SECOND IN COMMAND

(statue on the lawn of the Abilene, KS public library)

“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.

14 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, politics

14 responses to “SECOND IN COMMAND

  1. juliabarrett

    This post is so beautiful it needs no comment. Amazing.

  2. Lovely post. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Julia and Susan. Despite the increasing tensions as we approach the Presidential elections, I hold out hope that lessons from the past, at least regarding the V-Ps, will add some perspective.

  3. Wise words and we can only hope both the commander and his/ her choice fir second in command are up to the job

    • We’re all in this together, hoping that in both our countries the leaders (and their seconds-in-command, and all the elected officials) will be up to the job. There’s so much at stake, Tom.

  4. For responsibilities that loom,and for a nation in trial, your words are a calm moment in a sea of tides. Thanks for those soothing reflections.

    • Thank you, K. Growing up, again and again I heard that “This, too, shall pass,” but the waters can get very rough before the tide turns. We’ll have to see if we can learn to swim together and act as each other’s lifeguard.

  5. Molly

    To go one step even beyond the “This, too, shall pass.” is my most recent favorite saying, “It is what it is!” There are many things that we have absolutely no control over, and we just have to deal with them the best that we can. In the politics upcoming, we CAN all go out and vote, but then when the determination is made IT IS WHAT IT IS. This saying is not meant to be flip, or cutesy it is just factual. IT IS WHAT IT IS……in my world this applies to much more than politics but I will use it in November, too.

    Great post, Mom…./.I love the way that you look and address these type of topics…..it is phenomenal!

  6. The more I think about it, the more interesting the Jefferson/Burr solution seems. It might be interesting to see what would happen if the candidate with the most votes became President, and the other became V-President; and then two years later they had to trade places. Would that be more of a problem, do you think…or the beginning of a solution?

  7. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Thanks for restoring some sanity and perspective to the process, Marylin!

    • Thanks, Nancy. It’s kind of crazy, though, that some of the saddest, quirkiest, strangest examples from our V-P past actually give us a sane perspective now. Maybe it’s the fact that we faced all those things and survived them?

  8. I’m not typically a political person, although with the election year, my ears and eyes are a bit more perked up. Thanks for giving this little history lesson in such a non-intimidating way. :)

  9. You’re welcome, Pamela. Politics, in general, usually leave me cold because ultimately I don’t trust either side of the political coin.
    My favorite details are the tidbits, like Cheney being President for 135 minutes, or my mother and grandmother laughing that Truman had never cooked a meal in a hot kitchen. Just ask hard-working farm women what’s what, and they’ll tell you!
    It’s the human side of things that keeps me interested, even in politics.

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