Rating the U.S. Vice Presidents
Posted July 05, 2008 at 08:00am by Chronicler
The following is a compilation of a series of posts I made here at OC earlier in 2008. I have made a few adjustments to the list. The Vice Presidents are listed in order, with a quick assessment of that person's performance as VP. Those with very short terms are considered unratable and not included.
1. John Adams - gets credit for opening the office, laying many ground rules governing debate in the Senate. Opposed allowing the press to cover the proceedings. Has to be considered one of the "great" VPs, especially after the decision that the VP would not participate in Senate debates.
2. Thomas Jefferson - continuously tried to undermine his President. Much better Pres than VP. Below average.
3. Aaron Burr - must be considered a poor VP due to his activities to undermine the US Gov't after losing the contingent election of 1800.
4. George Clinton - not well liked by Senators who grew tired of his snoring through their debates. Below average.
6. Daniel D. Tompkins - average. Hated the job and tried to run for NY Governor to get out of it.
7. John C. Calhoun - below average. Served under two Pres's - JQA and Jackson - and tried to undermine each of them.
8. Martin Van Buren - above average. The first VP since Adams who was interested in helping his Pres get legislation passed.
9. Richard M. Johnson - Average. Democratic Senators didn't respect him and wouldn't help him get re-nomination in 1840.
11. George M. Dallas - above average. His support of Polk greatly undermined a brilliant political career.
12. Millard Fillmore - Average. Rightly changed Pres. Taylor's policy on the Compromise of 1850 but otherwise was not too effective.
14. John C. Breckinridge - Average. Did not step up to the plate to limit the division of Dems in 1860.
15. Hannibal Hamlin - Above average. Though he had an outstanding political career before 1860, took his defeat in the convention of 1864 very well. What a mistake on the Republicans' part not to re-nominate him!
17. Schuyler Colfax - Average. Became the fall guy for the Pres's under-performance and took it pretty well.
19. William A. Wheeler - Average. Had to preside over an unruly and unfriendly Senate.
22. Levi P. Morton - below average. Failed to limit the Republican agenda of 1889 which sent the economy into a tailspin, and he took the fall in the convention of 1892.
23. Adlai E. Stevenson - Above average. Just when the Dems in the Senate were dividing along gold vs. silver lines, managed to stay above the fray and keep the party somewhat competitive after the 1894 debacle.
24. Garret Hobart - Great VP. Was the first VP in a long time to be a policy adviser to the President. His death and his successor overshadowed the transition from machine politician to master strategist.
26. Charles W. Fairbanks - Above average. Tried to keep TR on a moderate course and was overlooked in 1908 because of it. [Even though his course would have limited losses in 1906.]
27. James S. Sherman - Above average. Was one of the most dedicated VPs to date but needed to slow down rather than work himself into the grave.
28. Thomas R. Marshall - Average. Wilson didn't trust him and usually bypassed him when he needed something done in the Senate.
29. Calvin Coolidge - Below average. Attended cabinet meetings but waited until after leaving office to complain about decisions being made.
30. Charles G. Dawes - Great. Publicly outlined needed reforms in the Senate; chose to skip cabinet meetings rather than pretend to support the president's agriculture policies. Opposed many of the Pres's policies but did not attempt to undermine him every step of the way. Very capable but not appreciated by the White House.
31. Charles Curtis - Below average. The USA's only Native American VP was a far more effective majority leader in the Senate than VP.
32. John N. Garner - Average. Had serious reservations about many FDR policies but worked for many anyway. Then FDR jumped into the race in 1940 without asking Garner to step out. Why can't these guys work together?!
33. Henry A. Wallace - Great VP. Forward thinking VP worked to broaden the vision for winning WW2, streamline coordination of supplies for the war effort, keep track of needs of workers. His rejection pushed him to the far left in 1944.
35. Alben Barkley - Average. Presided over a friendly Senate but didn't give the impression of confidence and effectiveness. First to be called Veep.
36. Richard Nixon - Above average. Not well trusted by Ike, Nixon expanded the VP staff and did a lot of public relations for Ike anyway.
37. Lyndon Johnson - Great. Better VP than President. Very hard working through his political career, LBJ played a major role in keeping civil rights on the front burner during JFK's administration. Irritated JFK's staff but was close to the Prez.
38. HHH - Average. Earlier outstanding career was thrown away when he compromised on Vietnam (rather than work to find other solutions to LBJ's policy).
39. Spiro Agnew - Below average. Moderate in policy before 1969, became the first "attack dog" for the White House and went too far.
40. Gerald Ford - Average. Leading Rep in U.S. House was unable to convince Nixon that he was in real trouble. Better Prez than VP.
41. Nelson Rockefeller - Above average. Established the VP residence and worked to incorporate Secret Service needs into the VP's life. Ford appointed Rocky to lead the Whip Inflation Now program, and it went downhill between them from there.
42. Walter Mondale - Great. Re-established the role of VP as policy adviser and liaison with Congress. Also with increased work by Prez, took on some lesser jobs to lighten Carter's load.
43. GHW Bush - Average. OC'ers know I never have trusted him. During his VP'cy, the office became much less of what the Constitution expects - like presiding over the Senate.
44. Dan Quayle - Average. Was a better "attack dog" than Agnew; defended the Prez when needed (when did GHWB ever do that for RWR?). Quayle's shortcomings mostly had little to do with his job as VP. GHWB thought so, too, and kept his distance.