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The first vice-presidential election in US history

category international | elections / politics | opinion/analysis author Friday September 12, 2008 14:22author by godzilla Report this post to the editors

Obama has lost in ten of the last 12 opinion polls for the United States presidential election, 2008. His margin has between a 6point loss in the first week of September and a 4point loss in the last three days. Those who know how the USA voting public works blame this losing streak on Palin. It certainly seems to make sense as of the 57 US nationwide polls carried out thus far Mc Cain has only won 12.

Jonathan Freedland in today's "Guardian" represents well the disbelief of European journalists & to a great extent intellectuals that the voters of the USA, those enfranchised alone to make a decision which affects us all seem about to deride our faith & hope of the change Obama promised.

I on the other hand believe that the opinion poll data only confirms how little Europeans as well as US Democrats understood one of the most important socio-historical shifts in US citizens' perception of their own institutions & government. I argue that they've finally realised the importance of their vice-president.

Historically the constitutional role of the US vice-president within the institutions of executive and legislative government has been both clear & vague. The VP is the person who automatically steps into the shoes of the President of the United States (POTUS) in the case of bullets going through heads or espionage & abuse of executive power is discovered. Such were the well-remembered cases of JFK and Nixon. That much is clear.

But that much is also very vague - Nixon chose his VP Gerald Ford in the depths of the Watergate scandal filling a gap in which there was no VP for three months after he had dropped the VP Spiro Agnew who had been elected with him on the Republican ticket. That raised two questions of the constitutional vagueness of the VP's office.
(1) who was second in line with the onus of filling POTUS shoes if a bullet appeared in October through December of 1973?
(2) could a POTUS facing impeachment appoint a president arguably under the condition implied by his first decision to pardon the previous president & without any vote ever having passed - especially considering the VP's secondary role as president of the Senate with a deciding vote?

We know that Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon and brought two young flyers on the American right into the cabinet Messrs Rumsfeld & Cheney who under constitutional precedent would enjoy equality of esteem when advising the POTUS before he excluslively made executive decisions. Make a note of that, I'll be coming back to it. We may also see another vague area in the replacement of both presidents Lincoln and Kennedy by their respective VPs who became Presidents Andrew Johnson & Lyndon B Johnson respectively. The former would himself end his presidential career in impeachment whilst the later still raises questions for the very method in which he was sworn in whilst travelling mid-air a mere few hours after the assassination of JFK.

So we see that VPs are historically more than a bit of executive fluff. But the point I wish to put forward today is that since the first election of GW Bush there has been a shift in US voter perception of the power which if not constitutionally held by a VP is part & parcel of their office. That young man who joined the cabinet of Gerald Ford, Dick Cheney was the first VP in American history to be called a "shadow president". This was not only because he and his friend Rumsfeld had obviously served together through most of the 20th centuries US Republican presidencies & articulated the "american century" concept and exemplified a hawkish reliance on "US hard power" - but also because not even GW Bush himself could avoid referring to Cheney as his "darth vader". Even within the US Republican party and media there was an acceptance that Cheney wielded if not unconstitutional power a sway on final executive decision making. The POTUS executive order to not apply Geneva convention status to prisoners which paved the way for Gitmo was not discussed at cabinet level but instead passed from a Cheney Rumsfeld conversation to a prepared memo and signed order without even the knowledge of then security advisor Rice or Powell who happened to be out of the country that day. That was not the first time Cheney or Rumsfeld appeared to exceed their briefs or functions. 7 years ago and one day, whilst POTUS read kids' stories in Texas, Cheney approved shoot down orders in Washington. The Republican voters and political power base had found a VP in whom they could trust, meanwhile the former VP to Clinton & failed presidential candidate Gore had set himself the task of getting us to worry about climate change. It is striking that in his role as president of the US Senate he had chosen not to push his powers and allow a challenge to the election he had lost or even to make history, a history which has been discussed by political scientists since the US civil war, of throwing the election of POTUS from the electoral colleges to the houses of representatives. Something no VP has ever dared to do..... yet.

Some time ago I read one the indymedia global blogosphere regulars quite shrewdly describe Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin as "the antiGore". Whilst seeing the sense, I also then realised why the choice of Biden as VP to Obama had caused my brief susceptiblity to "obamafever" to end.
The next VP will in the vague uncharted territory which is made by precedent & use - gain a role which has been changed under the example of Cheney & more importantly is now perceived differently by US voters be they redneck or otherwise. The Cheney legacy has opened possibilities which the US constitution never properly addressed for both of the 2 parties of the US capitalist military industrial complex.

So - why can't Obama change his mind & choose another VP?

His election & it would seem from European commentators our future happiness quite probably relies on him changing his mind. Because make no mistake - Biden is losing the election to Palin.
We ought not be surprised, for generations we have said it doesn't matter who is POTUS - you want or hanker for change - then its your VP you vote for.

wikipedia collection of all opion polls for POTUS election
In this recent article on IMCUK you can read about Obama on FOXnews "Bill O'Reilly" show, teh aritcle touches on another element of this election, how it is being fought & now lost by the US Democrat party & then you can watch a video of that debate by clicking on the link in the comment.

author by goozillapublication date Sat Sep 13, 2008 18:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Obviously the European voter sees beyond the sophistication by which the Republicans brought out a meat eating gun toting white mom from Alaska to see off the bad snooty black guy. The South Americans with their equal distrust of either ruling flavour in the USA have long ago learnt however that there are patterns to overt & the generally nearly always present covert inteference in their affairs. So it's interesting to see how they weigh up the desirability of their next "shadow president" : should it be the democrat's Biden who looks the part in a Hollywood movie way or should it be Palin who has least positioned herself ironically as desiring less dependence on South American oil allbeit as a side effect of pushing homegrown exploitation. Last night as both US presidential candidates moved to condemn the expulsions this week of US ambassadors to Bolivia, Honduras and Venezuela their campaign teams also moved to seem take the tougher stance on the presence of the Russian navy for jonit exercises with Venezuela. Biden has never taken much interest in the southern neighbours, his voting record showed that on the few votes where he broke the line and went with Republicans it was on migrant welfare issues. As grey haired white anglosaxon protestant Biden's automatic response to South America as a Democrat will probably be to increase pressure. Republicans turn up Justice spending and attention on vice and obscenity whilst Democrats traditionally pay attention to the organisation of drug supply. Even though the words of one of Joe Biden's adivisors during Biden's failed presidential nomination campaign compared Chavez to Hitler, most of his Biden's Foreign affairs comittee activity or other overseas experience has been focussed on quibbling with Republicans on Iraq, Israel & Iran. After all he was there when they signed the Israeli Egyptian peace treaty in 1979. He really has the profile of being a good "shadow president".

Palin had to admit last night in her first television interview that she has never in fact met a foreign head of state. Nor have most of us. They don't shit in the woods and they don't queue in Walmart. But rather than play that character she began to talk about delegations who visit Alaska. Just before she managed to mouth the routine response that hordes of important delegates are regularly welcomed in Alaska to shoot polar bears, cull seals, bag moose, grub for gold or rent secret bases - the interviewer rephrased the question.

Im talking about somebody whos a head of state, who can negotiate for that country. Ever met one?

The woman who quite honestly most Americans would like as shadow president or to step into the shoes of the 44th POTUS -[were he to (a) get shot (b) keel over dead coz the batteries ran out ]- answered in the negative. This is the first VP hopeful in the history of the US since Spirow Agnew (see the article above) who has not rubbed her paw against the flesh of a head of state. After Agnew, Gerald Ford had of course accompanied Nixon on China and met Mao Tse Tung when Mao was at the height of his fame and appearing on wallpaper all over the world. Nelson Rockefeller met loads of world leaders not only because he went with US delegations to fortify global capitalism but because his family sucked oil out of most of their countries for them & at family BBQ sessions he had learnt how to deal with them. Walter Mondale did the whole grand tour Bonn, Brussels, London, Jerusalem, Paris and a week back in the USSR. GH Bush of course went to China before Nixon and then represented the UN and head up the CIA so presumedly he had had background in - if not meeting foreign head of states deciding which ones stayed in power.

Things got hopeful for Latin America & the rest of the world with Dan Quayle. If you pursue the notion that things are best for you when the USA is not paying attention to you. Things really have gone wrong when Americans are being polled to see how many of them don't know where you are on the map. By that stage they're generally already targetting you with missiles & you know they never really get around to learning much more about how you worked before the dodgey geography days.

Even though Quayle made his diplomatic debut in Venezuela he is the man we mostly remember for saying he didnt' really go to Latin America because he didn't speak Latin, in what amounted to an almost proto-Bush gaffe which perhaps are historically routed in the Reagan years : Quayle deftly and sophisticatedly seperated those who felt sure they could learn Latin given the right opportunites from those who wouldn't even trust Latin if it appeared on their money. He also had a problem with spelling potato in the plural & let us know it. Quayle really was perfect & his loss to US poltics has yet to be appreciated. His attitude to climate change and houricanes would have been one of thanks be to God when they averted Texas by hitting unknown large landmasses somewhere to the south.

Al Gore is of course the VP in people's memory as the one who could fight hard enough for the job of president and then go the wrong way from Washington to Hollywood. He did though make sure we got the message to seperate our rubbish & eat less meat. The folks down Mexico way & the large landmasses beyond certainly are doing one of those things.

& really all the want is a POTUS and VP and whole fucking US of A that ignores them completely.

author by kpublication date Sat Sep 13, 2008 23:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Obama has lost in ten of the last 12 opinion polls for the United States presidential election, 2008. His margin has between a 6point loss in the first week of September and a 4point loss in the last three days. Those who know how the USA voting public works blame this losing streak on Palin."

I blame Obama's losing streak on himself and not others, hopefully he knows that as well.

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