Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Charlie Curtis!

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers!

I apologize that there were no blogs last week. It was a very busy and hectic week for Jason and myself, but not for former VP Cheney or current VP Biden. As soon as anything breaks on either of them or anything Vice-Presidential-we'll post something here and update it on our Facebook page which is connected to our Twitter account-so you'll know ASAP. Remember to subscribe to us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in all VP news.

Now, what with Americans short-attention spans, its hard for most Americans these days to think that any VP was as unpopular as Mr. Cheney. Sure, Dan Quayle was ridiculed a lot, but no one took him really seriously enough to truly despise him. However that wasn't the case with our 31st VP. Though you wouldn't know this if you only looked him up on Wikipedia.

Yesterday, Jan 25th is the birthday of that truly despised VP (and one of Jasons favorites) Vice-President Charles Curtis of Kansas. Born Jan 25th in 1860. Almost 80 years before Barack Obama was elected President, Curtis, who had Native American blood from his mother-who was a mix of Kaw, Osage, and Potawattomie ancestry, was the first person with minority blood/Native American heritage to be elected to the Executive Branch back in 1929 when he was elected VP along with Herbert Hoover.

Curtis was raised for a time by his grandmother on a Kaw Reservation where he learned to ride horses in prairie races "Indian-style"-or bareback-for miles and miles. Curtis was very proud of his Native-American heritage and during the 1929 Presidential campaign co-wrote a book on his life with a Republican ghost-writer titled "From Kaw Teepee to Capitol: The Life Story of Charles Curtis, Indian, who has risen to high estate". Every opportunity he got through the campaign he wore head-dresses and other Indian garb to show his pride in his heritage.

Curtis was chosen as VP by the Republican party because they worried that Herbert Hoover was both too inexperienced (he had never held elected office before) and too liberal (Hoover had been in charge of feeding starving Europeans in the destructive wake of World War 1), and if there is anyone Republicans don't trust-its some millionaire who cares about and works to feed poor people. Joking! Joking! Take it easy Republican "Vice-Precedence" Fans. With Curtis, the Republicans felt that they at least had someone with experience whom they knew and trusted in the White House-Curtis had been in Congress since 1893, and was very popular with his fellow Republicans-having been Senate Majority Whip, Senate President Pro Tempore, and was the first Senate Majority Leader to ever become VP.

These are all things you CAN see on Curtis' Wikipedia page. However, what that page WON'T show you is that to many historians and VP scholars-Curtis was a joke. It can basically be summed up with the following quote:

"Charles Curtis of Kansas, one/eighth Kaw and seven/eighths incompetent."
Sol Barzman, VP scholar, author of "Madmen and Geniuses: The Vice-Presidents of the United States"

In his book, Bland Ambition-Vice-Precedence interview subject and friend of the film, Professor Steve Tally ripped Curtis up so badly and made him such a laughing-stock that the Curtis family threatened to sue Tally for disparaging the name of their illustrious ancestor.

But long before that, legendary American composers the Gershwin brothers: George and Ira-had made Curtis a joke by basing the ridiculous, pitiable, and non-entity Vice-President Alexander Throttlebottom in their Pulitzer-Prize winning musical Of Thee I Sing on Curtis. In the musical Vice-President Throttlebottom is recognized by no one, is unable to get a library card because he doesn't have any ID, and can only get into the White House by coming in with the public tour.

Curtis had no one to blame for himself for his portrayal as a buffoon and bully. As soon as he became VP he insisted that everyone-including men whom he had served with in the Senate for decades call him "Mr. Vice-President". He became so arrogant that one reporter wrote:
"His humility turned inside out."

Curtis was a widower and his married sister Dolly Gann became his official escort to state dinners and other official functions-horrifying polite Washington society. Not only was it kind of creepy, (brother and sister acting like husband and wife...eeewww) but Dolly had a perfectly healthy living husband who was basically cut out of the picture. The whole thing became a tempest in a teapot in Washington with people picking sides about who was right and who wasn't. In our interview Gore Vidal talked about how his family was involved in the whole argument.

Dolly, being rich and not all that bright, wasn't exactly in touch with the fact that a Depression was going on and that the stock market had plummeted and people across the country were out of work, starving, and suffering. She thought it was all a big hullabaloo that was being made too big a deal of-then she announced this opinion to the press-leading a newspaper to bitterly publish the headline-"Dolly Calls It Off!"

Curtis further made himself look like a cruel bully by calling out the Marines on the Bonus Army members outside his office building-the WW 1 veterans who marched to Washington and camped all around the city in the hopes that the government would pay them the bonus they had earned through their service in the war earlier than scheduled in light of the economic crisis of the Depression. President Hoover followed Curtis in calling out the U.S. Army to attack their own veterans in what I think is one of the worst actions in U.S. military history. When Curtis was questioned about this during the 1933 Presidential campaign he yelled:

"I've fed more than you have, you dirty cowards! I'm not afraid of any of you!"

as he shook his fists at the crowd and screamed, the crowd responded with boos and by throwing things at him. Is it any wonder FDR and Garner crushed Hoover and Curtis in the election that year?

One has to wonder why none of that is on the Wikipedia page for Curtis? Could it be more meddling by the Curtis family? Any way-it does need to be said, that way back in 1929, a man who proudly displayed his minority background was elected to national office. In this way, Curtis is something of a predecessor to President Obama-hard to believe, but true in a way. So there you have it:


Thanks for reading!
Matt Saxe

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Birthday John C. Breckinridge!

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers!

Well, tomorrow is the birthday of the youngest man ever elected to the Vice-Presidency, our 14th Vice-President-John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky!

Breckinridge was only 35 (the youngest age a person can be to be eligible) when elected VP and 36 when he was inaugurated. He was the young golden boy of the Democratic party. Handsome (at least by those days standards-check out the pic and decide for yourself), intelligent, a great speaker, a hero of the Mexican War, and extremely popular in both the North and the South. However, he was on horrible terms with his President, James Buchanan, considered by most historians as one of the 5 Worst Presidents in history for his waffling and weakness in the years leading up to the Civil War.

In the election of 1860 Breckinridge was the incumbent VP and one of the four candidates for President, the other three being John Bell, Stephen Douglas, and of course Abraham Lincoln. Breckinridge came in 3rd in the popular vote, but second in the electoral vote-winning 72 electoral votes and 11 of 15 slave states. He carried the border slave states of Delaware and Maryland, and nine of the eleven states that later formed the Confederacy, missing Virginia and Tennessee.

Had 25,000 New Yorkers voted for Douglas instead of Lincoln, Lincoln would not have won a majority in the Electoral College; without New York's 35 electoral votes, he would have received only 145 votes, seven short of the required 152. The vote would have then gone to the United States House of Representatives, and experts believe that the Southern-controlled House of Representatives led by Congressman William Yancey of Alabama, would have cast their vote for the Southern Democratic nomination, John C. Breckinridge. How different things could have been.

Breckinridge decided to side with the Confederacy, however, he had just been elected to the Senate by his horribly divided home state of Kentucky, which did not officially secede from the Union, making Breckinridge a traitor and a warrant was issued for his arrest on the charge of treason. Breckinridge joined the Confederate Army as a Brigadier General and fought bravely at many battles, before being named Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Unfortunately for him, that was in 1865 and he would be the last Confederate Secretary of War. He was forced to run for his life on a hellish trip through horrible swamps filled with poisonous snakes and mosquitoes, and at one time he and the men with him disguised themselves as pirates to board a boat to get to Cuba-of course, then he was attacked by actual, real-life pirates and forced to fight them as a fake pirate. Irony!

The whole experience was a nightmare out of Dantes Inferno, but eventually he made it to Cuba. He lived for a time in Europe because he was still wanted for treason. He was finally granted amnesty in 1869 and returned to Kentucky, which gave him a hero's welcome home. He returned to his law practice and did his best to fight the Klu Klux Klan in Kentucky before he died in 1875. Even though he had been granted amnesty for his service to the Confederacy, it wasn't until 1958 that the charge of treason against him was officially dismissed by a court in his home state.

A strange, remarkable, and exciting life-which is why we plan to focus on Breckinridge in "Vice-Precedence". So from all of us:

Happy Birthday John C. Breckinridge!

Thanks for reading and keep supporting "Vice-Precedence"!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cheney and Yemen, Palin on "O'Reilly" & "Game Change", RIP Jean Biden

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers.

In Cheney news, with the recent uproar over Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria and his attempt to blow up Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, there has been a lot of focus on Yemen and terrorists coming from there under Al-Queda. Many are saying this constitutes a Muslim terrorist attack on American soil, something that hasn't happened since 9/11 and that its a black mark on President Obamas national security record.

Personally the way I see it-this is the equivalent of Richard Reid-the "Shoe Bomber" something that happened during the Bush Presidency-but lots of conservatives-like former VP Cheney-don't see it that way.

However, Mr. Cheney needs to tread carefully about any remarks he makes criticizing the Obama Administration about this incident after what has recently been discovered.

In 2007, then Vice President Cheney personally authorized the release of 11 Saudis from Guantanamo Bay, who then passed through a Saudi halfway house terrorist rehabilitation program to rejoin Al Qaeda. Two of the 11 former prisoners rejoined Al Qaeda in Yemen.

In February, 2009, the New York Times reported that U.S. counterterrorism officials confirmed that one of the prisoners Cheney freed was Said Al-Shihri, who became the deputy leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen, and that he was suspected of being involved in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Yemen in 2007.

A review by the Defense Intelligence Agency showed that 14% of the 530 Gitmo prisoners released through VP Cheney's direct approval, 74 individuals, have either been identified as still participating in terrorism or are suspected of doing so. Now 14% doesn't sound like a lot, but when you think about it, its 14% too much. So many people have strong feelings about Gitmo, and now this report comes out. It all seems overwhelming sometimes.

As Jason reported, former Republican candidate for VP, ex-Governor of Alaska, and best-selling author Sarah Palin will soon be working for FOX News. It all begins on "The O'Reilly Factor" TONIGHT! So you may want to watch that.

If you saw "60 Minutes" on Sunday you know about the recent revelations by John Heilemann of New York magazine and Mark Halperin of Time magazine-the joint authors of "Game Change" about the 2008 Presidential campaign-from the primaries all the way to election night. Steve Schmidt-who headed up the McCain/Palin campaign also was on "60 Minutes" as well. Besides revealing that McCain originally wanted Joe Lieberman on the ticket but couldn't name him for fear of infuriating the far Right wing of the party, Schmidt also revealed that when Gov. Palin was told she had been tapped for the VP nomination she replied that: "It's God's plan." Also, the reason she asked Joe Biden

"Can I call you Joe?"

was that in all her practice for the Vice-Presidential Debate she kept saying "O'Biden". Now that should NOT be some big revelation to people, because on Page 289 of "Going Rogue"-Palins own book which has now been out for over a month-she admits to it happening over and over during the debate practice and that debate prepper Randy Scheunemann had the suggestion that she ask Sen. Biden permission for her to call him Joe when they met in the middle of the stage to shake hands before the debate, and Biden being a gentleman, would be happy to accept. She was nervous about calling him "Joe" because, as she points out:

"Senator Biden was a senior statesman. He'd been sitting in a U.S. Senate seat since I was nine years old."

However, she felt comfortable with doing as Scheunemann suggested, and the rest is history. For those of you who think Palin was a negative on the Republican ticket, Schmidt (who Palin occasionally rips on in her book) admits that if Palin had not been the Veep candidate: "Our margin of defeat would've been greater than it would've been otherwise."

I'd read all about this in her book while waiting to meet Mrs. Palin here in MN (which you can read all about here on the blog) so I wondered who would really be stunned by this-its been out there for over a month! My guess is-people who simply dismissed Palins book because it was written by Palin. News Flash folks-its old news.

Finally, as Jason has reported on Friday Jan 8th, the mother of Vice-President Joe Biden, Jean Biden, passed away. She was 92. Vice-President Biden made the following statement on her passing:

"Together with my father, her husband of 61 years who passed away in 2002, we learned the dignity of hard work and that you are defined by your sense of honor," he said in the statement. "Her strength, which was immeasurable, will live on in all of us."

Biden also had high praise for his mother at the Democratic National Convention in his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for Vice-President. His mother was there to see her son at this-the high point (so far) of his political career:

"My mother's creed is the American creed: No one is better than you," he said. "Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you. My parents taught us to live our faith, and to treasure our families. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough. When I got knocked down by guys bigger than me, and this is the God's truth, she sent me back out the street and told me, 'Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day.' And that's what I did."

As Jason reported her funeral was today. Around 700 people gathered together at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Guests included President and Mrs. Obama, former President Clinton, and many Cabinet and Congress members. Vice-President Biden thanked the President for treating his mom "with warmth and personal affection."

In his eulogy Biden said the following:

"She believed in us, so we believe in ourselves. How could we do less?" he said. "... Mom taught us that courage was not defined by the lack of fear, but by the willingness to act in spite of your fears; that bravery lived in each of our hearts. And her expectation was that we would be summoned to reach for it when necessary."

Jean Bidens original name was Catherine Eugenia Finnegan, and she was born in Scranton, PA. on July 7th, 1917. In 1941, she married businessman Joseph Biden Sr., with whom she had four children, Joe being the oldest. The couple moved from Scranton to Claymont, Del., in 1953, when the future VP was 10 years old.

In the Vice-Presidents book-"Promises to Keep" his mother was concerned about him leaving his successful law practice to go into politics-particularly running for the Senate against an extremely tough opponent;

"You're not going to run for Senate and ruin your reputation, are you?" he recalled his mother asking.

"And once Mom was reassured that my future was safe, win or lose, she would do anything," Biden wrote.

He also recalled in the book how when his mother couldn't find a pair of cufflinks for him to wear to an eighth-grade dance, she fashioned a pair from nuts and bolts, which left him stunned and embarrassed.

"Now look, Joey, if anybody says anything to you about these nuts and bolts, you just look them right in the eye and say 'Don't you have a pair of these?'" she told him.

Bidens mother was a great source of strength to her son after the tragic car accident that took the lives of his first wife and daughter just a month after his election to the Senate in 1972.

"After the accident, she told me, 'Joey, God sends no cross that you cannot bear,'" Biden recalled.

Biden continued in his eulogy that his mom was fiercely protective.

"To mom, the greatest virtue was courage," he said. "She taught her children that the thickest of all substances was blood."

Pallbearers included four grandsons and three granddaughters read selections from the Bible.

The Rev. Msgr. Thomas Cini told Jean Biden's children that she was "your strength, your rock." In death, Cini added, Jean Biden has been reunited with her siblings and her husband.

"You can imagine the Irish feast that's going on right now, and she's leading them," Rev. Cini said.

The Vice President concluded his eulogy echoing those remarks.

"Mom is back in dad's embrace, where she belongs, and we're all at peace,"

RIP Jean Biden from Vice-Precedence.

What else will be said about former VP Cheney and all the debate about national security and Yemen? What will Palin say on "The Factor" tonight? Stay tuned for more here Vice-Precedence readers, and thanks for your support.

Joe Biden's Mother Passes - Funeral Today

Joe Biden's mother, Jean, passed away Friday at 92. Her funeral will be held in Biden's home base of Wilmington, Delaware. President Obama will also attend the service. We send our respects to the Vice President's family.

CNN Article announcing Mrs. Biden's funeral here.

- Jason Klamm

Monday, January 11, 2010

Going Rove

According to The New York Times, Sarah Palin, following in the steps of former Bush Chief Adviser Karl Rove (and a number of other Republican notables), is going to be a contributor on Fox News. She will, according to the article, host a show that airs "from time to time" on the network. No word on what she's receiving for her irregular series, but the excitement is palpable here in the Vice-Precedence offices (what we call any chair we are currently sitting in, or, as it were, on the edge of).

The contents of the program? Not being revealed. Maybe she will review the daily news, rating them in terms of winks. Perhaps an interview program, where she goes "against the grain" by referring to everyone by their first name, whether appropriate or not.

What is most interesting about this choice is what it says about Fox News' programming choices, specifically their choice of contributors. Sure, Palin is popular among Fox's demographic, but she's also getting torn down by established conservatives - not just moderates, mind you, but people as close to her as McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt (who recently revealed that Palin kept referring to then-candidate Joe Biden as "Senator O'Biden" during practice sessions for the VP debate). Is this a move by Fox to cater to a specific demo within right-wing conservatives? Will it prevent people like Schmidt from appearing on Fox? Or is it a simple popular pander? Only time will tell.

(Thanks to the brilliant @JamesUrbaniak for the tip-off.)
Jason C. Klamm,B.A.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year from Vice-Precedence!

As Matt said before the New Year's close, we've come a long way in our six months. 2010 holds a lot for Vice-Precedence as a full project - not the blog alone. We're already hard at work on the first Vice-Precedence publication - more news to come on that - and Vice-Precedence proper is in the throes of an early first draft (without recycling every existing VP book, which is done frequently, we're taking this whole process from the beginning with - don't tell Wikipedia this - original research!). We've got a growing legion of fans on Facebook and the we're in the most interesting period for Vice Presidential news that there has ever been.

To start the new year off right, let's have a little moment with Folksy Joe Biden. As always, his folksiness has a purpose. This time, it's to help Joe's old standby - Amtrak (the preferred stock of which is owned entirely by the US Government).

In a recent essay on The Huffington Post, entitled "Why America Needs Trains," Joe-- I'm sorry, I think I might have to hug Joe right now, gimme a second. There. I hugged the monitor. That's as close as I'm going to get. He's like a kitten, that Joe! In this article, Biden argues that we, simply, ought to take trains more. Good argument for the environment, good argument for those who are presently afraid of planes or, possibly, more afraid of full-body scans - Joe is taking the safe route, but at least it's something he believes in.

He's been taking the Amtrak, famously, for almost 40 years. His entire term in the Senate, he traveled the route from Delaware to DC, 120 miles each way, so that he could be home with his kids. Even the cynics out there have to admit that that's a hell of a stretch for a little positive PR. And if he's willing to sit through 36 years of ass-numbing PR then, well, maybe Joe deserves what "The Joe Biden Problem" has finally given him - the VP seat.

Either way, Joe makes a good argument, and despite criticism that Biden is as secretive as Cheney, he's used his post TO DO THINGS. If he's trying to influence power behind the scenes, we can't be sure. What is obvious is what he's doing for the office - making it seem, if only in brief, that the VP is making an effort. Sadly, that's the most we can ask of a sitting VP. Make the effort.

- Jason C. Klamm, B.A.