by Rick Grimaldi – 05/04/12 –
Do we expect our Vice Presidents to be leaders? What really is their role beyond “sitting behind the President and clapping” as Chris Christie said, or attending the funerals of foreign dignitaries?
Certainly VicePresidents can embarrass e.g. Joe, “the President has a big stick,” Biden. Occasionally the VP can also be an albatross such as Spiro Agnew was to the ill fated Richard Nixon. However, there are times where the choice of a Vice President, made for whatever pragmatic political reason, becomes a moment frozen in history. In 1960 When John Kennedy selected Texan Baines Lyndon Johnson to be his running mate, no one could have foretold that LBJ would assume the mantel of the Presidency and exhibit incredible leadership during the crisis filled weeks, months and, yes, years proceeding the President’s death (It was after all LBJ who was ultimately able to convince a recalcitrant Congress to pass JFK’s stalled Civil Rights legislation).
So what of leadership? It is impossible to know whether a VP will rise to the occasion as did LBJ or even Harry Truman when he finished the work of defeating Japan started by his boss FDR.
Leadership comes in many forms and is characterized in many ways. It can exhibited through loyalty, not blind loyalty, but that which stems from understanding the value of relationships, as opposed to trying to please those who you perceive will provide the most expedient path to individual success; it can be in the ability not to waiver in the face of external pressure but by staying the course in the face of adversity; conversely, it can be the ability to admit a mistake and move on; and, it is about selflessness when it would be easier to be selfish. It can also be, in the case of the Vice Presidency, the understanding that you must subsume ambition for the good of those you serve.
Vice President’s serve their President and their country. Sometimes they have been thrust in to situations for which they could not have prepare. Sometimes they are called to provide quiet counsel to their Commander in Chief; and, sometimes, as was Dick Cheney after 9/11, they have been called to do both. More often than not they are called upon to perform those mundane tasks that are necessary for the business of the nation, quietly and without fanfare. And, isn’t that, after all, leadership of the highest order.
Mitt Romney would be well served to look deep in to the hearts of those men or women he is considering to be his chosen running mate. For, should he fortunate enough to win the White House, they too will be asked to lead.