pulled the same stunt on a visiting Bobby Kennedy, informed his VP that Bobby Kennedy had done as he had asked and said to him:

"Aren't you as much of a man as a Kennedy?"

Later in that trip Johnson ordered the VP to dress in outlandish and oversized cowboy clothes as if he was the comic relief in a John Wayne film, and included in the outfit an absurdly garish ten-gallon hat and marched his VP in front of a group of reporters and forced him to get on an extremely nervous horse, laughing the whole time.

All the humiliation and threats led to a dissolving of the strong friendship the two men had once had for each other. In 1968 after he announced he would not seek re-election for the Presidency, LBJ refused to endorse Humphrey. Humphrey as VP was the strongest candidate, but threats from his fellow Minnesotan Eugene McCarthy-who was the most anti-Vietnam of the Democrats and Robert Kennedy put pressure on him. With Kennedys tragic assassination, Humphrey again became the front-runner and it was expected that he would win the nomination at the Convention. The liberal, anti-Vietnam wing of the Democratic party would make Humphrey their punching bag in place of Johnson as what was wrong with the party. The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago was a nightmare. Outside the Convention Hall the Chicago Police Department had violent clashes with anti-war protesters that were broadcast on national television. Mike Wallace and Dan Rather were physically attacked on the Convention floor, and dozens of other ugly incidents took place. The convention damaged Humphreys chances at winning the Presidency, as did the candidacy of George Wallace of Alabama who took millions of blue-collar Midwestern votes that probably would have gone to Humphrey.

Liberals in the party started to rip on Humphrey as if he were the enemy. Hunter S. Thompson called him a:

"treacherous, gutless old ward-heeler....there is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey is until you've followed him around for awhile."

Because of all this, Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon. That's right hippies, when America could have elected the pro-civil rights, truly anti-war Hubert H. Humphrey president, you helped to make Richard Nixon president and Spiro Agnew VP, and all that came with them. Nice work! You have only yourselves to blame. When you think about what "might-have-been" with a Humphrey presidency as compared to the corrupt and secretive Nixon Administration, its almost enough to make you weep. Many liberals consider it as bad or even worse than George W. Bush defeating Al Gore.

After losing the 68 election, Humphrey returned to Minneapolis where he was an icon. He picked up the work he had done before turning to politics. Teaching. He happily taught students at both the esteemed Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. Then in 1970 he once again was nominated for and won election to the Senate, and would serve there for the rest of his life. At times he was considered a strong candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but he could never shake the taint of what had happened at the 1968 convention enough to win the nomination. He was extremely popular in the Senate, and in 1974, Humphrey co-authored the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, the first attempt at full employment legislation. In 1976 the Senate honored Humphrey by creating the post of Deputy President pro tempore of the Senate for him. On August 16, 1977, Humphrey revealed he was suffering from terminal bladder cancer. On October 25, 1977, he addressed the Senate, and on November 3, 1977, Humphrey became the first person other than a member of the House or the President to address the House of Representatives in session. President Carter honored him by giving him command of Air Force One for his final trip to Washington on October 23.

Humphrey spent his last weeks mending political and personal fences and calling old allies and opponents. One call was to Richard Nixon inviting him to his upcoming funeral. Nixon accepted the invitation. Living in the hospital, Humphrey kept himself busy by going room to room, cheering up other patients with a joke and listening to them. Many patients were thrilled that their beloved Senator was there to talk to them and Humphrey did his best to make his fellow patients comfortable and happy despite his own impending death.

He died on January 13, 1978 of bladder cancer at his home in Waverly, Minnesota. His body lay in state in the rotunda of both the United States Capitol and the Minnesota State Capitol, and was interred in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Old friends and old enemies of Humphrey, from Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon to President Carter and his former aide, successor in the Senate and the current Vice-President Walter Mondale payed their final respects. Mondale famously eulogized:

"He taught us how to live, and finally he taught us how to die",

In one of his last speeches before his hospitalization, Humphrey gave voice to what has since been called-"The Liberals Mantra", and while if you're a dyed in the wool conservative Republican or Libertarian, you may disagree with these words, millions of Americans find inspiration in them:

"It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped,"

For Hubert Humphrey, the Vice-Presidency was the thing that tainted his rich legacy of fighting for what he believed in, for championing civil rights, and helping his fellow Americans improve their quality of life. Humphreys legacy lives on in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, which fosters an exchange of knowledge and mutual understanding throughout the world. Here in Minnesota, Humphrey is everywhere, besides the Metrodome, there is the Humphrey Terminal at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, the Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corps Center in St. Paul, MN. The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and its building, the Hubert H. Humphrey Center, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Cancer Center in Robbinsdale, MN. I have seen his picture hanging in a friends house, when her husband-as a member of the Peace Corps, went with his fellow Peace Corps workers to visit the man who helped create their organization in his office when he was VP. Many consider him still to be the greatest mayor in Minneapolis history and the greatest Senator the state has ever had as well. Humphrey helped to put the state on the national map as a stronghold for Democratic senators with national influence. His legacy lives on in former VP Mondale, and inspired the late Paul Wellstone, and current Senator Al Franken. There can be no doubt that Humphrey truly made an impact on this nations history -- particularly in civil rights and the Peace Corps.

Along with job centers, schools, health centers, and other public buildings across the country named after him. Humphrey helped to create the modern Democratic Party, separating it from its racist past and bringing it into the modern world. His championing of civil rights led Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American males to make him an Honorary Life Member.

Its a shame the Vice-Presidency and the events at the 1968 convention have tainted his legacy. Instead of thinking of Humphrey as a weak "dough-faced" liberal wimp, I prefer to think of him as the man who stood up for what he believed in at the 1948 Democratic Convention and most of his life. The Vice-Presidency was just a bump on the road. As it seems to be for many. Maybe next year on what would have been his 100th birthday, my current state of residence will do something to honor the "Happy Warrior". If so, I will be sure to be there. For now, I ask you to join me in saying:

"Happy Birthday Hubert H. Humphrey!"

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vice-Precedence Reviews the AL GORE Comic.

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers.

Sorry for the long delay in posts, but if you are frequenting the Facebook page for "Vice-Precedence" as you should be of course, you can see that Jason and I are putting up some great links to keep you updated about everything going on VP wise.

As you probably remember Bluewater Comics is the creator and publisher of comics about everyone from Barack Obama to Bo Obama, with Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, John McCain, J.K. Rowling and more in between. They published a Joe Biden comic that Jason and I reviewed here on the blog. Now this week their comic book biography of former VP Al Gore came out. So here's my review of it.

As I have come to expect with Bluewater, the cover art is good, but inside, the art is not only disappointing, but clearly mistakes have been made. On page 24 in an illustration that is supposed to show VP Gore and then Gov. George W. Bush making accusations against one another in the 2000 election, the illustrator made an error and has Bush angrily pointing and yelling at himself, as if into a mirror. Something I am sure Democrats around the country would like to imagine, but isn't really possible. Its supposed to be Gore yelling at him, but instead its a sloppy mistake.

On another page that is supposed to illustrate Gores centrist voting record and views, its simply a wide panel with ugly illustrations of bald people with no distinguishing facial features voting and one kneeling in prayer with the Statue of Liberty blindfolded for some reason. It's a terrible illustration. On the last page in the top panel, a jacket-less Gore has collapsed into the arms of an African-American man with another man looking down on Gore as if he is telling him to relax or calm down, while on the other side a woman seems to be holding back Tipper Gore (who is illustrated so generically throughout the comic its hard to tell if it IS her) who looks upset and perhaps furious. I must confess I don't have any idea what this scene is supposed to be about or if it is referencing some event in the life of the Gores that I don't know about. Its a strange, out of place panel that doesn't seem to really make sense. Throughout the book the art is just not very good and again, Bluewater uses pale colors that don't really leap off the page.

As for the writing, the story of Gore's life as told by Scott Davis who puts himself in as the narrator on the first page sitting on a lawn chair next to a penguin in the South Pole before the iceberg he's sitting on is hit by a ship, is done with Bluewaters usual simple style and admirable effort to be non-partisan and just state the facts. It points out Gore's successes, his failures, his redeeming qualities and flaws (such as his wooden manner and speaking style, know-it-all behavior, and penchant for hyperbole), in a fair way. It clearly states that some people think of Gore as an:

"arrogant, scripted liberal hypocrite...the embodiment of big invasive government."

while others see him as:

"...the idealistic conscience of his country"

It does a good job of distinguishing facts from opinions. Something I wish more writers, bloggers, and so-called reporters would do.

The story is told chronologically beginning with Gores background and upbringing between the privileged halls of Washington power and private schools and rural Tennessee where he could cut loose performing crazy stunts off the back of speed boats when his father--Senator Gore--wasn't working him harder than the hired help cleaning hog pens and clearing over 20 acres of hill land of timber with nothing more than a regular ax. As a child Gore was apparently a "perfect little gentleman" for the most part, but also something of a "tattletale" who also enjoyed dropping water balloons on passing limos from the roof of the ritzy Fairfax Hotel his family lived in when his father was serving in the Senate. He was called "A Wooden Apollo" by one of his high-school instructors, and the book illustrates well the Gore who while in Washington worked hard to be "The Senators Son" but who was more "relaxed, fun-loving, daring, impetuous, even a bit reckless" down in Tennessee. It does a fine job showing how Gore came by his philosophy of "Choosing the Hard Right over the Easy Wrong" and how he is an interesting combination of Washington elitism and Southern gentleman tinged with the ability to be self-deprecating.

The comic does an excellent job about covering Gore's service in Vietnam. It points out, as I did on my blog for Gores' birthday, that Gore could have used his fathers political connections in the Senate and his family wealth to stay out of Vietnam (like George W. Bush and Quayle did) or just done things to avoid service (like Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney did) but instead volunteered. So even though he may have embellished a little about his service to gain votes (a time honored American political tradition) he did at least serve in combat -- something that those other guys I listed couldn't say. Gore volunteered partly because he felt it was wrong that rich privileged young men like himself could avoid service while poor kids went in his place, and partly because the Nixon Administration had targeted his father's Senate seat and him avoiding military service would have been used against his father in the campaign. The comic points out that it was later revealed that the Nixon Administration did, in fact, delay his deployment to Vietnam because they didn't want Senator Gore to get any "sympathy votes" due to his son serving in combat and being possibly wounded or killed.

The comic also does a good job tracing his career from a reporter into the House, then the Senate and the Vice-Presidency. It doesn't go into Tippers crusade against dirty lyrics on albums and only touches on the car accident his son was in. On one page it clearly and accurately covers all the controversy in Florida in the 2000 Election. This is one of the strongest aspects of the book. Something I especially appreciated is how it describes how Gore changed the Vice-Presidency. Starting with John Adams famous quote about the insignificant nature of being the Veep, it shows how Gore became a powerful and influential VP, saying:

"Gore changed the very model of the Vice-Presidency from the guy who goes to state funerals to an Executive Branch advisor and policy partner."

Finally, Davis sums up Gores post 2000 triumphs with "An Inconvenient Truth" and the Nobel Peace Prize in a concise style with his final statement ringing true:

" matter what side of the political fence you reside, you must admit that Al Gore is one of the more important, accomplished, influential, and relevant politicians of the 21st century."

All this is well and good, but the book suffers from the middling at best art, and again as we pointed out in the Biden comic, errors of syntax that were probably typos that should have been caught before publication. For example, on the FIRST PAGE, in describing what might have happened if Gore had won the 2000 Election it says:

"President Gore responds the 9-11 attacks."

That's just sloppy proofreading. Other examples include:

"...He grew up in the amongst"


"Others point to his populist campaign did not distance itself from the disgraced Clinton presidency".

Still, by simply showing Gores successes and flaws and telling the story in a clear way, I have to say, its much better than the Biden comic and I recommend picking it up if you can.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Matt Saxe

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Birthday William Rufus Devane King!

"One of those eminences whose strong impression on their own times has suffered a
gradual erasure upon the tablets of history."
John Updike on VP William Rufus Devane King.

Hey Vice-Precedence Readers!

Today is the birthday of one of our most obscure VP's. This VP is surrounded by speculation. He was so obscure, and his life leading up to and including the Vice-Presidency so bizarre that he was the VP we decided to make our "taster" -- a short video depicting what we want to do with "Vice-Precedence" -- about.

Yes, its the birthday of William Rufus Devane King. Born on April 7th 1786 in North Carolina. Vice-President under Franklin Pierce. Without a doubt, this is one of our most forgotten and obscure President-VP combos. And with good reason. Pierce is considered one of our least effective Presidents; by then the country was bitterly divided over the slavery issue with "Bleeding Kansas" going on in the West with acts of horrible violence that would be a pre-cursor to the Civil War. Pierce was probably an alcoholic, his son had died in a train crash involving the entire Pierce family days before his father took the oath of office, and his wife believed politics and Washington were evil and had prayed her husband would lose the election -- her beliefs she felt were confirmed by that train accident. So it was a rough four years for Mr. Pierce. Not so much for Vice-President King however. He was long gone by then.

King had had a distinguished career in American politics leading up to his election as VP. He had been a Representative from North Carolina, had co-founded the city of Selma, AL, and became one of that states Founders -- helping to write the Constitution for Alabama and help it attain statehood and became one of her first Senators in 1819. He was very popular there, getting re-elected in 1822, 1828, 1834, and 1841. He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate during the 24th through 27th Congresses.

He was Minister to France from 1844 to 1846. He was appointed and subsequently elected as a Democrat to the Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Arthur P. Bagby and began serving on July 1, 1848. King was a strong moderate in the Senate -- he believed slavery was Constitutional and should go into the territories but was against secession. This balance would be key during the major conflicts in the Senate -- particularly during the Great Compromise of 1850, as he was the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. President Zachary Taylor had died in office and VP Millard Fillmore had become President, but didn't appoint a VP -- so according to the rules of ascension at the time, King was the next in line to be President -- even before he was elected VP.

King was not a talented speaker or a genius, but was known for his even-temper and kind and generous ways and was seen as perhaps the finest moderator in the Senate who kept the Senate in line for decades. This was the "Golden Age" of the Senate with Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Thomas Hart Benton, Stephen Douglas, Charles Sumner, Sam Houston, and Jefferson Davis among others--and it was King who they looked to, even before his election as President Pro Tempore to keep things in order and to moderate their great debates that would shape the future of the country:

"He possessed, in an eminent degree, that quickness of perception, that promptness of decision, that familiarity with the now complicated rules of congressional proceedings, and that urbanity of manner, which are required in a presiding officer."
Edward Everett

By the time he was elected VP with Pierce in 1852 he was so weak and frail with tuberculosis that he had gone to Cuba in hopes that its tropical climate could aid his health. It didn't. King took the oath of office there in Cuba, making him the only member of the Executive Branch in U.S. history not to take the Oath in the United States. King came back to the U.S. for two days after taking the oath in Cuba, but never made it to D.C., dying at his plantation of Kings Bend in Alabama on April 18, 1853. He had been VP for only 45 days.

All of these things are established. However, what has fascinated some historians are the events involving Kings personal life. King never married, and even though they were decades out of style he was fond of wearing wigs, jewelry and silk scarves -- looking something like a dandy. His style of dress and behavior led President Andrew Jackson to call him such names as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy".

Even more intriguing is the fact that for 15 or so years he was roommates with future President James Buchanan. Buchanan had his own troubled past. He had been engaged to be married to an Anne Coleman. Before they were married he paid a call on her and shortly after, Coleman committed suicide. The Coleman family forbade Buchanan from attending the funeral and he never had a relationship with a woman again. It was after that that Buchanan and King met in Washington D.C.

They became very close very fast and moved into together. Sharing living quarters with other politicians was very common at this time--Washington was still not that big a city, and Congressmen and Senators had to keep their cost of living expenses down. All of them had homes and expenses back in their home states, so it was simpler to simply live together as roommates in boarding houses and hotels or homes for rent. So many did. However King and Buchanan seemed a little too close to some. Senator Aaron Brown of Tennessee in a letter to the wife of former President James Polk wrote that he had seen King:

"Aunt Fancy...rigged out in her best clothes."

and he referred to Buchanan and King as: "Buchanan and his wife."

Some of Buchanan and Kings letters to each other are still in existence, including this one from Buchanan to King when he left to be Minister of France in 1844:

"I am now solitary and alone, having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection."

King who was lonely and sad in Paris despite all the fashion and extravagance surrounding him wrote back:

"I am selfish enough to hope you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation."

All this has led many historians to believe that King and Buchanan were our first homosexual VP and President. Its interesting to note that they often discussed running together for those offices as well. While there is no genuine proof of the sexuality of King and Buchanan, the circumstantial evidence seems pretty solid. When Buchanan died his estate executors retrieved papers kept in a bank in New York that Buchanan claimed would explain the truth about his break-up with Anne Coleman and the real reasons for her suicide. However, when they got the papers they also found a hand-written note from the late President instructing them to not open or read the papers and to burn them immediately. So the truth was tossed in the flames--a mystery forever. One wonders however why more homosexual groups don't make a bigger deal out of King...perhaps because he fits too many stereotypes and because he was a slaveholder?

Anyway, all this made King the perfect person for us to make our "taster" about, and I am very proud of the short we made. I hope you will enjoy it as well. It can be seen on YouTube here.

We also have buttons available with Kings picture reading: "I Fancy Miss Nancy!" that I know you'll want to get. They, along with other Vice-Precedence merchandise can be purchased through our website for the film:

Be sure to become a FAN on Facebook of Vice-Precedence and to take part in our "Join The Race For Second Place!" Contest to get us more Fans. The person who gets us the most Fans on Facebook wins a Vice-Precedence button AND gets to ask a question of Vice-President Joseph Biden when we interview him! If we get to interview him. So write him and tell him to give us an interview!

Thanks for your support and HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT FANCY!

Matt Saxe