July 4th is Independence Day, but if Bill Kelter gets his way it also will be Vice Presidents' Day.
"You already have a holiday on the books, so there's not going to be a lot of red tape putting it through," Kelter says. "And if, God forbid, something should happen to the Fourth of July, Vice Presidents' Day can be there to step in."
Kelter is a historian and author of the book "Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance" who loves vice presidents so much that he painted their likenesses on the white checkered tiles in his bathroom.
Kelter says it's an exciting time in politics, the one occurrence every four years when people actually talk about the vice presidency. Mitt Romney is deciding on the other name that will join his on campaign bumper stickers.
But as big of a story as that is, the person chosen would join a long line of men drafted into a job that history has come to view as a bit of a joke.
A history of insignificance
John "Cactus Jack" Garner, the 32nd vice president, is probably best known for the phrase "Being vice president isn't worth a warm bucket of piss." Garner was speaker of the House when he ran for president in 1932 and was barely beat out by Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a consolation, he was offered the vice presidency.
Garner served two terms under FDR before an unsuccessful bid to beat out the incumbent for an unprecedented third term, and he bitterly said later, "I gave up the second most important job in government for eight long years as Roosevelt's spare tire."
He called the decision the "worst damn fool mistake I ever made."
Garner isn't alone in this sentiment. Abraham Lincoln's first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, once complained he was, "the most unimportant man in Washington." Lincoln apparently agreed and booted Hamlin off of his second-term ticket and replaced him with Andrew Johnson.
Almost a century later, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower was asked about Vice President Richard Nixon's contributions to his administration, Eisenhower said famously, "If you give me a week, I might think of one."
In fact, the stigma of the nation's second-in-command goes all the way back to the job's roots.
John Adams, America's first vice president, may be responsible for that precedent. Kelter said Adams fought hard to establish monarchical names for America's two highest leaders, suggesting titles like "His Majesty the President," "His Highness the President," "Master of the United States of America and Protector of Their Liberties," "His Mighty Benign Highness" and "His High Mightiness" among others.
When he was laughed at by the senators he would soon preside over, one of whom suggested the portly Adams be referred to as "His Rotundity," he slinked back, sulked and resigned himself to serving in a position he called, "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
He famously and more curtly said later, "I am vice president, and in that I am nothing."
The importance of vetting
Whether or not the job of vice president is truly considered a position of power, one thing is true: The selection of a candidate can boost or bust a campaign in a narrow race, and Kelter said vetting is crucial.
Political analysts argue that Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign failed to thoroughly vet Sarah Palin in the 2008 race, but Kelter points to another example as the most notable cautionary tale.
In 1972, Democratic nominee George McGovern was heavily pursuing Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy to be his running mate against the Republican ticket of Nixon and Spiro Agnew. But Kennedy didn't want the job, and at the last second McGovern found himself scrambling to come up with a name. Kelter says he found one on the very bottom of a list one week before the convention -- Thomas Eagleton.
Eagleton was a respected senator from Missouri at the time, but after his selection was announced, reports emerged that he had been hospitalized for depression a decade earlier and made reference to electro-shock therapy.
"There just wasn't as much sensitivity to mental health issues as you would have today," Kelter said.
When the rumors first surfaced, McGovern steadfastly declared he was "1,000%" behind Eagleton, but after only 18 days as running mate Eagleton was asked to step down.
Eagleton's past may have done less to damage McGovern's credibility than McGovern's perceived indecisiveness, but either way a race never expected to be that close to begin with was suddenly an embarrassing slaughter. McGovern and replacement running mate Sargent Shriver won only one state in the general election.
Even on a winning ticket a vice president can go on to become a black eye for an administration.