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The Most Useless US Vice Presidents

Updated October 24, 2020 2.6k votes 506 voters 8.3k views18 items

List RulesVote up the vice presidents who accomplished the least during their tenures.

The position of vice president is ripe for uselessness, lack of accomplishment, abuse of "power," and general embarrassment. Some vice presidents did their minuscule duties quietly and efficiently. Others had short and useless terms because they either assumed the presidency after a quick death, or themselves died quickly. But a select few have been utter fiascoes - politicians who not only accomplished nothing, but actively damaged the presidents they were serving under, joining the ranks of the worst vice presidents in American history.

A trawl through the most useless vice presidents finds a little of every type of embarrassment. Treason? Check. Scandal? Lots of it. Utter inability to do their job? Constant. Being kept out of the loop of major decisions? Virtually all of them. Bringing humiliation on the Executive Branch? Oh, yes. And even a murder! You'll find them all among the most useless vice presidents in US history.

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  • Spiro Agnew is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Useless US Vice Presidents
    Photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Agnew was mostly an unknown when Richard Nixon tapped him to be his vice presidential nominee in 1968. Despite initial opposition, Agnew became one of the public faces of the administration, giving numerous speeches as the voice of Nixon's "silent majority." But soon, animosity between the two men grew and Nixon resorted to joking that nobody would shoot him because then they'd get Agnew for president.

    Agnew's downfall came in 1973, when he was indicted on tax evasion, bribery, and extortion. He'd taken massive bribes as Governor of Maryland, and after his indictment, pled no contest, quickly resigning the vice presidency. The two men never spoke again.

    Ironically, if Agnew had been able to stay in office, he would have indeed become president, as Nixon resigned less than a year later. 

    • Age: Dec. at 78 (1918-1996)
    • Birthplace: Towson, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
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  • Dan Quayle is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Useless US Vice Presidents
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    With little of note in his background, Indiana Senator Dan Quayle was seen as unqualified for the position of vice president. He'd go on to prove that over and over during George H.W. Bush's term in office, constantly embarrassing himself and the administration with bizarre gaffes - a penchant that began in 1988 when he was crushed in the vice presidential debate.

    Quayle's butchering of the English language was so legendary that it's virtually impossible to differentiate between his real gaffes and fake ones. But two truly stuck in the American zeitgeist, ruining his career, and massively embarrassing Bush. The first was his bizarre attack on the TV series Murphy Brown, and the other was his public botched spelling of the word "potato" by insisting to a 12 year old that it had an "e" at the end. 

    The completely useless vice president slunk off into obscurity, and other than a brief run at the Republican nomination in 2000, has never run for office again.

    • Age: 72
    • Birthplace: Indianapolis, United States of America, United States, with Territories, Indiana
    • Nationality: United States of America
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  • Aaron Burr is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Useless US Vice Presidents
    Photo: John Vanderlyn / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Aaron Burr was noted for being an even-handed president of the Senate, and even ran for the office of President himself in 1800. But he was involved in two scandals that marred the office for decades, deeply embarrassing President Jefferson, and landing Burr on a very short list of the worst vice presidents in history.

    The first, and far more famous, is when Burr murdered fellow Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in an illegal duel - while serving as vice president. Burr fled to the South when he was facing charges of murder, but eventually came back to Washington to finish out his term. Then, shortly after his vice presidency, he was arrested and tried for treason for his attempt to raise an army to invade Mexico and start a war with Spain. The trial ended in acquittal, but Burr was ruined.

    • Age: Dec. at 80 (1756-1836)
    • Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
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  • Richard Mentor Johnson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Useless US Vice Presidents
    Photo: Rembrandt Peale / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Johnson's claim to fame before becoming Martin Van Buren's vice president was killing the Shawnee chief Tecumseh

    He proceeded to sponsor an expedition to the North Pole so Americans could drill into the center of the earth. He later took a leave of absence from his role as vice president to run a tavern in Kentucky. Oh, and his fiscal policies helped spark the Panic of 1837.

    Johnson added so little value to the Van Buren ticket that Van Buren ran for president again in 1840 without a running mate.

    • Age: Dec. at 70 (1780-1850)
    • Birthplace: Louisville metropolitan area, Kentucky, Area code 502, Jefferson County, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
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