Holy cow, did I ever enjoy reading Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance by Bill Kelter and Wayne Shellabarger, a snarky, thorough look at the foibles and missteps of the vice presidency from John Adams to Dick Cheney. I had no idea how completely comic the office has been through the years, but, as the authors note: "[The Vice Presidents'] relentless and overwhelming facelessness is testament to the bewildering fact that for more than 200 years, the American people have elected a buffoon's gallery of rogues, incompetents, empty suits, abysmal spellers, degenerate golfers and corrupt Marylanders to the Vice Presidency with barely a passing consideration that they might one day have to assume the highest office in the land."
Each profile is illustrated with wicked caricatures like these:
And chock full of useful quotes and details like these:
Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson offered his personal collection of 6,487books to restock the new library [of Congress, burned in the War of 1812], for which Congress paid him $23,950. Jefferson's gesture was not as beneficent as it appeared: For all his extraordinary talents, Thomas Jefferson was abysmal in his personal financial affairs. He would die virtually impoverished with enormous debts hanging over him, leaving his daughter penniless.
Aaron Burr: In his twilight [Aaron] Burr found solace in letters and women, sending breezy notes to his beloved daughter, Theodesia, regaling her with tales of his favorite European prostitutes, rating them by price and satisfaction — the kind of bonding every daughter longs for from her father.
Charles Fairbanks: "No public speaker can more quickly drive an audience to despair." – The Nation, describing Charles Fairbanks's oratorical prowess.
Calvin Coolidge: "Mr Coolidge's genius for inactivity is developed to a very high point. It is not an indolent inactivity. It is a grim, determined, alert inactivity, which keeps Mr Coolidge occupied constantly" – Columnist Walter Lippmann, 1926
As presiding officer of the Senate, Coolidge would eat lunch alone at a corner table in the Senate dining room, facing the wall.
John Nance Garner: "[It's] not worth a bucket of warm piss." – John Nance Garner sharing his opinion of the Vice Presidency with fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson.
Harry S Truman: "Look at all the Vice Presidents in history. Where are they? They were about as useful as a cow's fifth teat." – Harry S Truman, to Time Magazine, January 18, 1954, explaining why he never wanted to be Vice President.
Washington Post music critic Paul Hume dared to write an honest, if somewhat brutal, review of First Daughter Margaret Truman's singing recital in 1950… Truman…dropped Hume a letter, saying…"You sound like a frustrated old man who has never made a success, an eight-ulcer man on a four-ulcer job, with all four ulcers working. I never met you, but if I do, you'll need a new nose and a supporter below."
Richard Nixon: "Richard Nixon is a no-good, lying bastard. If he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd tell a lie just to keep his hand in." – Harry S Truman.
Dan Quayle: "I stand by all the misstatements that I've made." – Dan Quayle to ABC's Sam Donaldson, August 17, 1989.
Dick Cheney: When travelling, Vice President Cheney demands that his his hotel suites…have all televisions preset to Fox News Channel.