Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vice President, but not like you-know-who

As I wrote here, vice presidents have had a different role during the past three decades or so, than their predecessors did. Since the Carter Administration, VPs have been part of the White House team. There are marked differences in the level of influence of the VPs during that period, but none has experienced the type of political limbo to which VPs before Walter Mondale were commonly subjected.

It seems to me that, at first, that change in the vice presidential role was widely seen as a positive reform. But controversies surrounding outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney have given the new vice presidency somewhat of a bad name.

According to this report in Politico, Vice President-elect Joe Biden is putting out the word that his vice presidency will be significantly different than his predecessor's. But all indications are that Biden will be influential in the Obama White House. He has nine times as much Senate experience as the president-elect. Biden has chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, while Obama only recently became a junior member of that panel.

There will probably forever be disagreement about Cheney's role in George W. Bush's administration. Was he the evil genius controlling his puppet president? Or was he the loyal sycophant who supported the current President Bush's policies on Iraq, to the same degree he supported George H.W. Bush's very different approach to the same issue? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

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