The vice presidency has long been the least sexy political office in the land. Even mid-tier cabinet members and K-Street shysters beat the Veep when it comes to Beltway glamour. “That Elbridge Gerry really got the electorate hot and bothered,” said no one, ever. But thanks to a certain Alaskan huntress with Russia visible from her front yard, the perennial political also-ran title has seen increased exposure, even if TV portrayals both semi-real (Game Change) and comically fictitious (Veep) depict vice presidents as bumbling losers in the Situation Room and the bedroom.
More recently, Thursday’s Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan was universally deemed superior to the tepid presidential disaster in Denver.
Here are five more exceptions to the rule of unattractive, if not invisible, number twos:
John C. Breckinridge Gets Elected V.P. at 35:
The Senator from Kentucky got lucky in 1857 when he was elected to the vice presidency at the tender age of 35, to date the youngest man to hold the dishonor. He spent his later years on the run avoiding treason charges and died at 54, but youth was briefly on his side. Also, his great-grandson, Bunny, was a drag queen featured in Ed Wood’s dubious sci-fi “classic” Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Spiro T. Agnew Inspires A Watch:
Watergate, schmatergate. Yes, Agnew was the first V.P. forced to resign thanks to criminal charges. But he was also the first Greek-American to hold the office at all! And the novelty watch he inspired in 1971 shortly before disgrace remains a collector’s item, and perhaps the only piece of spiffy attire ever inspired by a Veep. Imitation S.T.A. timepieces come cheap, but the genuine article might run you up to 100 dead presidents.
The 44th Vice President of the United States will always be remembered for his idiosyncratic spin on the English language. But while misspellings and malapropisms are hardly the stuff of erotic ecstasy, certain classic Quayle quotes—“If we don’t succeed we run the risk of failure,” “I understand the importance of bondage between parent and child,” and “I love California; I practically grew up in Phoenix”—come in handy when those first date awkward silences take over or you desperately need to make an angry significant other crack a smile.
Turns out the best way for Al Gore to debunk criticism of his stiffness was to offer it up on a khaki platter. The November 2000 issue of Rolling Stone marked the second time in three months that people were forced to consider Al and Tipper’s sex life (the first being that loose-limbed, spontaneous convention smooch.) Naturally, the gay blogosphere is still dissecting the photo more than a decade later.
When Ryan on Thursday referenced how notoriously prone Biden is to foot-in-mouth disease, the incumbent V.P. flashed his trademarked rictus in agreement but added “I always say what I mean.” Biden certainly meant it when he said he was “comfortable” with gay marriage on Meet the Press in May. Whether it was a genuine verbal overstep or, as cynics think, a bit of administration choreography, the V.P.’s comments quickly led to a similar declaration from President Obama, who’d lagged on the issue, making it a sexy moment for Biden among those who share his sense of comfort.