“It was the closest we ever got to the White House” lamented Hellenes all over the world when Greek-American Spiro Agnew, elected twice (in 1968 and 1972) as Richard Nixon’s running mate and thus always a heartbeat (or resignation, or removal) away from the presidency, resigned the office on October 10, 1973. (Years later, they’d say that about unsuccessful 1988 candidate Michael Dukakis.)
Nixon himself resigned less than a year later, on August 9, 1974, amid the Watergate scandal. Only the most observant students, when taught that VP Gerald Ford was then sworn in as president, exclaim: “wait, what happened to Spiro Agnew?”
Agnew’s resignation had nothing to do with Watergate. He was accused of taking kickbacks while U.S. Attorney and later governor of Maryland, pleaded no contest to a single charge of tax evasion, and resigned the vice presidency.
Some have speculated – and I’ve been one of them – that had Agnew not been mired in scandal and stayed on as VP, the House of Representatives might not have moved forward with Nixon’s impeachment, for fear of the inevitable consequence of a President Agnew, or at least might have conveniently delayed until the end of Nixon’s term.
Imagine if in 2016, the Trump-Pence ticket won the election, but in reverse, with Mike Pence in the top spot and Donald Trump as VP. Further, imagine the Democrats came up with some reasons – their legitimacy irrelevant here – to impeach him. Would they really have moved forward with such fervor to drive Pence out of office, paving the way for a Trump presidency?
Although in many ways Trump is a character the likes of which we’ve never seen before, the dread and antipathy many feel toward him is not unlike what a large chunk of Americans felt about Agnew in the late 60s and early 70s. As with Trump, it was very much a love/hate sentiment, and split almost entirely down the middle.
Ford was more like Pence, or Joe Biden. He wouldn’t have throngs of supporters wildly cheering him on even if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue (as Trump once figuratively boasted), but he didn’t draw comparisons to Hitler, either. There’s no such thing as “Ford Derangement Syndrome.”
Agnew, on the other hand, infuriated quite a large number of folks on the left (even as yesterday’s left would be canceled by today’s woke version), particularly with memorable colorful adjectives to describe them, such as “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
Many twentysomething women referred to President Obama as their “boo” – i.e., their lovable squish toy. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone who ever said that about Spiro.
All of this is relevant 50 years later, because one consistent factor that fuels the Biden presidency is a fear that his exit will usher in President Harris.
I don’t have a particular problem with Kamala. Granted, I’d even vote for the Republican I abhor most – Mitt Romney – over probably 99.9% of potential Democratic presidential candidates, but when I think of how Kamala is compared to Hillary Clinton in terms of unlikability, I don’t think the two are even in the same league.
Hillary’s incessant shrillness – which prompted even Sean Hannity to once quip “I feel sorry for Bill Clinton; he has to live with her, he has to listen to that!” makes Kamala’s cackle seem almost endearing by comparison. Sure, many black women think of Kamala as “boorgie” in sharp contrast to their veneration of Michelle Obama, but I don’t get why she’s so vilified.
Yes, I know, she’s appeared to be an airhead thus far, but she’s not one. Just as Admiral Stockdale – who wrote his own political obituary, and that of the Ross Perot 1992 presidential campaign, when in that year’s vice presidential debate infamously told the moderator “hold on, I didn’t hear the question, I have to turn up my hearing aid” – wasn’t a senile old man. It’s all about image, and Kamala’s thus far has been disastrous.
Even her Kwanzaa holiday message, with stories of how she grew up with the holiday as a child, was greeted by false Internet scoffs that it was “invented when she was an adult.” No, it wasn’t. She was two. .And while those Internet clowns hadn’t heard of it, it was invented right in her own backyard, in California.
Just like I grew up playing in J. Hood Wright Park in Washington Heights decades ago, but most Americans only heard of it when Lin Manuel Miranda featured it in his musical.
Far be it from me to want to strengthen Kamala’s chances in 2024 (I’m hoping for Trump-DeSantis or some variation on that theme). But I’m not going to join the bandwagon and bash her as if she’s an unmitigated horror show.
As I wrote in my Dec. 11 column, “Biden-Trump 2 Probably Most Competitive Matchup” Biden seems to remain the most electable presidential candidate the Democrats have (scary, isn’t it?). If he really runs again, he’d be wise to dump Harris in favor of a “Gerald Ford…Mike Pence.. and…well..Joe Biden-type” and let the left squawk all they want. By the way, I can’t readily think of a straight, white male Democrat who would necessarily be a better choice than black Corey Booker, gay Pete Buttigieg, or female Tulsi Gabbard, nor am I advocating for one, but if there was, I don’t think Biden would have the spine to pick him and rattle the woke brigades.
Even at his political nadir, Agnew’s approval ratings were head and shoulders above Harris’. But now, from the great beyond, after decades of being persona non grata amid the vice presidential cavalcade, even Spiro can laugh at Kamala.