- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Vice presidents usually don’t move up

Joseph Curl’s interesting article “Running mate guessing game begins” (Potomac Primary, Wednesday) outlines the criteria on which the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, should base his decision for selecting a vice presidential running mate. Hailing from “normal” America (D.C.-based folks excluded), being a movement conservative and being young top the list.

What Mr. Curl doesn’t mention, however, but something every prospective running mate should consider (except those like Vice President Dick Cheney, who never intended to run for president) is the poor track record of vice presidents becoming commander in chief. From 1900 through 2008, there have been 22 vice presidents. Just seven of them became president.

Four of the seven were elevated to the presidency by virtue of the president’s death (Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson) and one by presidential resignation (Gerald Ford). Two vice presidents (Richard M. Nixon and George H.W. Bush) in the past 108 years were elected president after their predecessors completed their full terms. Mr. Nixon endured an eight-year hiatus between his vice presidency and his election to the presidency, so the first President Bush is the only vice president of the past 108 years to have been elected president.

Hence the question for potential vice presidents who aspire to the presidency is not whether the job is “worth a bucket of warm spit,” in the words of FDR Vice President John Nance Garner, who Mr. Curl quoted. (The position got former Vice President Al Gore the Nobel Prize.) The question is whether there is any substantive utility to the position of vice president vis-a-vis the propulsion of its occupant to the presidency.

By this measure, two out of 22 (less than 10 percent) is terrible odds. Factoring in Mother Nature, the probabilities rise to about 30 percent. Consequently — and as Mr. Curl noted — given that if elected president, Mr. McCain would be 72 years old upon assuming office, the chances aren’t unreasonable, after all, for those with a few years ahead of them.

ROBERT BRANTLEY

Alexandria

Reagan wouldn’t have said that

“Quo vadis, conservatives?” (Commentary, Feb. 10) speaks to many conservatives’ problem with Sen. John McCain.

I miss Ronald Reagan — a lot — but Mr. Reagan is not conservatism, nor do I think he would have made such a boast. Conservatism, at its best, is not resisting change because it is change or blindly following tradition or loathing liberals. It is understanding its first principles and then reasoning its way to coherent positions on the issues.

Sometimes this means that conservatives will vigorously defend tradition; at other times, they may be leading change. Wasn’t Mr. Reagan — not the caricature some of us have created, but the man himself — that kind of conservative?

THOMAS M. DORAN

Plymouth, Mich.

Nintendo should help veterans

I read Sgt. Shaft’s Monday column with the letter from Kenneth A. Fulmer of the Armed Forces Veterans Homes Foundation, and my blood hasn’t stopped boiling yet (“Veterans homes seek Wiis,” Nation).

I am disgusted with Nintendo of America for its outright refusal to help VA homes acquire Wiis, which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the health of elderly veterans. Given all the millions of dollars this company earns off Americans every year, one would think it could show some gratitude toward the veterans who have sacrificed their own health to make such a safe and prosperous environment possible. What selfish and greedy people the decision-makers at Nintendo must be.

I, for one, will never do business with the company again or buy its products. I hope others will pledge the same.

GAIL BROSK

Columbia, Md.

Two-faced health care reform

I agree completely with Gary Andres about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s proposal on health care (“The two faces of health care reform,” Op-Ed, Thursday). I will vote for Sen. Barack Obama, not for Mrs. Clinton, for that specific reason.

I’m 58 years old, self-employed and uninsured — not because I think it’s safe or prudent, but because I don’t make enough to afford a minimal catastrophic coverage policy. I would be delighted to have affordable insurance. But what if Mrs. Clinton’s plan doesn’t make it affordable? I’d be forced to pay for it anyway, no matter how badly it damaged my finances and my personal standard of living. I am frankly terrified of this.

And the very fact that Mrs. Clinton wants to make her plan compulsory casts doubt on its quality and affordability. After all, if it were a good deal, why would people have to be forced to accept it?

Does Mrs. Clinton really suppose the country is full of people who like not having reliable health care? Or does she fear that offering something that people would willingly adopt would be too hard for her?

WILLIAM H. STODDARD

San Diego

Mrs. Clinton’s stellar legislative record

I am writing in response to Anne Allen’s remarks (“Hillary Clinton is no Margaret Thatcher,” Letters, Feb. 9) regarding my Feb. 5 letter, “If not Hillary, who?”

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sponsored or co-sponsored nearly 400 legislative proposals related to energy and the environment. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she worked to provide access to Tricare for National Guard and Reserve members. She authored the Heroes at Home Act to help service members struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

While working in Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton headed a committee to improve rural health care services. As first lady, she pushed the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which now covers 6 million children. Her health plan for the future covers all Americans. It isn’t that other people in this race for the White House are unqualified; it’s just that she is most qualified.

On Sept. 5, 1995, in Beijing, before the plenary session of the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women, Mrs. Clinton delivered a detailed speech addressing massive national and international issues facing the world’s children and women. Her address is regarded by some academics as one of the top 100 speeches of the 20th century.

Mrs. Clinton is condemned by some because she is familiar with the inner workings of Washington. With all due respect, I think that in this time of global, planetary and economic crisis, knowing how something works should be regarded as a gift. It is an incredible advantage in the process of correcting the embarrassing injustice to the country’s children, the homeless, the dismissed and abandoned, the uneducated, the families without health insurance, the underemployed and unemployed, the raped environment and the families living in poverty.

Mrs. Clinton has done her homework on all of these issues. She already has begun to put an end to injustice. Look at her record. We don’t have time for rhetoric as we face the critical needs of this very broken country.

MAGIE DOMINIC

New York City

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