“Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste..” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Mom, four years ago Sarah Palin’s television speech renewed interest in the position of Vice-President. When you and I talked about it, I remembered her crowd-pleasing energy and her quip about the difference between hockey moms and pit bulls (the answer was lipstick). We both remembered the camera shot of her youngest daughter Piper licking her fingers and smoothing down a wisp of hair for her baby brother, Trig.
You also remembered another detail: “She’s not the first, you know.” Geraldine Ferraro had been the first female vice-presidential candidate for either of the main two parties. And years earlier, during a political discussion at a family dinner, you recalled Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President Harry Truman (from your home state of Missouri) saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” You and Grandma supposedly had a good laugh at that, because you both doubted Truman had ever cooked a meal in a hot kitchen in his life.
It’s election time again, Mom, and soon Mitt Romney will announce his choice of running mate. It’s strange the things we remember (and forget) about those who ran for and/or served as second-in-command. Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, Vice Admiral James Stockdale, was disoriented during a TV interview because his hearing aid wasn’t turned on. Comedians had a great time with Dan Quayle and his confusing “Quayle-isms” like this little gem: “I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy – but that could change.” Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln’s VP, was supposedly drunk during his inaugural speech; Johnson was also considered to be grossly incompetent, and was eventually impeached. And finally—who would have ever thought THIS would work?—Thomas Jefferson’s VP was Aaron Burr. The two were tied in the election, and on the 36th ballot in the House of Representatives, Jefferson was elected President, and Burr became Vice-President.
We can laugh at any number of things about the elections, but the truth is that the Vice-President is only one heartbeat away from being President. Dick Cheney was “acting President of the United States” for 135 minutes on June 29, 2002, while George W. Bush underwent a colonoscopy. And we all remember the photographs of Lyndon B. Johnson being hurriedly sworn in while JFK’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, still wore a pink suit stained with the blood of her husband.
Later, Jackie Kennedy would write this: “Even though people may be well known, they hold in their hearts the emotions of a simple person for the moments that are the most important of those we know on earth: birth, marriage and death.”
To this, Mom, I know you would nod and say Amen and wish them all well.