'Veep' Entertains, But Doesn't Hold Mirror to Reality of Office
Once again, the standing political joke about the irrelevance and incompetence of the American vice president is enjoying a rerun, this time on cable television. In the new HBO comedy series,
The show is being widely hailed as a solid take on
It's great for laughs, especially played by the comedic talents of the star with a preference for the ultimate profanity. And it confirms the view of the vice presidency as the first veep,
Beyond that, the show's basic premise plays off all the old cliches. Like the one about the twin brothers, one of whom was lost at sea and the other who became vice president; neither of them were ever heard from again. Or the assessment of
Wilson himself summed up the popular conception thus: "The chief embarrassment in discussing his office is, that in explaining how little there is to say about it, one has evidently said all there is to say." Or, in the pithy, sanitized version of FDR's standby, "Cactus Jack" Garner, the office was "not worth a bucket of warm spit."
It's true that the roster of early vice presidents was rife with forgettable names like
More recently, the first President
Nevertheless, the fact is that in the last 35 years or so, most American vice presidents have been men of wide political experience and esteem, starting with the often-demeaned President
Over the last nearly 20 years, particularly, the vice presidents of both parties -- Democrats
Gore was given the leading voice in the environmental and technological aspects of the Bill Clinton terms. Cheney especially was regarded as a power in the George W. Bush years, with his own staff paralleling that of the president's in many respects. His dominant influence in matters of prisoner interrogations after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and in the expansion of presidential powers, were hallmarks of that administration.
In the current Obama tenure, Biden was influential in encouraging a refocus on counterterrorism as opposed to counterinsurgency in
All the experience of the last 20 years flies in the face of the premise of the fictional "Veep." The notion of Louis-Dreyfus as a doofus is certainly good for laughs, but it should not be taken as affirmation of the vice presidency as still a ticket to nowhere.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus talks "Veep," swears not parody of Sarah Palin
Julia Louis-Dreyfus spoke on the red carpet at the D.C. premiere of her new HBO show "Veep." To prepare for her role as vice president, Dreyfus studied former vice presidents, but said the show is not a parody on Sarah Palin, or any politician
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