The grow­ing clout of the vice pres­i­dent

Pence, Kaine stand to play ac­tive roles if on win­ning ticket

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Noah Bier­man

WASH­ING­TON — One man en­tered the na­tional stage this sum­mer as what some de­scribe as the re­as­sur­ingly dull half of the GOP ticket. The other, the Demo­cratic No. 2, is a ca­reer politi­cian who proudly called him­self bor­ing.

Yet, as In­di­ana Gov. Mike Pence and Vir­ginia Sen. Tim Kaine pre­pare to face off Tues­day in their only vice pres­i­den­tial de­bate, they are vy­ing for an of­fice that has gained in­creas­ing clout in re­cent ad­min­is­tra­tions.

In Pence’s case, the role could ex­pand even more than it al­ready has over the past 40 years, given Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump’s lack of gov­ern­ment ex­pe­ri­ence. Kaine could find him­self in a more com­pli­cated po­si­tion, com­pet­ing for in­flu­ence in Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s White House against her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

But nei­ther man, if elected, will be rel­e­gated strictly to at­tend­ing to fu­ner­als, main­tain­ing pre­pared­ness should the pres­i­dent fall ill or ab­sorb­ing mock­ery on late-night TV shows. The of­fice, once seen purely as a stand-in job, has now ce­mented it­self as an in­te­gral part of run­ning the coun­try.

The job’s height­ened stature de­rives from a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing the in­creas­ing com­plex­ity of the pres­i­dent’s job, a po­lit­i­cal shift in how run­ning mates are se­lected and the trust in­di­vid­ual pres­i­dents have placed in their un­der­stud­ies.

“It would be dif­fi­cult to throw the vice pres­i­dent out of the West Wing or to refuse to break bread with them once a week,” said Joel Gold­stein, a St. Louis Uni­ver­sity law pro­fes­sor and au­thor of “The White House Vice Pres­i­dency: The Path to Sig­nif­i­cance, Mon­dale to Bi­den.”

Gold­stein pointed to Work­ers as­sem­ble the set Sun­day for Tues­day night’s vice pres­i­den­tial de­bate in Vir­ginia. Wal­ter Mon­dale in the late 1970s as the first modern vice pres­i­dent, who at­tended a weekly lunch with Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter and had the power to in­vite him­self to his meet­ings. Mon­dale and those who fol­lowed all had vary­ing lev­els of re­spon­si­bil­ity, both to give the pres­i­dent un­var­nished ad­vice or to lead ini­tia­tives; but none re­lin­quished the core ac­cess.

Once cho­sen to pro­vide ide­o­log­i­cal or ge­o­graph­i­cal bal­ance, run­ning mates are now usu­ally picked to fill in gaps in the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s ex­pe­ri­ence or ex­per­tise. Al Gore won so Pence Kaine much trust dur­ing Bill Clin­ton’s first term that Elaine Ka­marck, a Gore aide, re­called glimps­ing Gore wag­ging his fin­ger in Clin­ton’s face as he lec­tured him about diplo­macy in Bosnia, some­thing few if any other ad­vis­ers would dare do.

Ka­marck, a se­nior fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion who pub­lished a pa­per on vice pres­i­den­tial power last week, said Dick Cheney at­tained his well­doc­u­mented role lead­ing in­tel­li­gence and for­eign pol­icy in the White House by con­trol­ling the pol­icy op­tions that were put on the desk of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who came in as a gov­er­nor with no for­eign pol­icy back­ground. Cheney had served as sec­re­tary of de­fense.

Pence could win sim­i­lar in­flu­ence on sev­eral fronts, de­pend­ing on his skill and am­bi­tion and the level of trust from Trump, who would en­ter the job with less pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence than any­one in modern his­tory.

WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY

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