Thomas Eagleton, left, and George McGovern, then a presidential candidate, at the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida.
Thomas Eagleton, left, and George McGovern, then a presidential candidate, at the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida.

Political dangers of picking a US vice presidential candidate



As has been remarked by virtually every man who's ever occupied it, the vice presidency of the United States is a very odd office. It has some of the pomp of the presidency, but almost none of the power - in fact, the vice president has basically two constitutionally enumerated powers: to decide tied votes in the Senate and to assume power in the event a sitting president dies.

And yet the position is coveted, on the strength of two possibilities: if the president dies, the vice president becomes the most powerful national leader in the world, and as president he now has all the advantages of an incumbent. These factors hold a strong allure.

Presidential candidates often seek a running mate who will, in common parlance, "balance the ticket" - and that balancing can be geographical, or it can be ideological, as in the current presidential campaign, in which Mitt Romney has picked arch-conservative Congressman Paul Ryan to shore up support from the arch-conservative group controlling the Republican Party. Candidates George W Bush and Barack Obama both picked as their running mates older politicians, whose presence was meant to offset impressions of inexperience.

The right choice sends a message to voters that the ticket can handle anything. Conversely, the wrong choice can say damning things about the candidate's judgement.

Senator George McGovern, who died last month at the age of 90, had more reason than most to know the dangers involved in choosing a running mate: 40 years ago, it was just such a choice that effectively derailed his run for the presidency. It's a story that served as a warning to all future candidates - a story that's told with considerable energy and dexterity in Joshua M Glasser's book The Eighteen-Day Running Mate.

McGovern, a preacher's son from Avon, South Dakota, had already run for president in 1968, in tribute to recently assassinated candidate Robert F Kennedy and only after first clearing the whole idea with RFK's brother, Ted Kennedy.

McGovern failed to gain the Democratic Party's nomination - it went to Hubert Humphrey, who lost to Richard Nixon in the subsequent election - but the following year, an earthquake struck US national politics: in July 1969, Senator Ted Kennedy's car went off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts, and the young senator swam to safety while one of the staffers of his brother's campaign, Mary Jo Kopechne, remained trapped in the car and drowned. Kennedy was able to salvage his senatorial career, but the tragedy removed a presidential front-runner from the table.

Glasser deftly traces McGovern's run for the 1972 nomination, his assembling of a team - including Gary Hart, a 34-year-old Denver lawyer, and savvy political director Frank Mankiewicz - and his positioning of himself as an outspoken liberal with an honest, inclusive campaign.

"[It's] conceivable that while I might be the most left-leaning candidate," McGovern said, "I am also the most reconciling candidate."

Once he secured his party's nomination, the question became: who would best "balance the ticket"? Here, Glasser's book becomes a fascinating inside look at how personality mixes with procedure.

There were many candidates, of course, and Mankiewicz and the McGovern team made list after list. An elated McGovern first offered the vice-presidential slot to Ted Kennedy, who turned him down, citing "overriding personal considerations" (the enormous likelihood of President Nixon's re-election might have been one of them). Several party officials advocated that McGovern not make a pick himself, but rather leave the selection to the Democratic Convention. Former Massachusetts governor Endicott Peabody suggested himself, "the number one man for the number two job", and so on.

Other names were put forward: Birch Bayh of Indiana, Frank Church of Idaho, Walter Mondale of Minnesota, Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, Kennedy in-law Sargent Shriver, Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, even the CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite was considered, but eventually ruled out, because McGovern's aides doubted he'd accept (Cronkite, as staunch an opponent of the Vietnam War as McGovern, later said, "I'd have accepted it in a minute. Anything to help end that dreadful war.")

McGovern initially wanted the candidate to be somebody he knew and understood; Fred Dutton, a long-time Kennedy adviser, watching the nominee's reluctance to be handled by his staff, quipped, "No major presidential candidate in modern history has successfully pulled off being both the jockey and the horse - both the candidate and the man who is already running the campaign." Thus McGovern briefly settled on Boston's intellectual and fiercely ideological mayor Kevin White, who at one point got a phone call that was just a preposition or two away from an explicit offer. But McGovern's people were warned by John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist, that White was unpopular with the Massachusetts delegation, every member of which threatened to leave the convention if White got the nomination.

Eventually, the scramble got around to Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton, whose mercurial nature ("… the slightest frustration could instigate the wildest of irritations") had proven popular with voters in his home state.

Glasser stresses the sometimes overlooked fact that Eagleton was an honourable man, someone who "stood up for his values, no matter whether his stances were classified as typically Democratic or Republican positions".

Faint rumours swirled around Eagleton - talk of mood swings and hospital stays for stomach problems - but reporters in the early stages of his career had adhered to a decidedly non-21st-century clannishness, as Glasser writes: "The Missouri media had a tradition of restraint that saved Eagleton from investigation; they avoided scrutiny of a man's private life if it did not seem to interfere with his performance on the job."

Such an investigation would have revealed political dynamite: Eagleton suffered from depression, and his hospitalisations for the condition had included electroshock therapy. These sessions, plus periods of relaxation and the unflagging support of his wife, had allowed Eagleton to consider himself effectively cured. "I'm flabbergasted, George," Eagleton said when he got the call from McGovern, "Are you kidding me? Why, ah, before you change your mind, I hastily accept."

When Mankiewicz got on the line - and asked him point-blank, "No skeletons rattling in your closet?" - Eagleton said nothing about his treatments for depression.

"To Eagleton," Glasser writes, a touch unconvincingly, "his hospitalisations were a thing of the past, and he strove to keep them that way. If he considered his mental health disqualifying, Eagleton would never have promoted the idea of his candidacy."

Glasser takes the line that a full-hearted confession of his past would have been impossible for Eagleton - he took the candidate's call in a crowded hotel room that was quickly engulfed in cheers when the reason for the call became known. "For a man who had concealed his hospitalisations for nervous exhaustion and depression throughout his professional career," Glasser writes, "to suddenly disclose matters he clearly considered private in the presence of his staff, friends, and a radio reporter ... among others, seemed absurd."

As Eagleton aide Doug Bennet later put it: "You don't say, 'Gee, wait a minute. I'd better stop and think about this debilitating disease that I don't have anymore', you say 'Great, I'll do it'." (In time, Bennet would characterise this as "one of the colossal failures of political judgment, I guess, of all time").

The euphoria of the moment notwithstanding, the rumours were confirmed almost immediately. Eagleton offered to leave the ticket in an instant. McGovern, "reacting as a person rather than a politician", and personally conflicted because his daughter Terry also suffered from depression, at first vowed to stick by his running mate. But in 1972 depression carried a deep stigma and as more and more editorials called for Eagleton's removal from the ticket, the hard decision became inevitable. Eagleton was dropped (the choice fell to Sargent Shriver after all), and McGovern's opponents made much of the change.

In the short term, it hardly mattered: Nixon won re-election in a staggering landslide. McGovern left the Senate shortly thereafter (Eagleton would stay for 14 more years) but remained sporadically politically active. His enemies, then later his friends, and at times the man himself came to see his particular brand of liberalism as out of step with the changing times - a view that seemed underscored by the election of the conservative president Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Glasser indefatigably interviewed both McGovern and almost all the survivors of the 18-day candidacy, and the resulting work is not only a minor classic of US governmental history but a telling benchmark on society's attitudes towards depression. "I didn't know anything about mental illness. Nobody did," McGovern told Glasser in a 2006 interview. "If I had to do it over again, I'd have kept him."

Steve Donoghue is managing editor of Open Letters Monthly.

The specs

Price: From Dh529,000

Engine: 5-litre V8

Transmission: Eight-speed auto

Power: 520hp

Torque: 625Nm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.8L/100km

Australia tour of Pakistan

March 4-8: First Test, Rawalpindi

March 12-16: Second Test, Karachi

March 21-25: Third Test, Lahore

March 29: First ODI, Rawalpindi

March 31: Second ODI, Rawalpindi

April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi

April 5: T20I, Rawalpindi

BRAZIL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Weverton

Defenders: Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Eder Militao , Danilo, Alex Sandro, Alex Telles, Bremer.

Midfielders: Casemiro, Fred, Fabinho, Bruno Guimaraes, Lucas Paqueta, Everton Ribeiro.

Forwards: Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, Raphinha, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Pedro, Rodrygo

Batti Gul Meter Chalu

Producers: KRTI Productions, T-Series
Director: Sree Narayan Singh
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyenndu Sharma, Yami Gautam
Rating: 2/5

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Structural weaknesses facing Israel economy

1. Labour productivity is lower than the average of the developed economies, particularly in the non-tradable industries.
2. The low level of basic skills among workers and the high level of inequality between those with various skills.
3. Low employment rates, particularly among Arab women and Ultra-Othodox Jewish men.
4. A lack of basic knowledge required for integration into the labour force, due to the lack of core curriculum studies in schools for Ultra-Othodox Jews.
5. A need to upgrade and expand physical infrastructure, particularly mass transit infrastructure.
6. The poverty rate at more than double the OECD average.
7. Population growth of about 2 per cent per year, compared to 0.6 per cent OECD average posing challenge for fiscal policy and underpinning pressure on education, health care, welfare housing and physical infrastructure, which will increase in the coming years.

SERIES INFO

Cricket World Cup League Two
Nepal, Oman, United States tri-series
Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu
 
Fixtures
Wednesday February 5, Oman v Nepal
Thursday, February 6, Oman v United States
Saturday, February 8, United States v Nepal
Sunday, February 9, Oman v Nepal
Tuesday, February 11, Oman v United States
Wednesday, February 12, United States v Nepal

Table
The top three sides advance to the 2022 World Cup Qualifier.
The bottom four sides are relegated to the 2022 World Cup playoff

 1 United States 8 6 2 0 0 12 +0.412
2 Scotland 8 4 3 0 1 9 +0.139
3 Namibia 7 4 3 0 0 8 +0.008
4 Oman 6 4 2 0 0 8 -0.139
5 UAE 7 3 3 0 1 7 -0.004
6 Nepal 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
7 PNG 8 0 8 0 0 0 -0.458

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens

SNAPSHOT

While Huawei did launch the first smartphone with a 50MP image sensor in its P40 series in 2020, Oppo in 2014 introduced the Find 7, which was capable of taking 50MP images: this was done using a combination of a 13MP sensor and software that resulted in shots seemingly taken from a 50MP camera.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Trolls World Tour

Directed by: Walt Dohrn, David Smith

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake

Rating: 4 stars

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Mascotte Health

Started: 2023

Based: Miami, US

Founder: Bora Hamamcioglu

Sector: Online veterinary service provider

Investment stage: $1.2 million raised in seed funding

Keep it fun and engaging

Stuart Ritchie, director of wealth advice at AES International, says children cannot learn something overnight, so it helps to have a fun routine that keeps them engaged and interested.

“I explain to my daughter that the money I draw from an ATM or the money on my bank card doesn’t just magically appear – it’s money I have earned from my job. I show her how this works by giving her little chores around the house so she can earn pocket money,” says Mr Ritchie.

His daughter is allowed to spend half of her pocket money, while the other half goes into a bank account. When this money hits a certain milestone, Mr Ritchie rewards his daughter with a small lump sum.

He also recommends books that teach the importance of money management for children, such as The Squirrel Manifesto by Ric Edelman and Jean Edelman.

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5


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