5. SPRIO AGNEW
The Batman and Robin of villains.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO: Richard Nixon, 1968 and 1972.
You’d think that accepting more than $100,000 in bribes would be enough for anyone to immediately flunk their vice presidential vetting, but since Spiro Agnew of Maryland was auditioning to be Richard Nixon’s running mate in 1968 it should not be too surprising that the two made a formidable team for evil.
As Nixon’s hatchet-man, Agnew was responsible for saying the crazy crap that nobody in their right mind would want printed alongside their name, such as when he said: “I call on you to publicly repudiate all black racists” to Civil Rights leaders in response to the riots that broke out after Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. Naturally, it’s hard to call the guy a failure when he served on two winning presidential tickets, but by 1972 his dirty-laundry list was so long that even Nixon considered dropping him from the ticket. Among the many awful reasons why Nixon decided to keep him on board: “no assassin in his right mind would kill me. They know that if they did they would end up with Agnew.”
Shit like that only made sense to men like Nixon.
After their monumental win in the 1972 election, Agnew eventually pleaded no contest to criminal tax evasion and resigned from office less than one year into his second term. A class act to the end, Agnew blamed all his bribery woes on Richard Nixon without providing any evidence at all that he was, as well, a crook.
4. ANDREW JOHNSON
Not only did he yield the floor, he pissed on it.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO: Abraham Lincoln, 1864.
It’s hard to believe that one of the greatest presidents in US history was paired with such an awful running mate, but 1864 was a pretty brutal year for reelections. What with the Civil War and all.
So, how desperate was Abraham Lincoln to increase his appeal by having Andrew Johnson, a Democratic Senator from Tennessee, as his running-mate? Check out his bio: The man was illiterate until his late teens, openly defended slavery, and was the only Southern Senator to not resign his seat upon secession. An embarrassment to the Republican Party his entire time with them, Johnson eventually topped off his brief time as Abraham Lincoln’s running mate by showing up drunk at his own inauguration and “making a drunken foolish speech.”
3. THOMAS EAGLETON
Thomas Eagleton, “voting.”
VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO: George McGovern, 1972.
Note to self: When picking your vice presidential candidates, do not go for the one undergoing shock therapy for “manic depression” and “suicidal tendencies.” We say this because it is exactly what George McGovern did when he tapped Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri as his running mate in 1972 against Richard Nixon, of all people. Guess how that turned out?
No, Eagleton didn’t kill himself before the election, but his own doctors advised McGovern that it would probably be best for him and for the nation that he go with someone who wouldn’t blow a gasket and kill himself during a national emergency. Eagleton was eventually kicked off the ticket on August 1, but by then the damage was already done to the McGovern campaign.
We’re guessing that little spec in Virginia is Thomas Eagleton voting for Ralph Nader.
2. VICE ADMIRAL JAMES BOND STOCKDALE
Yup, this dude was even better at three-ways than Bill Clinton.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO: Ross Perot, 1992.
Make no mistake, Ross Perot in 1992 had a damn good change at becoming the first third-party candidate elected president since Abraham Lincoln. He was a self-made multibillionaire, popular with moderates, funny as hell, and — very much unlike George H. W. Bush – a native of the electoral-rich state of Texas. By June 1992, Perot was ahead of Bush by 8 points and Clinton by 12 points in a three-way race.
Perot subsequently suspended his campaign for what he later claimed was a vast, right-wing conspiracy bent on sabotaging his daughter’s wedding which we honestly wouldn’t put it past the RNC. Nevertheless, Perot jumped back in the race a few months later and chose one of the most decorated naval heroes in US history to help regain his lead in the polls and save his candidacy: Medal of Honor-winner Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale.
The guy’s medals had medals.
So, what went wrong? Admiral Stockdale was not a madman; he just really came off as one during the 1992 Vice-Presidential Debate. Perot kicked ass during his debates and stood a serious chance of regaining his past momentum, but Admiral Stockdale, who had almost zero time to prepare, sunk like a chunk of Stonehenge. After all, how far can you get wish such lines as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” and “I didn’t have my hearing-aid turned on.”
Who Am I? Why Am I Here?
The Hearing-Aid Incident
The Perot presidential campaign came to a hilarious, spectacular end at that point in a disaster that only the late, great Phil Hartman could truly capture.
1. JAMES DANFORTH “DAN” QUAYLE
Jesus Christ, just look at him.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO: George H.W. Bush, 1988 and 1992.
Alas, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin have severely softened the blow of some of these…
While his entire term as vice president was more or less one gigantic blooper real, it is hard to overlook the monumental embarrassment Dan Quayle caused right out of the gate. Check out this little number he loosed during the 1988 Vice Presidential debate when he all but refused to go into detail about what he would do if he replaced George Bush as president because such a situation was hypothetical:
Tom Brokaw: Senator Quayle, I don’t mean to beat this drum until it has no more sound in it. But to follow up on Brit Hume‘s question, when you said that it was a hypothetical situation, it is, sir, after all, the reason that we’re here tonight, because you are running not just for Vice President — (Applause) — and if you cite the experience that you had in Congress, surely you must have some plan in mind about what you would do if it fell to you to become President of the United States, as it has to so many Vice Presidents just in the last 25 years or so.
Quayle: Let me try to answer the question one more time. I think this is the fourth time that I’ve had this question.
Brokaw: The third time.
Quayle: Three times that I’ve had this question — and I will try to answer it again for you, as clearly as I can, because the question you’re asking is, “What kind of qualifications does Dan Quayle have to be president,” “What kind of qualifications do I have,” and “What would I do in this kind of a situation?” And what would I do in this situation? [...] I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.
Judy Woodruff: Senator [Bentsen]?
Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy. (Prolonged shouts and applause.)
Guess who won that election? You guessed right: George H. W. Bush and Dan freaking Quayle in a goddamn landslide.
Jacopo della Quercia is on Twitter. Follow him!