Weird History
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11 President/Vice President Pairs Who Didn't Get Along Too Well

Updated June 24, 2020 125.1k views11 items

Throughout American political history, there have been numerous White House feuds and bad presidential pairs, which created administrations consisting of presidents who hated their vice presidents. Each of these situations was unique in its specifics, but all were fundamentally driven by the reality – especially as the American executive branch evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries – that the US vice presidency was merely a ceremonial position, rarely involved in any substantive governmental process.

Frequently exploited during an initial presidential campaign for their regional or home-state connections and quickly discarded once an administration began to wield power, any accomplished, egotistical politician would quickly become embittered by a process that reduced him to a non-entity in the post of vice president. Such an environment was bound to produce hostility and resentment, a situation that occurred many times involving American presidents and vice presidents who didn't get along.   

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt May Have Run For A Third Term To Prevent His VP From Being Elected President

    FDR initially got along well with his plainspoken Vice President, John Nance Garner. Garner, a hard-drinking, no-nonsense Texan, once claimed that the Vice Presidency wasn't "worth a pitcher of warm piss." Nicknamed "Cactus Jack" for his acerbic manner, Garner eventually soured on FDR's liberal, New Deal program, which clashed with his conservative perspective. Even worse, with the 1940 election approaching and Garner in his 70s, the former House Speaker figured that it was now or never if he ever wanted to be President. Garner also further alienated Roosevelt with isolationist foreign policy views and the belief that federal troops should have been used to put down labor strikes in the late '30s, an alternative at odds with the labor base of the Democratic Party.

    When Garner openly challenged Roosevelt, he was outmaneuvered when the President allowed himself to be "drafted" as a candidate, a strategy that enabled him to avoid scrutiny for breaking the unwritten "two term" rule that was presidential tradition. Garner essentially retired from politics and went back to Texas, thinking that he wasn't going to live much longer, anyway. Surprisingly, he lasted another 27 years and died in 1967, aged 98 years, 350 days.   

  • Fate Forced Theodore Roosevelt On William McKinley

    William McKinley never really liked Teddy Roosevelt. He felt his demands for war during his administration were really about Roosevelt wanting to get military service on his political resume. Against his better judgment, he appointed Roosevelt Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position that Roosevelt publicly used to beat the drums for war against Spain. Behind his back, after McKinley explained his reluctance to get involved in armed conflict, Roosevelt said of the President:

    “He has all the backbone of a chocolate eclair.”

    McKinley, a veteran of the Civil War with first-hand knowledge of its horrific consequences, eventually asked Congress to declare war, and Teddy Roosevelt was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the famed "Rough Riders" contingent. He was immediately fitted in a Brooks Brothers uniform, and Roosevelt issued a press release complete with numerous photos of himself in uniform – this before he even left New York for Puerto Rico.

    Roosevelt's maneuver would have been a mere annoyance except for a development that changed American history. McKinley's trusted Vice President, Garret Hobart, was stricken with heart disease and died in December of 1899. Because Roosevelt had so alienated party bosses in NY, they were hoping to get rid of him by sticking him in the powerless office of vice president where McKinley could isolate him. Roosevelt initially did not want to run for VP but agreed, thinking that it might help him escape from potential defeat in New York politics. Predictably, Roosevelt's first six months in office were trivial and uneventful. That changed when an assassin shot and killed President McKinley in September of 1901. The man nobody wanted or liked was now the President.

  • Dwight Eisenhower Thought Richard Nixon Was An Overly Ambitious Weirdo

    Dwight Eisenhower's Vice President, Richard Nixon, was the result of a convention selection that Eisenhower was not wild about. He disliked the young Nixon's anti-communist hysteria and grasping ambition. In 1956, with Eisenhower's health a major issue, the question of who would be on the ticket in 1956 loomed large. Ike attempted to get Nixon to take himself out of the running and accept a cabinet post, but Nixon didn't take the hint. In the end, Nixon remained on the ticket, but President Eisenhower's attitude about him was clear, both privately and publicly. As an aside during a 1956 discussion with party officials Eisenhower stated:

    "I can't understand how a man can come so far in his profession and not have any friends."

    In a public news conference in 1960, Eisenhower made an offhand remark that was meant to be humorous – but was actually devastating – when asked by reporters to come up with a Nixon idea that Ike had adopted while President. His response:

    "If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember."

    In this case, Eisenhower's passive-aggressive relationship with Nixon was not very passive.

  • John Adams And Thomas Jefferson Were From Different Political Parties

    It was inevitable that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would not get along as President and Vice President. Adams was a Federalist; Jefferson was a Republican; and their election was the result of the second-place finisher in electoral votes being elected vice president, regardless of party. The Federalists and Republicans differed fundamentally on political issues, especially on attitudes towards England and France and civil liberties.

    Although Adams's and Jefferson's personal relationship remained civil throughout Adams's Presidency, Adams's last-minute appointments of individuals of his own party before Jefferson's inauguration was perceived by Jefferson as a blatant attempt to sabotage his Vice Presidency. He stopped communicating with Adams for 10 years and only resumed a correspondence after the intervention of a mutual friend. In 1811, Adams rekindled the friendship of the two men, which would last until their deaths, coincidentally on the same day, July 4, 1826.