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The Vice Presidency Grows Up

Thursday, February 1, 2001

Vice president cheney to Wield Unusual Power,” said the headline on the jump page of a Washington Post story published late last year. The article speculated that George W. Bush’s vice president would function as the government’s ceo, with the president serving as chairman of the board. “Cheney to Play a Starring Role on Capitol Hill” proclaimed a front page New York Times article a week earlier. “Prime Minister Cheney?” asked the Economist on the cover of its year-end issue.

What was going on in the high temples of conventional wisdom as George W. Bush prepared to become the forty-third president of the United States? A certain amount of hype, perhaps. But these stories do reflect the enhanced role Richard Cheney will play in the new administration. Both because of the depth and breadth of his political experience (former White House chief of staff, former defense secretary, former member of the House leadership) and the political climate that awaits him (a 50-50 party split in the U.S. Senate), Cheney is poised to play a role unparalleled for a vice president. How involved in the administration he will be was much in evidence during the transition.

But this enhanced status and influence are not entirely a product of the particulars of Cheney’s resume. They also reflect the increased power and influence the vice presidency has taken on in the past 50 years. Bush, by his own admission, had this in mind when he selected Cheney as his running mate primarily because of his experience in government.

The vice presidency has come a long way since Nelson Rockefeller dismissed it as “standby equipment.” Now, vice presidents are senior advisors to the president, sometimes with a policy portfolio of their own, always as an integral part of an administration, and usually as an estimable political figure. By lore and tradition, vice presidents may command little respect. But based on their influence in recent years, they deserve far more.

This change has gone underappreciated, though its manifestations are everywhere. Pundits and politicians alike reflect the elevation of the office’s status when they speak of a Bush-Quayle or a Clinton-Gore administration. Their counterparts in generations past never saw juxtaposed the names “Hoover-Curtis” or “Truman-Barkley” on anything other than campaign posters.

What accounts for the growing importance of the office of vice president? Several factors, including the age of jet travel, the power of television, cold war tensions, growing demands on the president’s time — and, in a compressed period of time, a half dozen presidential illnesses, a presidential assassination, attempts on the lives of others, the resignation of a president, and impeachment. Each of these episodes brought increased attention to the nation’s second highest office and the qualifications of the person filling it.

Since the office was created, one out of four vice presidents, whether through election in their own right or through death or resignation, became president. Every vice president elected or appointed since 1952 (Nixon, Johnson, Humphrey, Ford, Mondale, Quayle, Gore), except for two, either became a major party nominee for president or contended for the designation. (One of the two, Nelson Rockefeller, had competed for the GOP presidential nomination before and might have again, had Gerald Ford not appointed him vice president.) Two unsuccessful vice presidential candidates, Henry Cabot Lodge and Edmund S. Muskie, took a stab at their party’s presidential nomination. A third, Bob Dole, received it.

All told, an office once deemed a political backwater has evolved into a recruitment field for presidents. Recent history shows that when presidential nominees select their running mates, they are also designating the “favorite” for their party’s nomination four or eight years hence or even beyond.

It was for all these reasons that in 2000, both major contenders took more care in the selection of their running mates than their predecessors. Unlike in years past, both were deemed eminently qualified to become president should the need arise. They showed themselves worthy of that designation in their debate, which had to have been the most substantive exchanges since vice presidential contenders began squaring off on television in 1976.

An afterthought

The office’s rise from a post of minor to major significance has been uneven. The vice presidency emerged in the minds of the Constitution’s Framers as an afterthought. Their principal concern in establishing it was ensuring an orderly succession. Such is a problem monarchies do not have. Parliamentary democracies can form new governments in an instant. But republics that divide power among different branches and elect officials to specified terms need a designated method.

Although the Founders anticipated that vice presidents would succeed to the presidency, save for presiding over the Senate where he could vote in case of a tie, they did not give the vice president all that much to do. Benjamin Franklin, suggesting this was by intention, recommended the vice president be addressed as “Your Superfluous Excellency.”

They also provided that the office’s occupant be selected in a most peculiar manner. Believing the second most qualified man should fill the second highest office, they designated that the post be filled by awarding it to whomever received the second highest number of votes in the Electoral College. The first three elections held under these rules produced the two most distinguished vice presidents in history, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Adams entered the post with no illusions of what was expected of him. “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived,” he wrote. But he carried into office with him an asset no vice president can do without if he is to succeed, let alone advance his career: the complete trust of his president. This Adams returned in full measure. He cast 29 tie breaking votes in Washington’s favor in eight years, making him one of the hardest working and most alert vice presidents in history.

The birth of the party system in Washington’s second term decreed that Adams’s relations with his vice president would be decidedly different from those he had enjoyed with Washington. Having been Adams’s principal opponent in the campaign of 1796, Jefferson saw his post as vice president to be that of leader of the opposition. He spent his four years in the post plotting to replace Adams in the next election.

The election of 1800 brought to power a president and vice president of the same party, but produced a problem of a different nature. Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied in the electoral college. The decision went to the House of Representatives, as constitutionally provided. There, however, Burr, who had campaigned as Jefferson’s running mate, decided to make a run for the presidency. Jefferson won on the thirty-sixth ballot. Some historians attribute his victory to abstentions from Federalist supporters still loyal to the defeated Adams. Others credit it to the intervention of former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who disagreed with Jefferson but distrusted Burr.

Burr used his first tie-breaking vote as vice president to signal his continued animosity toward his erstwhile rival. He cast his vote against a judiciary bill Jefferson very much wanted. Resolving that he had had enough, Jefferson had his partisans push through the Twelfth Amendment, which mandated that candidates for the top two offices run as tickets and that electors cast separate votes for each office.

Some, like Gouverneur Morris, who had crafted the language in the Constitution that created the vice presidency, thought a better solution would be to abolish the office. Historians like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. took a similar stand in the aftermath of Spiro Agnew’s resignation as vice president in 1973 in the midst of a corruption and bribery scandal dating from his years as governor of Maryland. Morris prophesied that the office would experience a decline in prestige and be used for what he called “vote bait.” That is precisely what happened as party bosses, political parties, and candidates began using the vice presidential nomination to shore up the ticket in portions of the country where it was weak.

Jefferson began the practice in 1804 when he replaced Burr with another New Yorker, George Clinton, longtime governor and uncle to the more famous DeWitt, future builder of the Erie Canal, and presidential hopeful in his own right. Deemed too old at the age of 69 to succeed Jefferson, the elder Clinton posed no threat to Jefferson’s preferred heirs, Madison and Monroe. Yet because of his electoral popularity, Madison kept Clinton on his ticket in 1808, making him the first of two vice presidents to hold the office under two presidents. (John C. Calhoun later filled the role under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.)

The practice of merging competing factions at nominating conventions helps explain why all the vice presidents who succeeded to the presidency upon the death of a president in the nineteenth century — John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur — were passed over by the next presidential nominating convention. Harry Truman had it right when he observed that most vice presidents who succeeded to the presidency “were ridiculed in office, had their hearts broken, and lost any vestige of respect they had before.” That was primarily because all came from the weaker faction in their party’s electoral coalition and found themselves at loggerheads with the deceased president’s supporters.

Tyler, a former Democrat, ran into trouble when he refused to embrace the “Whig” program the deceased William Henry Harrison (of “Tippicanoe and Tyler too”) had run on. Andrew Johnson was not even a Republican, but an antisecessionist southern Democrat. He became the first president to be impeached, for obstructing the Reconstruction policies of the majority party, which had reluctantly agreed to grant him a place on Lincoln’s ticket as a show of “national unity” during the civil war.

Theodore Roosevelt, who had been foisted on McKinley’s ticket in 1900 by bosses upset with his reform agenda as governor of New York, broke the pattern in 1904, when he was nominated and elected to the presidency on his own. Calvin Coolidge did the same in 1924, helping establish a new pattern. Each ensuing “accidental president” was nominated for president. Truman and Lyndon Johnson won terms in their own right. Gerald Ford, the only appointed vice president to become president, was the only “accidental president” not to win election to the presidency, but he came quite close.

Stormy relations

From jackson’s day through Franklin Roosevelt’s, relationships between presidents and their vice presidents were, to say the least, mixed. Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun feuded over everything from etiquette to ambassadorial appointments to nullification. After Calhoun cast the deciding vote against confirming Jackson favorite Martin Van Buren as ambassador to the Court of St. James, Jackson replaced Calhoun on his ticket with Van Buren. Calhoun resigned before his term expired to join Jackson’s tormentors in the Senate. Van Buren, largely because of Jackson’s popularity and his own reputation as the “little magician,” became the last sitting vice president to be nominated for president until Richard Nixon in 1960 and the last elected prior to George Bush in 1988.

James K. Polk’s vice president, George Dallas, ended his political career when he cast a tie breaking vote in favor of a Polk initiated tariff reduction that was unpopular in Dallas’s state, Pennsylvania. Coolidge’s vice president, Charles Dawes, assured his political demise when he showed up too late to cast the deciding vote in favor of the president’s choice for attorney general.

Well into the twentieth century, the vice presidency’s primary function, other than that of “standby equipment,” was to serve as fodder for humorists. According to Finley Peter Dunn’s immortal “Mr. Dooley,” the presidency was “th’ highest office in the gift iv the people. Th’ vice presidency is th’ next highest and th’ lowest. It isn’t a crime exactly. Ye can’t be sent to jail f’r it, but it’s kind iv a disgrace. It’s like writin’ anonymous letters.”

Woodrow Wilson’s vice president, Thomas Riley Marshall, told the story of a woman who had two sons. One ran off to sea. The other became vice president. And neither was ever heard of again. On another occasion, Marshall said the vice president was “like a man in a cataleptic fit; he cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain, he is perfectly conscious of all that goes on, but has no part in it.”

Marshall’s witticisms gave way to solemnity after Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. He dreaded that he would become president either through Wilson’s death or a congressional attempt to remove the ailing president. No procedure existed at the time that would have declared the presidency vacant except for impeachment. Few constitutional experts at the time considered incapacity a “high crime or misdemeanor.” Fearful that resignation would further damage her husband’s health, Mrs. Wilson began performing some of Wilson’s clerical and administrative chores without consulting Marshall.

Franklin Roosevelt enlisted his first vice president, John Nance Garner, a former speaker of the House, to help pass his legislative program. Feeling Roosevelt never appreciated his value to the administration and opposed to presidents serving more than two terms, Garner challenged fdr for the 1940 Democratic nomination. He is most famous for telling vice presidential hopeful Lyndon Johnson 20 years later that the office “was not worth a pitcher of warm spit.”

In his effort to replace Garner, Roosevelt began a practice that has been followed by every presidential nominee since. He announced his choice, expecting and demanding delegates to accede to it. Prior to 1940, with the notable exception of Jackson’s pick of Van Buren and Lincoln’s of Johnson, party bosses — often with the acquiescence of the presidential candidate’s managers, often not — selected both nominees. Henry Clay and Woodrow Wilson anxiously awaited word at home as to who their conventions decreed would be their running mates. Warren Harding’s managers exerted so heavy a hand dictating their preference that delegates rebelled and foisted the popular Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge onto the ticket.

In 1940, fdr demanded the convention select Henry Wallace as the vice presidential nominee. As dissent worked its way through the hall, he announced that he would not accept the convention’s (White House orchestrated) draft to a third nomination unless he ran with Wallace. Both were nominated.

Substance, for a change

Once reelected, fdr became the first president to assign his vice president something substantive to do. He named Wallace to chair the Economic Defense Board during World War II. The vice president spent most of his time battling over turf with Reconstruction Finance Corporation Chairman Jesse Jones, whose agency had overlapping jurisdictions with his. Yet Wallace retained the president’s confidence.

Even that, though, was insufficient to assure him his job. Still concerned about Wallace’s leftist leanings and wary about the president’s health, party bosses remained strong enough, even at the height of a world war, to force a different nominee on Roosevelt in 1944. fdr notified the convention that, were he a delegate, he would vote for Wallace, but would accept its choice of Missouri Sen. Harry Truman.

When Truman demurred, fdr turned him around by passing word to him through an intermediary that “if he wants to break up the Democratic Party in the middle of a war, that is his responsibility.” Returned to office, fdr never admitted Truman into his inner circle, as he had Wallace. He thought Truman so insignificant that he never bothered to brief him on the Manhattan Project.

Although Truman had selected his 1948 running mate, Alben Barkley, primarily for reasons of affability, a series of events transpired after Truman’s presidency that assured Barkley’s successors would never, if called upon, assume the powers of the presidency as ill-prepared as Truman was when he suceeded Roosevelt. One was the National Security Act of 1947, which provided the vice president a seat on the newly established National Security Council. Another was the election in 1952 of a master of organization, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

At first glance there was nothing in the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket to suggest that its election would greatly transform the nation’s second office. The two had come together in a manner very much like the “balanced” tickets of the past. Nixon was from California. Ike lived in New York. Nixon had served in both houses of Congress. Eisenhower was not a professional politician. Through his successful pursuit of Soviet agent Alger Hiss, Nixon was a hero to conservatives. Eisenhower was a moderate. Ike was 62, Nixon, 39. When Nixon joined Eisenhower, few thought him ready to assume the presidency at a moment’s notice. By the time he relinquished the post, everyone did. What happened in between? A lot.

Eisenhower came into office determined to make active use of his No. 2. He toyed with the idea of having the vice president function as a chief operating officer with himself serving as ceo, but he dropped the idea in favor of a military-style “staff” system, with his chief of staff, Sherman Adams, functioning in the coo role. In conformity with recommendations of a task force he chartered to study the office of the vice presidency, he decided to delegate to Nixon functions his predecessors rarely had.

One was to go on “good will” missions abroad, a task that whetted Nixon’s already growing interest in foreign affairs. Nixon began his tenure with an extensive tour of Southeast Asia and ended it with the “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow with Nikita Khrushchev. In between were visits and repeat visits to every corner of the globe, including a widely covered venture to Latin America, then a hotbed of anti-American sentiment. In eight years Nixon also attended 217 national security meetings. Over time, he became a recognized expert on many foreign policy issues, which he discussed with fluidity.

In addition to his role in foreign policy, Nixon also had some domestic policy turf of his own. He served as head of the President’s Committee on Government Contracts, and in that capacity pressed companies doing business with the government to abandon racially discriminatory practices. He won plaudits from business and labor when, in an ad hoc capacity, he helped settle a strike in the steel industry in 1959.

Because Eisenhower disliked partisan politics, Nixon carved for himself a role all his successors would later fill. He became the administration’s “point man.” His opponents regarded him more as its “hatchet man.” Nixon performed well as a political partisan. As he campaigned for other candidates, he accumulated the ious that enabled him to win the 1960 presidential nomination with only token opposition.

Nixon grew in both visibility and stature when Eisenhower suffered a major heart attack, followed by a bout with ileitis, and a major stroke. Nixon’s efforts to strike a proper balance between being prepared for power but not overeager for it became the model for future vice presidents. He presided over Cabinet and National Security Council meetings — but never sat in the president’s chair.

After the president had fully recovered, he and Nixon exchanged a series of letters outlining the circumstances under which the vice president could act in the event of the president’s disability and conditions under which the president might be determined unable to discharge his duties. Their exchange suggests an appreciation of the dilemma Marshall confronted during Wilson’s illness 40 years earlier. The Nixon-Eisenhower exchange set the precedent for what became the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

Celebrity status

The advent of television had a profound effect both on Nixon’s career and on the evolution of the nation’s second highest office. When he delivered his “Checkers” speech detailing his finances to a televised audience, Nixon acquired a celebrity status no previous vice presidential candidate had enjoyed. He retained it throughout his years in office, assuring his renomination in 1956.

His capacity to make news and attract attention extended to his wife and two young daughters, who together became the most covered “second family” in history. “Pat for First Lady” buttons became a staple of his 1960 presidential campaign. Voters were routinely kept informed of the latest comings and goings of Tricia and Julie.

While Nixon’s immediate successors as vice president continued the precedents he set, few until very recently built on them. Lyndon Johnson, the former Senate majority leader, grew embittered when John F. Kennedy failed to utilize his skills as a legislative technician. Kennedy did name Johnson chairman of Aeronautics and Space Council, an administration priority, but First Brother Robert made certain that lbj remained outside Camelot’s central orbit.

As president, Johnson showed a similar disdain for his own vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Recently released tapes have him berating Humphrey for not being more aggressive with obstinate Democrats, telling him that had he known Rep. Edith Green was so powerful, he would have selected her rather than Humphrey as running mate.

Through his selection of his 1968 running mate and the uses he made of him afterwards, Nixon appeared to display contempt for an office that had played so important a part in his rise. He rarely consulted with Spiro Agnew, and after a short time stripped Agnew of his newly acquired West Wing office. Unlike Nixon, Agnew, as vice president, showed no interest in honing his expertise in policy. He spent his time traveling the country, lambasting “radical liberals” and their allies through speeches Nixon aides William Safire and Patrick Buchanan had prepared.

The vice presidency took on increased importance in the aftermath of Watergate. Gerald Ford, the first vice president appointed to his post and confirmed by both houses of Congress under the terms of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, used his nine months in office to prepare himself for the presidency. He had gone into the post aware that the odds were strong that Nixon would vacate the office before the end of his term. Days before Nixon’s resignation, Ford announced that he would cease defending Nixon and refrain from all comment on matters pertaining to Watergate, another indication of the fast-approaching end.

Once in office, Ford surprised his friends and angered his opponents when he announced his intention to appoint Nelson Rockefeller as vice president. After the instability that had beset the executive branch with the second resignation of a vice president and the first of a president in American history, Ford wanted to convey that he would be serving with someone universally deemed ready to become president.

Rockefeller, having been elected New York’s governor four times, with service in the State Department under fdr and Ike also under his belt, was certainly that. Rockefeller had competed for the gop presidential nomination in 1960 and 1968 and was preparing to run in 1976. Rockefeller had previously declined the second spot, arguing that he had never “wanted to be vice president of anything.”

Yet he agreed to serve, because he shared Ford’s concern that the nation and the world needed assurance that the American system of leadership was stable. His major condition was that he be named chairman of the Domestic Council — where he would, in the domestic field, command influence of the kind his protégé Henry Kissinger held over foreign policy.

Although Ford kept his promise, Rockefeller’s hopes went unfulfilled. First he fell victim to a prolonged confirmation hearing in which leftist activists probed the Rockefeller family fortune. That delayed him from taking command of his post at the outset of Ford’s administration. Once there, he found himself at loggerheads with other members of the president’s team who either saw him as a rival to their own ambitions or at odds with the administration’s policies.

With inflation and unemployment growing and Ford embarked on a veto strategy against the overwhelmingly liberal Democratic “Watergate Congress,” the administration was not about to embrace costly initiatives of the kind Rockefeller was proposing. Moreover, Rockefeller’s record as governor, which was decidedly liberal on both spending and social policy, earned him the wrath of party conservatives. Rockefeller further antagonized conservatives when he ruled from the Senate’s presiding chair that a vote by simple majority rather than two-thirds could end filibusters. In the face of Ronald Reagan’s hefty and spirited challenge in the primaries, Ford concluded that Rockefeller was a political liability and dropped him from his ticket months in advance of the 1976 convention.

Despite his frustrations in the policy arena, Rockefeller, because of his connections all over the world and independent sources of information, proved a valuable adviser to Ford. While he failed to persuade Ford to embrace most of his ideas, Rockefeller did provide information and advice to the president during weekly private lunches. This Ford-Rockefeller innovation became a part of the routine for every president and vice president since.

The office of the vice president also enjoyed enhanced ceremonial prestige during Rockefeller’s abbreviated tenure. He designed its coat of arms and flag and pressed for and obtained the establishment of an official vice presidential residence, which he was the first to occupy.

Major influence

Rockefeller’s successor, Walter Mondale, was the first vice president to command major influence within and without the administration in which he served. His success stemmed from his self-effacing operating style, his greater experience in Washington than President Jimmy Carter, and his closeness to his party’s dominant liberal wing. Unlike Rockefeller, Mondale did not seek “line responsibilities,” preferring to participate as he chose in policy development. He requested and received all information that went to the president; obtained, at Carter’s direction, support from White House staff and agency personnel; and maintained an able and independent staff.

Mondale endeared himself to Carter and his team in the course of their 1976 campaign. The two men had their campaign offices in the same place and had their staffs functioning as one by election day. The camaraderie between the two camps continued afterwards, with Carter taking many of Mondale’s suggestions on personnel (he accepted several Mondale cabinet recommendations) and policy (pushing the administration to reverse spending cuts, establish the Department of Education, and attempt accommodation with the Soviet Union).

Mondale not only was able to bring his Senate staff with him (Lyndon Johnson had been allowed but two), but got two of his senior aides, David Aaron and Bert Carp, assigned to the No. 2 posts at the National Security and Domestic Councils, respectively. Through moves such as these, Mondale was assured a place within the information “loop” and never had to depend solely on White House aides for information. Carter and his team listened to Mondale because they liked him, found him loyal, and recognized his ability to retain able staff and keep himself well informed. His three principal advisers, James Johnson, Michael Berman, and Richard Moe, still command posts of considerable influence in Washington.

Mondale, unlike his predecessors, had no difficulty commanding an office in the West Wing, where he was part of the traffic pattern around the Oval Office. He was free to drop in on the president and his top aides at whim. At his weekly lunches with the president, Mondale went further than Rockefeller, sharing what political and other intelligence he had learned in addition to providing advice and recommending policies.

Although their respective staffs had not “meshed” as well as those of their predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George Bush devised a working relationship that, while not as personally close as the one between Carter and Mondale, exuded equal respect and trust. It began with Reagan’s willingness to set aside “voodoo economics” and other criticism Bush had leveled against him and his proposals when they were competing for the 1980 presidential nomination.

With Reaganites simmering over the influence of “Bushies” in Reagan’s administration, Reagan named Bush’s friend and former campaign manager James Baker his chief of staff and retained other Bush advisers, including Republican National Committee Chairman Richard Bond, in high posts. Like Eisenhower and Ford, Reagan assigned Bush some line responsibility and called upon him during crises. Bush chaired Reagan’s Task Force on Regulatory Relief and served as foreign policy “short stop” between dueling Secretary of State Alexander Haig and National Security Adviser Richard Allen.

Bush earned the trust of Reagan’s inner circle through the dignity, reminiscent of Nixon’s, with which he comported himself while Reagan was recovering from a near-fatal assassination attempt. Mindful of Rockefeller’s experience, he avoided situations that placed him at odds with senior administration aides and conserved his time by delegating much of his line responsibility to trusted and competent aides such as his counsel, C. Boyden Gray.

Bush upgraded the vice president’s staff operation on Capitol Hill, where he actively lobbied on behalf of Reagan proposals. He regularly attended meetings of Senate committee chairmen, sat in on its Policy Conference, and kept up old ties with friends he had made through his years of service in the House.

Like Rockefeller and Mondale, Bush used his occasions alone with the president to share his views on policy matters. As a former cia director, un ambassador, and China envoy, he brought a unique perspective on foreign affairs. Nancy Reagan later remembered that her husband valued these meetings because he knew with certainty that nothing he and Bush discussed would be leaked.

Dan Quayle, like Bush, made Senate relations a priority during his tenure as vice president. A former senator who enjoyed friendships on both sides of the aisle, Quayle was prone to drop in unannounced on senators to “catch up” and make the “president’s case.” As Mondale had for liberals in Carter’s administration, Quayle became the “in-house” advocate for conservatives in Bush’s. While never voicing public criticism of the administration, he developed a reputation as a forceful voice for “movement conservatives” within the walls of the White House. Like Mondale and Bush, Quayle was credited by seasoned observers and old Washington hands for recruiting a staff of the highest caliber. Future Weekly Standard editor and publisher William Kristol was his chief of staff; future Rep. David McIntosh headed his most important policy shop, the Competitiveness Council.

Drawing on the Carter-Mondale precedent, Bill Clinton set out to make his vice president, Al Gore, as he would the first lady, a full partner in his administration. Early in his tenure, the press spoke of three “power centers” in the White House and speculated on what rivalries would ensue between the vice president and first lady. Competition did arise between the two over both policy and their standing with the president, with Gore providing “New Democrat” counterpoise to Hillary Clinton’s liberal impulses. He opposed her approach to health care reform and was one of the few senior Clinton advisers to urge the president to sign the Republican initiated welfare bill.

After the election of 1992, Clinton and Gore signed an unprecedented agreement delineating what powers Gore would exercise in the administration. While carrying no legal or constitutional authority, Clinton abided by its terms — although he did not always follow Gore’s advice. Clinton granted Gore a major influence over environmental and technology policy, had him supervise the “reinventing government” project, sent him out to build public support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, and delegated to him major aspects of U.S. relations toward Russia. Gore’s hand was seen in Clinton’s inclusion of environmental matters on the list of items over which the administration refused to compromise during two government shutdowns.

Like Mondale, Gore was able to have his principal advisers named to positions of influence. Clinton’s epa director, Carol Browner, and Reed Hundt, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, were the two most prominent. Gore’s brother-in-law, Frank Hunger, headed the civil division of the Justice Department.

Dick Cheney is likely to build on the pattern established by his predecessors, carving out an even greater role for his office as he goes. Indeed, Cheney’s future may be a case of the man and the office finding each other.

One thing is certain: the second office has emerged from the shadows. No longer an afterthought, or a holding place, it has become a post of major influence and importance in its own right and the first place to look for possible future presidents of the United States.