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February 8, 1837: Richard Johnson Selected Vice-President by the US Senate

Unless they eventually attain the Presidency, most American vice-presidents are doomed to obscurity, proving the truth of the old joke about the two brothers, one of whom was lost at sea and the other elected vice-president, and neither were ever heard from again.  That is a shame for Richard Mentor Johnson, who was in several ways a fascinating figure.

Born on October 11, 1780 in the pioneer land of Kentucky, Johnson became an attorney, notable for representing poor people pro bono (for free).  He used his house as a shelter for disabled veterans, widows and orphans.  He enjoyed a rapid rise in his political career, being elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1804, and then serving in the Federal House of Representatives from 1806-1819.  In the House he was known by the title “The Poor Man’s Friend”.

During the War of 1812 Johnson divided his time between serving in Congress and leading a Kentucky regiment in the western theater of the war.  At the battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813 he and his regiment were in the thick of the fight with Johnson sustaining five wounds.  During the battle he was probably the man who killed in combat the great Indian leader Tecumseh.

Retiring from the House in 1819, he was chosen by the Kentucky state legislature to fill a US Senate vacancy created by the resignation of John J. Crittenden.  Johnson served in the Senate from 1819-1829.

His successful political career is remarkable when one considers that he lived openly with Julia Chinn as his common law wife.  Chinn was one-eighth black and as a result they could not legally marry, however in every respect they lived as man and wife, with Chinn acting as hostess when they entertained and supervising Mentor’s business interests when he was in Washington.  They had two daughters, Imogen and Adeline, who Johnson recognized as his legal daughters, educated and who he demanded be recognized as his daughters in society.  They would both marry white men, and receive land from their father.  Throughout his political career his enemies used his relationship with Chinn against him.  When he was defeated for re-election to the Senate, Johnson made the following comment:

Unlike Jefferson, Clay, Poindexter and others, I married my wife under the eyes of God, and apparently He has found no objections. Continue Reading

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First Vice Presidential Debate

The first Vice Presidential debate occurred almost forty years ago on October 15, 1976, and like all subsequent Vice Presidential debates it was soon forgotten.  Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this debate now is that both the participants are still alive, with Bob Dole being 93 and Walter Mondale 88.  Both men would go on to end their political careers with unsuccessful Presidential runs, with Walter Mondale coming briefly out of retirement in 2002 to suffer the humiliation of losing a Senate race in his home state of Minnesota.

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Trump and the Pitcher of Warm Spit

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Speculation about Veep choices is no doubt much ado about nothing.  In my lifetime the only Veep choice that made a dime’s worth of difference was LBJ in 1960.  Without him I doubt that the electoral votes of Texas would have been successfully stolen for the Democrats.  However, even in that case the votes of Texas were superfluous due to Mayor Daley the Elder’s post-midnight ballot box stuffing which gave Illinois to Kennedy by 8000 “votes”.

Having said that, rumors are rampant that Trump is considering Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Newt Gingrich.

If Trump is looking for a man who is almost as cordially distrusted by Republicans as he is, Chris Christie is his man.  After his nomination of Romney speech in 2012 that barely mentioned Romney and his literal embrace of Obama near the end of that campaign, he would have a difficult time getting a majority of Republicans to vote for him if he were running against bubonic plague.  Cordially despised in New Jersey, the only reason I can think of for Trump to choose him is the dog-like devotion to Trump he has displayed since he became the first major Republican politician to endorse him.  That, and perhaps his record as a crime busting US Attorney.  If Trump has him play attack dog, the usual role of a Veep, his assumption of a prosecutorial stance might be of marginal assistance in highlighting some of Clinton’s crimes.  If he does become the Veep nominee, Christie will do what he perceives is good for Christie, so Trump should beware.

As for Newt Gingrich, he is a true idea man in politics.  One hundred ideas a day, ten of which are even sane.  His colorful personal history would help in Trump’s effort to nail the adulterer’s block of votes.

If these two men are manifestly unsatisfactory, and they are, what does that say?  Probably that Trump can get no one better and that Trump assumes it probably doesn’t make any difference anyway.

Who would I suggest?  Kasich of Ohio would be an interesting choice.  As governor of Ohio he might be able to bring that state to Trump, a must win for him.  If Trump hadn’t picked a meaningless fight with her, I would suggest Susan Martinez, Governor of New Mexico.  The Senator, and hog castrator, from Iowa, Joni Ernst, would be a good choice, with her military service, her colorfulness and her ability to probably deliver Iowa. Continue Reading