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SEPTEMBER 20, 2008 9:14AM

Spiro Palin?

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A Vice-Presidential Reminiscence

There are some curious parallels between the Presidential election of 1968 and that of 2008.  In 1968, the U.S. was mired in an unpopular war in Vietnam.  The U.S. economy was in trouble due to high inflation and a tremendous trade deficit.  And candidate Richard M. Nixon made a very surprising choice for his Vice Presidential candidate. 

Spiro T. Agnew was a very unlikely choice and remains, 40 years later, the only politician of Greek ancestry and the only politician from Maryland to ever become Vice President. 

A popular saying at the time of the nomination was “Spiro Who?” and his nomination was opposed by some delegates at the Republican convention who preferred George W. Romney.  However Republican conservatives and loyalists quickly lined-up behind Nixon’s choice and Agnew received the nomination.  As Agnew noted at the time of his nomination, “The name of Agnew is not a household name.”

Nixon’s choice capped an astounding, even meteoric rise, for a man who had first been elected to office, as Baltimore County Executive, only 6 years earlier – an election Agnew won running as a reformer and Republican outsider.  Agnew had served as Governor of Maryland for only two years before becoming Vice President. 

Agnew is infamous now as the only Vice President to resign due to criminal charges.  He plead “nolo contendere” to accepting over $100,000 in bribes.  His resignation, in 1973, caused the first use of the 25th Amendment and Gerald Ford was chosen to become Vice President.  I’ve wondered if Agnew would have become President when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, or if the prospect of an Agnew Presidency would have caused Congress to back-off during the Watergate hearings. 

While in office, Agnew served as Nixon’s “hatchet man” in support of the war and was famous for alliterative insults – most of which were written by presidential speechwriters – for his political opponents.  Some of these colorful epithets include:  “nattering nabobs of negativism,” “pusilanimous pussyfooters,” “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” and my personal favorite “effete corps of impudent snobs.” 

In an interesting historical coincidence, Agnew became very important to Alaska in 1973, just shortly before he was forced to resign.  The Alaskan pipeline was very controversial and the measure to authorize its construction was under consideration by the U.S. Senate which deadlocked on a tie vote, 49-49.  Vice President Agnew cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of building the Alaskan pipeline. The pipeline, of course, is largely responsible for Alaska’s unusually robust financial status. 

In making these comparisons between 1968 and 2008 and between Agnew and Palin, I am not suggesting that Vice President Palin would eventually resign due to criminal charges.  However Agnew’s career does illustrate some of the dangers inherent in selecting untried politicians for high office.  Nixon himself came to dislike Agnew and thought that he did not have the necessary qualifications to become President.  For political reasons, however, he kept him on the ticket for his second term, though he opposed efforts to make Agnew the next president at the end of that term.  Nixon actually wanted Agnew to resign so that he could choose a Democrat, John Connally from Texas, as his Vice President. 

John McCain also considered appointing a (former) Democrat for Vice President;  Joseph Lieberman may well have been on his “short list.”  Given the continuing negative news about Palin, one wonders if McCain, like Nixon, will come to have doubts about his recent choice for Vice President. 


Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiro_Agnew   http://dwb.adn.com/life/story/8392267p-8287449c.html



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I agree there are a group of similarities between Agnew and Palin. Just as one feature of Palin, we currently have stonewalling going on with regard to the "troopergate" investigation and who knows where that will lead.
I think it's a measure of how traumatic "Watergate" was that we still add the "gate" suffix to these kinds of scandals.
That's a good point about "gate" still being with us all of these years later. It's also the second time around for the name "troopergate."
Designanator - thanks for posting the cover from 1972!
It can be seen here:
"if McCain, like Nixon, will come to have doubts" it will never reach the public's attention, in my opinion. He' so into winning at any cost.
Years before Agnew resigned a casual acquaintance, who lived in Maryland, had said to me that Agnew was a crook. A sloppy one at that who "left footprints in the snow."

It seems to me that Republican operatives are very busy in Alaska expunging Palin's record.
I'm ahead of you on this one, folks. Please check out my new web site http://www.nixonagnew.com/, which pays homage to the dearly departed Dick & Spiro. If you didn't believe in channeling before, you will now! ;-)
If it's Spiro Palin, how about Tricky Johnny?
Great comments! I'm certainly willing to add "Tricky Johnny" to the political lexicon. And thanks, Jobo43, for the link to your web page - scary fun.

Carl - I've wondered if Nixon didn't do a good job vetting Agnew, or if Agnew had hidden his tracks better. Your post suggests that either Nixon or the press might have uncovered the problem if they had pursued Agnew's record aggressively before the election. My gosh! What if Humphrey had won?
Nixon and Agnew are the standard bearers of the new right's cynical "silent majority" campaign stategy. Look at the 08 race and the tactics mirror what Nixon and Agnew did (especially in 72).

As terrible as he was, Agnew at least sounded intelligent and was utterly unafraid to not only call out, but ruin this nation's mainstream media. Agnew deserves credit for steering the MSM to the right with constant accusations of a "liberal bias" that almost accepted as gospel truth to the average Joe even today.

And without Agnew, where would Roth be? "Our Gang" and the character Word Smith from "The Great American Novel" are comedic gems. And both rely heavily on Agnew