December 23, 2008

CNN poll finds that 23% of Americans think Dick Cheney is the worst Vice President of all time.

I'd say this is great news for Cheney. Only 23%. Because it's not as though most Americans have a whole list of ex-Vice Presidents to call to mind at a moment's notice. Most everyone knows Cheney. And then who? Were they tested on the depth of their knowledge? Maybe they remembered Al Gore, and also George H.W. Bush. And yet only 23% put Cheney last. I'd say that's a big pat on the back for Dick.


Ophir said...

Yeah, Dick Cheney's not that impressive. At least Aaron Burr managed to kill the guy he shot.

Tank said...

95% of all Americans could not name two VPs. Probably 50% could not identify Cheney right now.

Christopher in MA said...

If I follow the link, I see at the end of the story that "The. . .poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,013 adult Americans questioned by telephone." So, unless the Rapture happened without my knowing it (and, frankly, there's hardly anyone here at work today), how does 23% of a thousand-odd people translate into "23% of Americans?"

It's a catchier headline than "23% of people who could be bothered to answer the telephone think Dick Cheney is the embodiment of evil," though, so I suppose that's the point.

Simon said...

Whatever one might think of Cheney, he has exercised perhaps more influence and actual authority than any other veep in recent memory. By any metric, he's been extraordinarily successful at moving his own goals forward from a position that has no formal authority at all. History will take note. That 23% - motivated purely by political disagreement - will dwindle as the passions of the moment fade.

garage mahal said...

"CNN poll finds that 23% of Americans think Dick Cheney is the worst Vice President of all time."

If Dick Cheney had a heart reading that would make it pitter patter.

Simon said...

I like RDkraus' point - perhaps the data should have been normalized to exclude the opinion of anyone who couldn't name a Vice President who served before 1950.

Simon said...

Garage, you're being unfair. You've heard the expression that some people wear their heart on their sleeve, so how much more must Cheney care that he wears his heart on his chest?

garage mahal said...


Salamandyr said...

Most Americans, and by most I include our incoming Vice President, have no idea what the duties of the VP are. So how can they judge?

I believe it was Taft who described the Vice Presidency as not worth a bucket of warm spit (though it does have a more Roosevelt-ian ring to it). Exactly how did the performance of the National Understudy become a subject of such importance?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Well we can all look forward to Joe The Biden putting the VP office back where it belongs. In the basement, next to the wine rack or jet setting the foreign official funerals.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Exactly how did the performance of the National Understudy become a subject of such importance?

Because Cheney was one time the CEO of Halliburton which by the standards applied by the media was the US version of the Allgemeine SS.

john said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john said...

I wonder, if he were more commonly called Richard would his poll numbers have been a little higher?

BTW, I intend to air several grievances today.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

Were people asked, "Who is the worst Vice President of all time?" or "Is Dick Cheney the worst Vice President of all time?"

Christopher in MA said...

Salamandyr, it was FDRs first VP, John Nance Gardner, who called the office "not worth a bucket of warm piss." It's right up there with John Adams' "my country has, in its wisdom created the most insignificant office ever devised by mankind" lament (and I know I got the quote wrong, but the essential truthiness of it is there).

Richard Fagin said...

CNN wouldn't ask who people thought was the best Vice President ever. I can't decide between Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge. Teddy would have been great with a fleet of ICBMs and B-52s, and I'm sure Calvin would have told the UAW, AIG, Fannie and Freddie where to go - never mind GM and Chrysler - to bakruptcy court.

Big Mike said...

I'm pretty certain that the question is unanswerable -- we don't know enough about the vice presidents under the 19th century presidents to be certain, though Andrew Johnson certainly seems to have been the least ready to step up.

The press has spent 8 years painting Cheney as the Prince of Darkness, the Machiavellian string puller of George Bush the puppet. (Except when Rove was the master puppeteer.) I also wouldn't be surprised if the poll question was phrased in such a way as to elicit Cheney as the villian.

So under the circumstances, my surprise is that only 23% thought Cheney was the worst VP of all time.

Georg Felis said...

Chris, we may never know. CNN did not link the poll, or list the questions, or say how they picked their sample, or actually do anything but say when and how many people it polled.

So if CNN says a Poll falls in the woods, is it immoral of us to go into the woods to look and see if they are lying? And I wonder if they will repeat this poll using exactly the same questions in a couple years after Biden gets his moments of glory.

Richard Fagin said...

Actually, Prof. Althouse, CNN's poll is not good news for Cheney. To him it's not news at all. As is fitting with his character, he really doesn't give even a small turd about what people think of him, least of all Democrats.

I put him on my hero list when he told Jim Jeffords where to get off.

Salamandyr said...

Christopher, thanks for the correction. I would imagine this interest in the Vice Presidency comes from a native press unable to remember last month correctly much less the workings of Administrations prior to the current one.

The last swan we say was black? Then all future swans we shall see will be black? What about all the white swans before the black one? I don't recall any of those, they must have been aberrations.

Moose said...

Greed+evil = Grevil

Please name a "good" vice president? Spiro? LBJ?

This ranks down there with Obama's non functioning mammaries and Ann's OCD regarding shorts.

MadisonMan said...

Reading between the lines, I would say the questions were : Was Dick Cheney a good vice President, the best ever, a bad Vice President or the worst ever?

Veeshir said...

Eh, all this tells me is that people forgot Spiro Agnew and nobody remembers that Nixon was VP.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

My candidates for worst VPs in the 20th Century would be Henry Wallace (1941-45) -- an out-and-out commie whom Roosevelt came to detest -- and Spiro Agnew.

In the 19th Century it would certainly be Aaron Burr (1801-05) with [dis]honorable mention to Andrew Johnson (one month in 1865) and Millard Filmore (1849-50), both of whom are adjudged 'lousy' because they went on to become absolutely miserable Presidents upon the death of their predecessor.

Henry said...

Q. How many vice presidents can you name?

A. Uh. Dick Cheney. Uh. And Sarah Palin.

Q. Palin was never Vice President, she was the recent Republican candidate for Vice President, but was not elected.

A. Oh. I just remembered. It's John McCain. Palin always comes to mind first, but the answer is John McCain.

Q. McCain was never Vice President either. He was the recent Republican candidate for President, who lost, by millions and millions of votes, to Barack Obama. It wasn't even close.

A. Oh. So Sarah Palin is Obama's Vice President?

Q. That's Joe Biden, you ninny. Palin lost and so did McCain, and Sarah Palin is not and will never be the Vice President of the United States.

A. But --

Q. Shut up! Here's the next question. Who was the worst Vice President of all time?

A. Sarah Palin?

Roberto said...

"That 23% - motivated purely by political disagreement - will dwindle as the passions of the moment fade."


Let the suckfest continue...

MadisonMan said...

My candidates for worst VPs in the 20th Century would be Henry Wallace (1941-45)

When he was offered the slot, he thought about it while walking around in one of my relative's corn fields, so I have a soft spot for Henry Wallace.

SteveR said...

To the extent we know about VPs, its often because they became POTUS (Truman, Nixon, LBJ, Ford, GHWB) so its likely the vast majority have no idea what most have done as VP or even what you base good or bad on.

By the way worst "of all time"? So we are talking about the Triassic? Or just worst is United States history, which is considerably shorter than all time.

From Inwood said...


You beat me to it.

Chris Alt

Your point about the actual question is spot on. A scientific poll would ask "who do you think is..." rather than "Is X the worst..."

And most people probably don't remember Cactus Jack Gardner & a pitcher of warm spit (or p**s , choose your legend), who was VP in 1940.

Anyway, my choice for the bestest VP is Alexander Throttlebottom(“who cares if banks fail in Yonkers, as long as you’ve got the kiss that conquers”), who saves us from, pace NYT, a war with France because under the Constitution, when the President is unable to fulfill his Powers & Duties, they then devolved to the Vice-President (no XXV amendment then)!

Actually, since Constitutional Joe The Biden doesn't have any idea of the functions of the VP or where in the Constitution to find them, I suspect that most Americans don't either. I remember one of the Late Nite comedians in the late '80s asking what the "man in the street" thought of papa Bush at a time when he was VP to Reagan. One particular boob asked who this guy Bush was & was told that he was the then current US VP. She then asked "well what is Reagan"?

But, as Prof A diagnosed the NYT’s falling for zee faux lettre from zee Mayor of Paree, this not unexpected poll result fit CNN's template, its pre-ordained meme.

I also was polled, by one of the leading pollsters, back in 1980, in a house visit, about the recent election & the "Religious Right" After some preliminaries, we came to the question of "how concerned" I was on a scale of one to five, one being "somewhat concerned" & five being something like p**sing-in-my-pants concerned. I replied that the interview was over since the poll was, to use a highly technical social science term, "bogus" because the choices should have included "not in the least concerned" & I viewed them as no more of a concern than, say, Banai B'rith, (O, my God, I sound like Cedaford). The pollster than raised his eyebrow & looked astounded. He said to me; "I don't understand your comparison". I replied, as I showed him out the door: "I'm sure that neither do your employers & PS, you, the pollster are not supposed to look down at me or correct my views even if I say that the Religious Right are from Xenon."

Simon said...

Bart - that really makes one wonder, however, what criteria should be used to assess a veep. That role calls to mind Gilbert & Sullivan: when the job is to do nothing in particular, how do we decide just how very well a person has done it?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I'd say this is great news for Cheney. Only 23%. Because it's not as though most Americans have a whole list of ex-Vice Presidents to call to mind at a moment's notice. Most everyone knows Cheney

Actually, most people don't know jack, much less Cheney.

There is a video that shows people unable to identify photos of Dick Cheney, Condoleeza President Bush or any other major political figure. They also don't know much about geography or anything else.

Pitiful and embarrassing. Thank you teachers union for doing such a fine job educating. /snark

Simon said...

FI - although Biden is an idiot who wouldn't know the Constitution from a hole in the ground, to be fair, the Vice Presidency is something of an odd duck. The Constitution doesn't have a "vice president creation clause" - the office is implied by Article II's provision for its being filled and the passing of the Presidency to it, and Article I's assignment of the Vice President to the Presidency of the Senate. What other functions does or might the Vice-President have? The Constitution doesn't say. Glenn Reynolds has gone so far as to suggest that the veep is purely a legislative officer and that exercise of executive functions by him (or her) would be a violation of the separation of powers, but that theory doesn't work - after all, the office of the Chief Justice is implied in identical fashion, by oblique reference in Article I, and no one would suggest that the Chief justice can't exercise judicial functions without violating the separation of powers simply because his only functions expressly mentioned are in Article I.

Harsh Pencil said...

Fagin writes

"As is fitting with his character, he really doesn't give even a small turd about what people think of him, least of all Democrats."

True. I loved it when he said that when he asked his wife if she minded that he was referred to as Darth Vader she responded that in fact she liked it. It humanized him.

cardeblu said...

While not the worst imo, does anyone remember Nelson Rockefeller, Ford's VP? I remember my journalism teacher in high school being absolutely appalled when that happened. We kids, otoh, thought it was "cool."

Oh, and I'm in the 77% who don't think Cheney's the worst. In fact, I love it that both he and Darth Rove were such thorns in the sides of the Left. I will miss him.

JohnAnnArbor said...

95% of all Americans could not name two VPs. Probably 50% could not identify Cheney right now.

I was in seventh grade in 1985 or thereabouts when our American history teacher put this question for extra credit on a test:

"Who is the vice president of the United States?"

I finished the rest early, but it took me a long time to finally come up with "Bush." No first name, no memory of what he looked like.

JohnAnnArbor said...

And, it's worth noting that Barack Obama is not the first non-(completely)-white person to be elected to national office. That would be Charles Curtis, almost half American Indian, elected vice-president back in 1928.

holdfast said...

"spiro agnew" is an anagram for "grow a penis"

Cedarford said...

Big Mike - So under the circumstances, my surprise is that only 23% thought Cheney was the worst VP of all time.

As part of their Watergate indoctrination, kids are taught about the sleaze of Spiro Agnew to explain why Gerry Ford was somehow made President without being elected.
So Agnew helps shield Cheney, much as Jimmy Carter will always siphon votes away from Bush II as "worst modern President".

The VP question is not a good one because until Nixon was given significant duties due to Eisenhowers heart attacks, inability to travel frequently....the only metric for measuring VPs - given they were not given substantial duties- was in what they did OUTSIDE of being VP. We know almost nothing of what several VPs in the 19th century did in office. Indeed, several quit DC completely and were unavailable except in emergency when the Senate was not in session...and many skipped long patches of presiding over the Senate when they thought the DC climate was too abominable to bear or they had higher priority private business to attend to.

Veeshir said...
Eh, all this tells me is that people forgot Spiro Agnew and nobody remembers that Nixon was VP.

People forget that Nixon was acting President several times in the Eisenhower Admin. And being brilliant in knowing politics and foreign policy, was deemed by Ike's associates as too valuable NOT to use and bring into the inner circle. If there is any failure it would be with Ike resenting that situation, not treating Nixon as an understudy but an interloper when he was struggling through recuperation from heart attacks. (many patients hate loss of autonomy and lash out at helpers) Along with carelessly dissing Nixon instead of grooming him and working on Nixon's flaws (something Eisenhower did very well with subordinates in the military)

After Nixon, the VP impact again waned as JFK and the Harvard mafia punked LBJ, LBJ made HHH his little bitch, and Nixon treated Agnew like the stooge he was. Mondale was the 1st true modern VP that did consequential things as a sitting VP after Nixon. He was assigned significant duties. Which has been the pattern for the last quarter century until Biden...

Crimso said...

Perhaps an interesting control would be to do a similar poll (or "pole," as a nod to john's intention to air grievances today) wherein people are asked who the worst SecDef ever was, naturally including Cheney as one of the choices. I suspect that anyone who answers "Cheney" in both would be inclined to consider him the worst no matter what the question. We've had an enormous amount of BDS (and I very much look forward to its practitioners wailing like candy-ass bitches as ODS sets in), but behind it is an even greater amount of CDS.

Chip Ahoy said...

Emotionalism is being polled here, not knowledge of US vice presidential history.

I dismiss the poll outright.

Wanna hear something interesting? OK. Goes sumpin like this. My dear ol' dad used to always say, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Finally, I go, "Well, that's something to know then, isn't it? " Another aphorism he continuously repeated was that it didn't matter how little you knew as long as you had that sheepskin. He'd probably be disappointed in a diploma printed on archival paper that wasn't parchment. Anyway, he always insisted he knew more than his associates with higher degrees than his own. But the idea of testing that notion became lodged and led me to challenge it. The college I attended at the time offered CLEP that allowed students to test out of college courses. I signed up for a whole bunch of them, the ones where I felt most confident, mostly for fun, and to see what would happen, and to prove or disprove my dad's idea. The ones I took turned out to be unbelievably easy as eating pie. They bore little resemblance to the practice verisimilitude exams I used to prepare, which were also fun -- as in solving crossword puzzle type of fun. Aced all the ones I chose, including two exams for US history, which were ridiculously easy. All this caused be to feel pity for the dumb assess struggling through those classes, and tremendous glee at having tested out of a full 30 semester hours of classes.

I recommend them.

Chip Ahoy said...

As to Cheney, every time I see him, which is too seldom, I think, "Uncle Cheney!" And my heart is filled with warmth.

Shanna said...

As is fitting with his character, he really doesn't give even a small turd about what people think of him, least of all Democrats.

That’s the thing I actually kind of love about Dick Cheney. I also like the idea of a VP who has zero interest in becoming president.

Also, I met Dick Cheney once. He has such a calm, dadlike persona to me that it’s always seemed crazy that people talk about him like he’s the devil.

Zachary Sire said...

I love that there is a blog where people defend Dick Cheney. Sweet Jesus.

Simon said...

Cedarford said...
"Mondale was the 1st true modern VP that did consequential things as a sitting VP after Nixon. He was assigned significant duties. Which has been the pattern for the last quarter century until Biden..."

The pattern is unchanged. Obama is doing exactly what Bush did: assigning his veep a set of duties commensurate with the officeholder's talents and capacity. Cheney was an experienced Washington player with clear vision, management skills, and familiarity with how Washington and the White House operated; accordingly, his portfolio was essentially to act as deputy President. Similarly, Biden is as dumb as a rock and as honest as the three dollar bill, so his portfolio will be to sit down, shut up, and to take it like a man when his time comes to be thrown to the wolves.

Eli Blake said...

Worst vice President of all time?

Probably Dan Quayle. Thank GOD the man never became President (at least Cheney is qualified for the job, if necessary.)

Then again, when Woodrow Wilson had his stroke, Edith Wilson and his closest advisors intentionally hid the seriousness of his condition from Vice President Marshall (whose response to a crisis was once, "What this country needs is a good five cent cigar.") because they were afraid he'd be too inept to handle things if he took the reigns of power.

Alex said...

This thread is making me facepalm.

Henry said...

because they were afraid he'd be too inept to handle things if he took the reigns of power.

That's very ironic considering that the next president was Harding.

By a modern standard you could classify Thomas Jefferson as the worst Vice President.

Like John Adams, Jefferson considered the Vice President's main occupation to be with the Senate. He did fine work in the Senate in creating parliamentary proceedings.

At the same time he started his own political party and actively subverted the policies of the President.

Richard said...

Who cares what Americans think. What do they know? Sad. True.

Anonymous said...

77% of Americans like Dick, according to the CNN poll.

Darcy said...

Crimso and Chip Ahoy, you made me laugh out loud with your posts. If I could borrow very humbly from Chip's style, it just burst forth with deep merriment!

Bless you guys.

blake said...

Chip-- I don't know if they do the testing thing any more. They guard the secret well, if they do.

I think it's funny that someone things any of us are defending Cheney. I think those who like him feel he doesn't need to be defended.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Henry, to be fair, Jefferson was an opposing-party VP, the last time that happened, I believe before they altered the Constitution so that second-place in the election didn't mean you became VP.

TosaGuy said...

I suspect at least 80 percent of the 23 percent get their news from comedy central and Keith Ubertool.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Simon --

My criteria are either:

a) terribly corrupt (Agnew, but not Nixon as VP, and to some extent A. Johnson)
b) demonstrated incompetence (Fillmore, and to some extent A. Johnson)
c) simply don't get what America is about (Burr and Wallace)

Had either Burr or Wallace become President, America as we know it would quite simply not exist.

BTW, and just for fun, three of our VPs were named Johnson -- Lyndon, Andrew, and Richard, who was Van Buren's VP from 1837-41.

Two VPs served two Presidents each: George Clinton (Jefferson's second term and Madison's first), and John Calhoun who served under John Quincy Adams and Jackson's first term.

And whilst we're on trivia, Clinton and Bush the Younger are the first two back-to-back two-term Presidents since Madison and Monroe.

Should Mr. Obama be rewarded with a second term it will equal the 8-year trifecta that Madison and Monroe had with Jefferson.

From Inwood said...


This thread was basically about a CNN poll being worthy of a Ted Baxter report & a Joe The Biden being worthy of an Alexander Throttlebottom, who wouldn’t understand if banks fail in Yonkers. And that’s not a criticism of the thread.

But now that you’ve intellectualized the Constitutional issues, I’m ready, even though I make no claim to Constitutional expertise. (I did, deservedly, having actually written some of it, get my name on a SCOTUS amicus brief & I did work with John Feerick, albeit as a yes man to his brilliant draft & explanation of what was pretty much the final version of the XXV Amendment.) And, I would note that, based on the unintelligible letter of the alleged Con Law Profs after Election 2000 about how Gore, having won “a clear constitutional majority of the popular vote", was, QED, President Elect, I have no lack of confidence in my ability to carry on a dialog about the U.S. Constitution.

So, for what its worth:

I Creation Of The Vice Presidency

I don’t mean to quibble or engage in semantics, but I would argue that the Vice Presidency was, indeed “created” by Art II & that such creation was Constitutionally confirmed by Amendments XII & XXV, though I understand that the functions of the VP as VP were not, Constitutionally, expressly set forth except in Article I (re his Presidency of The Senate with a tie-breaking vote). So the VP is, Constitutionally, indeed an odd whatever, being (except as just noted) like the Prince of Wales or the old French Dauphin & oft treated as one of them, because the Constitution (except as just noted) does not set forth functions of the office. As a matter of fact, Prince Albert seemed to be more a part of Victoria’s reign than the then Prince of Wales, who was much like a typical VP in U. S. History, see, e.g., VP HST’s unawareness of the Atom Bomb development. So the office “growed” or “lowed”, depending not only on its occupant, but on the predilections of the man simultaneously occupying the Presidency.

II Vice Presidency As Legislative Office

I dare to disagree with Prof Reynolds or anyone who suggests that the VP is purely a legislative officer and that his exercise of executive functions would be a violation of the separation of powers. In fact, the VP’s execution of material Executive powers & duties (the VP can still go to funerals!) would be, rather, a usurpation of the Constitutional Presidential powers & duties.

III Analogy To Chief Justice

I would also argue that the Chief Justice exercises judicial functions under the express, repeat express, provisions of Art III, the opening phrases of which are symmetrical to the opening phrases of Arts I & II, though the procedures are left to be fleshed out, by the legislature or, as we later learned, by Government By Judiciary, in Raoul Berger’s memorable phrase.

The Presidency When Occupied By The GOP

I assume you’ve noticed that no one, repeat no one, in the chattering class currently is claiming that Bush has “shredded The Constitution” by dipping into the $700 BB bank rescue fund to cover the follies of the auto companies, despite the fact that that is clearly contrary to the expressed statements of Congress, which constitutionally controls the purse strings. Nevermind.
Gee, when some member of the Executive Branch of this GOP Administration, say, the CIA/FBI, looked at the banking activities of someone with a name that sounded as if it might be a Muslim, Mideastern, Islamic one (I mean just because the guy said “Death To America”), the MSM, robotically responded, “Bush is shredding The Constitution. (Kos Kids & other assorted suffers of BDS make this “Bush is shredding my Constitution”; for them, “it’s personal”.)

Me? I’m reminded of Justice Jackson’s mot: “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”

Regards & Merry Christmas


Eric said...

I love that there is a blog where people defend Dick Cheney. Sweet Jesus.

I find it totally unsurprising you can't conceive of a group of reasonable people with opinions that differ from yours.

From Inwood said...

Duh, shoudda wrote:

IV The Presidency When Occupied By The GOP

Simon said...

FI - Feerick wrote a terrific book called "From Failing Hands," exploring the Vice Presidency and succession issues, that was very useful to me when I was writing about the line of succession. At any rate, what I'm getting at is simply that whereas the Constitution directly and expressly creates the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the office of the President, it doesn't directly create the offices of the veep and the Chief Justice, but rather, by presupposing their existence by vesting functions in them, creates them indirectly. For the most part that's the height of fussing over details, but if it matters in any way or for any reason, it matters for purposes of working out what the Vice President can, should and must do, to the extent that tradition and later amendments haven't settled the issue. (I should admit frankly that I could be accused of smuggling in the assertion that tradition can authoritatively settle a Constitutional question; I wrote about that back here.)

Anonymous said...

If Althouse ever needs a Guest Host because of her inability to discharge the duties of her office (or maybe she just needs a vacation), could she please please please appoint From Inwood to the job?

PatCA said...

I think Cheney would just tell the 23% to "bleep yourselves." Or, now that he's almost free, maybe he would just say it to all of them.

From Inwood said...

Theo B

Thanks for the compliment, but, alas, I lack the delicate balance of gravitas & piquancy (lubricity?) that our host has.

I could, however, handle the weddings & funerals area for the Blog, like the usual VP.

Simon, I agree with you, having had to try to 'splain to various non-lawyer friends & relatives “where in the Constitution” it says that the Chief Justice position requires a separate vote for confirmation & why an associate Justice like Rehnquist had to go through the confirmation process twice. As Cedarford might say: it's Talmudic.