Vice-Presidents; Removing the “Vice”

Throughout the 2020 Presidential election season there has been speculation that the election of Joe Biden was really a vehicle to place a true leftist into a position to become President. Biden’s age and the perception by some that he is in mental decline seems to make it likely he will not serve two terms for a total of eight years. If he does, would Kamala Harris, his vice-president, likely be poised to run and win in 2028, or if he bows out after one term, in 2024? Another possibility is that he would die in office (or become incompetent to function and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment procedure could be invoked to put Harris in the White House, temporarily or for the duration of Biden’s term).

It might be useful to look at Vice-Presidential succession during the past two centuries.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the first two VPs who succeeded their President. But both were elected under the pre-Twelfth Amendment procedure where the candidate with the second highest number of Electoral votes was elected as VP.

Since then twelve Vice-Presidents have made it to the Presidency; Biden will be the thirteenth (unlucky?). Three were first elected in their own right: Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush. Nine were “accidental” in that they succeeded Presidents whose terms were cut short, eight by death, Nixon by resignation.

Using the Vice-Presidency as a stepping-stone appears to be a recent phenomenon. One reason for this is that the only Constitutional duty the VP has, other than wait on the sidelines to step if the President dies, resigns, or is removed, is to preside over the Senate. Most candidates were chosen to “balance the ticket” or mollify factions. Until recently, Presidents mostly used their Vice for ceremonial or other feel-good purposes and had no interest in promoting their political prospects. Prior to 1960, Van Buren was the only VP who was nominated and elected to follow a President who completed his term(s). Several failed to follow their Presidents into the White House: Humphrey, Mondale, and Gore. Nixon failed to immediately follow Eisenhower, but was elected eight years later in 1968. George H. W. Bush was elected in 1988, immediately following Reagan’s two terms. Of the accidental Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, and Lyndon Johnson were elected in their own right after finishing their President’s remaining term, The other five were not.

All this is to suggest that if Harris were to become our first woman President, it will probably be the result of Biden leaving office prior to the end of his term, first or second. Furthermore, dubbing her as “accidental” would not be appropriate. It cannot be lost on observers that Harris was selected by the Democrat Party precisely for that purpose. Of course, another benefit to Harris’ candidacy was to shore up support from the party’s left wing, who might have otherwise sat on their hands. She’s a three-fer: a committed leftist, is the right sex, and has the right complexion for the so-called woke crowd.

A year or so ago, I saw Nikki Haley speak in Dallas. Her presentation suggested to me that it was probable that she would be the first woman President. That possibility has not gone away. Perhaps sooner than we think, there will be two female nominees, each one the daughter of immigrants. That would be a hoot (and I would still bet on Haley). But like everything else in this brave and crazy new world, only time will tell.

Note: Dave Berry in a year-end column pointed out that Kamala Harris’ name is an anagram of “I alarm a shark”! Joe Biden is “I need job”!

Perspectives on a Birthday

There are many descriptive word to describe this past year, some vulgar, some darkly humorous. It is not a time anyone would wish to repeat. Even the Christmas season has been spoiled to some extent. Nevertheless, celebrating the birth of the doubtless most consequential individual in human history should elate us. Not going to dwell on what Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in Bethlehem, now in the State of Israel, caused the next twenty and a quarter centuries to bring forth. There are numerous writings from all perspectives in that regard.

Several year ago I mentioned on this blog that Walter Russell Mead Bard, Bard College professor and editor at The American Interest, wrote interesting essays on his Yule Blog for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas Eve. I commend two of those essays to readers, and am certain that Mead’s others can be found and appreciated by those interested. These essays can be appreciated by nearly anyone irrespective of their religious belief. His Fourth and Fifth Day ones are at these links:

God Jul

Craciun fericit

Wesolych Swiat

Linksmu Kaledu

Hyvää Joulua

Sretan Božic

Veselé Vánoce

Frohelich Weihnachten

Buon Natale

Joueux Noel

¡Feliz Navidad! (If you live in Texas and don’t know what this means, you reside in a cave.)

In other words, Merry Christmas (to all and to all a good night.)

Kicking a Hornet’s Nest or is there a “Doctor” in the (White) House?

Talking about kicking a hornets’ nest. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by long time contributor Joseph Epstein that criticized incoming first-lady Jill Biden’s use of the courtesy title/honorific  “doctor” or “Dr.” with her name.

The op-ed provoked a storm of on-lin comments. as of this morning almost 4,000, many of which would merit inclusion on public restroom walls. This morning, the WSJ  published some of the more respectful dissents. That newspaper also published a riposte by Paul Gigot, its editorial page editor, confirming the WSJ will not give in to the politically correct movement or cancel culture. That piece also brought on a storm of comment.

Here are the links



Fifty-seven years ago today, I was in the first semester of my first year of college at Loyola University in New Orleans. It was a Friday, and I was looking forward to that evening. I was going to a school party on board a Mississippi River steamboat named The President, and had a date with who I considered to be a very attractive young woman.

Walking across the campus after lunch, I was on my way to a class when I heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, my home city. Classes were briefly held, but soon canceled. Students and faculty crowded into the student center where the lone television set— black & white, monochrome — was located. Those who couldn’t fit in listened to radios for the news that around 1:45 p.m. confirmed that the President was dead. Around 5:00 p.m. the afternoon newspaper’s final edition was delivered to the school racks bearing the headline “President Dead” in second-coming type that covered most of the first page (I kept a copy, but it was misplaced sometime during my various moves since. The Dallas Morning News font page from the next day is below). President Johnson took the oath of office in Air Force One, at Love Field, before taking off to Washington late in the afternoon. Those events and those of the next four days were a watershed in world history.

The event on the steamboat that evening was not canceled, but it turned out to be somber affair that lasted for about two hours of the four scheduled. At the time, most students were apolitical, though that would soon change with a vengeance. Classes for the next week were all canceled and I went home to Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday on Monday.

That time was different in so many ways. In this writing the focus is on the communications technology as it was then.

Two of the most essential infrastructures our communications are dependent upon today are satellites and fiber-optics, Though AT&T had, with NASA, launched the Telstars 1 & 2 in 1962 & 1963 , they were of limited use, and not for the general public. Fiber-optics were limited to scientists imagination – some at the time might have said hallucinations. The existence of the Internet was unimaginable, except perhaps in science fiction. Telephones were limited to land-lines for most. All were rotary dial; DTMF (Touch-tone) had only been offered to the public as of November 18, four days prior to Kennedy’s death. Portable automobile telephones existed but they were very expensive to own and operate and had limited number channels which made them nearly impossible to use during peak hours. Cellular was 20 years away in the future. Televisions were all broadcast – no cable or satellite — and programming was limited to three national networks and a few locally programmed stations. FM radio existed but was of limited use. Some radio sets were AM/FM, but most available were AM only. Auto air-conditioning was an expensive add-on if you wanted it factory installed; most A/C was aftermarket. The only familiar and affordable imported car was the Volkswagen Beetle, though there were some luxury imports from Europe, and the Japanese Datsun (later Nissan) had newly arrived (and was considered a joke by many auto aficionados). Computers were all main-frame and programmed and data entered by punch cards produced by bulky keypunch machines. The availability of personal computers for home, or even office use, was unimaginable. Electronic calculators did not exist. Although mechanical adding machines, some electrically operated, existed they were limited to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Slide rules were used to make more complex calculations, but the mainframe computers were necessary to do a large number. Air travel was expensive and limited. Overseas travel by air was beyond the means of most people. Sea transportation was a luxury and slow. Though more and more jets were put to use, airlines still used propeller engines on many routes. FAA regulations set fares and routes, limiting competition and expansion. Inter-city commercial passenger rail ravel was available, but declining mainly because of the expansion of the Interstate highway system. Nineteen sixty-three was technologically on a difference planet. It certainly was politically, socially, and culturally also. President Kennedy’s assassination, as well as the events of his administration, was responsible for a great deal of the changes, or at least the acceleration of them. The Apollo 11 visit to the moon eight years later, a Kennedy goal, was one. They might be topic for additional essays.

Dallas Morning New 11/22/1963

Presidential Tenure

This year’s presidential election had a minor significance to it. As it turned out, Donald Trump and his supporters were anything but pleased, and it is no secret where this writer stands in that regard. Nevertheless, it put Trump in a category with 12 of his predecessors. Let me explain.

Since the Constitution took effect, there have been 46 Presidencies not counting the one that will commence in January with 45 individuals as president. (Grover Cleveland served two terms, but they were split; he lost his reelection bid in 1888, but returned in 1892). During the 228 years, 12 elected incumbents were re-elected and served two full terms. These were: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Grant, Wilson, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama.

During the same time, not counting Trump, 12 incumbents either did not run for reelection, or were defeated and turned out of office. It appears that Trump is the 13th, who broke the tie of that group with the two-termers. Maybe an unlucky number. The other initially elected one-term presidents were: Adams, John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Taft, Hoover, Carter, and George H. W. Bush.

Of course, that only adds up to 24. What about the others? Five presidents did not finish the first terms they were elected to. William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Garfield, Harding, and Kennedy died in office (two were assassinated). Three did not finish a second term. Lincoln and McKinley were assassinated; Nixon resigned, the only President to do so. Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected three times, but died three months into his fourth term. The “accidental presidents” who took over upon the incumbents’ deaths or resignation were Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Ford. Four were subsequently elected to one term each in their own right.

As mentioned above, Cleveland and Franklin Roosevelt were outliers because of Cleveland’s split terms; and Roosevelt’s election to four terms.

A four-termer will never occur again, or course, per the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment. There has been speculation that Trump might run in 2024 to become another split term President. This may be because some supporters believe Biden will screw up everything, if he lasts, but the chance is negligible. Trump’s age will be against him; the boomers have had their day.

An interesting note: When William Henry Harrison, died after barely a month in office in 1841, vice-president John Tyler insisted that he then became the President. Article II of the Constitution at the time stated that “In the Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolved on the Vice President….” Some argued that Tyler was only an “acting President,” the “powers and duties” were his only temporarily, and a new President should be chosen in a special election. This mainly a partisan reaction. Harrison was elected as a Whig, but Tyler was a Democrat chosen as Vice Presidential candidate to “balance the ticket” and attract disgruntled members of his party. Many Whigs referred to Tyler derisively as “His Accidency.” As it turned out, this distinction had no practical difference and went nowhere. Tyler was accepted by everyone who matters as President. The precedent was established.

After President Kennedy was assassinated, the 25th Amendment was passed and ratified. It explicitly stated that upon the President’s removal, death, or resignation “the Vice President shall become President,” thus putting the rest any controversy in that regard.

The 25th Amendment also provided for filling a consequent Vice Presidential vacancy and standards and procedures to be followed in the event a President becomes disabled or otherwise unable to perform his duties. At least one commentator suggested that, given the virulence among certain factions his party and the apparent popularity of his future Vice President with those factions, future President Biden should watch his back. Not sure this writer buys into that concern, but we do live in interesting times.

Where is Tom T. Hall when you need him?

From the “you’ve got to be kidding me” files:

Tom T. Hall is a long-time country folk singer, noteworthy for “Old Dogs and Watermelon Wine” and “I Love (little baby ducks and old pickup trucks)” and others. He made a personal statement in his song “I Like Beer” that I have adopted as my own. Here are a couple of stanzas:

Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much
Vodka puts my mouth in gear
This little refrain should help me explain
As a matter of fact I like beer

Last night I dreamed that I passed from the scene
And I went to a place so sublime
Oh, the water was clear and tasted like beer
Then they turned it all into wine

Now professors at Virginia Tech David L. Brunsma and Nathaniel Chapman have decided that to like beer is racist. they have even authored a book How Beer Became White, Why it Matters, and th Movements How to Change It. Seriously. see Details and excerpts on Amazon.

“They write: From the racist marketing of malt liquor to the bearded-white-dude culture of craft beer, readers will never look at a frothy pint the same after reading Beer and Racism.”

I have read a few pages of this drivel on Amazon’s website, but will not buy it, as I can think of a few hundred things to spend $25 on. Now, when you believe that this kind of idiocy has reached its peak, think again. This makes for low comedy, though some naive students might fall for it. As for me, will it change my attitude toward beer? Of course not, and it will not have the slightest effect on how I view a “frothy pint” — except possibly appreciate it while I can Perhaps the good professors should seek out a willing taxidermist and get stuffed — perhaps with the the product of their own vowel movements.

The Choice for Voters

Had to post something on October 25, since it’s this blog’s patron day. Here goes.

Many citizens are voting, not for Joe Biden, but against Donald Trump, and, more to the point, those who control him. The converse is true. They may rue the day.

Unfortunately, a lot of that mindset occur because so many of us most of us make choices based upon appearances, not substance. That is what we have to be concerned with in this coming election. Yes, Donald Trump can be rude, crude, and use bad grammar, but he has led in cutting taxes for all of us, reduced foolish (except for sponsoring special interests) and needless regulations, helped bring manufacturing jobs back from elsewhere offshore, and appointed excellent federal judges and Supreme Court Justices. His brokerage of normalization of relationships between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors should have earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, as similar achievements did for Jimmy Carter. It would have if he was anyone else.

For those who may disagree and favor voting for Joe Biden should consider the following points:

— Biden says he won’t raise taxes on middle class Americans. Maybe he would not, but a Democrat controlled Congress would, and he would let it. “Soaking the rich” never has worked, but it makes for a slogan to fool the uninformed. The rich don’t pile up their wealth in a money bin like Disney’s comic book character Uncle Scrooge. They invest it in productive, job creating activities. The middle class, and the poor, will pay through higher cost of goods and services and diminution of their IRA and 401k values.

— As for climate change, that is not the only area where the left-wing over-uses “existential” (Soren Kierkegaard would be appalled) but is the most. The phenomenon may be troublesome, but it won’t end human existence. To the extent it is human caused, the United States contributes a very small percentage of the emission that might be causing it. Biden says he wants to eliminate fossil fuels in the next decade or so, but he claims he won’t ban fracking, which produces much cleaner-burning natural gas. Anyway, Biden will allow a Democrat controlled Congress to try banning fracking and reduce petroleum production. Wind and solar will never take the place of fossil fuels for many energy purposes. Take air travel, for example. Given the current state of the physical sciences, it’s not even theoretically possible for any except a small model airplane to fly on electric power. The weight of batteries or size of solar panels would be prohibitive, as would a nuclear reactor, for that matter. The current breed of Democrats will also ban or reduce nuclear power, which it the only possible source of energy that could replace fossil fuels for widespread use — and it has zero emissions. (OK, radiation from accidents is a risk, but mostly in the mind of fans of 1950s dystopian movies. That is where safety regulations are needed, and are mostly in place. The only serious nuclear reactor accident in the 60 or so years they have been only was contained within the plant — the safety features worked!)

— Apropos to the last point, Biden and others of his mindset keep using the phrase “follow the science.” Well they should, realizing that “settled science” is an oxymoron. Free scientific inquiry? The first word is redundant, opined a famous author. Science is an ongoing process, not an orthodox shibboleth. Rigorous observation, testing, and analysis produce scientific theories are reliable when describing what and how something happened, or is happening. It cannot always predict the future, particularly when there can be, or are, an infinite number of factors that have to be considered, and no way to perform empirical tests. Dissenter scientists were once burned at the stake as witches. Today they are Twitterized, fired, shunned, or slandered.

— On the issue of labor law, Biden wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, abolish state right-to-work laws and eliminate the possibility of individuals to work independently and start small businesses. A minimum wage eliminates jobs, especially for unskilled entry level positions. Furthermore, it should be a state, not a national issue. Here’s is a link to a Wall Street Journal editorial October 23 that reveals a really dystopian vision. I am all for labor unions so long as their membership is actually voluntary. When it is coerced, the main beneficiaries are the union bosses. We learned that several generations ago. Also, curtailing gig jobs and making independent contractors become employees in all but a few industries (lawyers, for example) will stifle entrepreneurship. Many workers don’t want to be employees; they like the freedom of independence in their work. These are the primary reasons to keep Trump in office and at least a Republican Senate for another four years.

— Most of the articulated con arguments focus on the charges that Trump is a racist, misogynist, neo-Nazi sympathizer, and authoritarian. There is no evidence he is any or these. “Racist” has become an all-purpose epithet to shut down opposing views— on nearly any issue. Show me a racist act that Trump has committed. To the extent that Trump might have been a womanizer and even a philanderer, that is not synonymous with misogyny. He certainly does not advocate women having to wear burqas or hajibs, and he hasn’t drowned a paramour. Just because some neo-Nazi and others of that ilk like Trump, doesn’t mean he likes or supports them. And while, Biden and most of his supporters don’t approve of burning and looting, many are loathe to say so in public. As for being authoritarian, there is absolutely no evidence Trump is one. He might demand loyalty from those who work for him and within his branch of government, but as to the nation, he has been anti-authoritarian. He obviously believes in federalism — criticism of state and local officials is not out of bounds for anyone, much less a President. Some fool writer in the current edition of The Atlantic has opined that Trump is an American Caudillo. That is preposterous.

If one really wants to see an authoritarian government in this country. By all means vote for Biden. He might not last out his term and, anyway, the triumvirate of Harris, Pelosi, and Schumer (if the Senate falls) will demonstrate what authoritarianism really is. (I use that collective noun advisedly considering the sex of two of the three members.)

Finally, for those who dislike Trump for his manners or persona consider this observation: “I would rather have a good doctor with a poor bedside manner than a bad doctor with a good bedside manner.”

I invite dissent to my points, public or private.