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Top 10 Best U.S. Vice Presidents in History

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Liam Hillery.

Many of the most influential Vice Presidents in United States history have gone on to become Presidents, among their many accomplishments. Men like Lyndon B. Johnson and Theodore Roosevelt were called upon to take over the Oval Office after Presidents were assassinated, while VPs like Gerald Ford took the highest office due to scandal. However, men like Walter Mondale significantly changed the office of the vice president. WatchMojo chooses the ten most important Vice Presidents of the United States.

Special thanks to our users drewbrown, Trigger51, Al Bebak, ACB99, mac121mr0 and fsanders2 for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Best%20US%20Vice%20Presidents

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Transcript
Script written by Liam Hillery.

Top 10 Best U.S. Vice Presidents in History


You know what they say; first is the worst, second is the best. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best U.S. Vice Presidents.

For this list, we’re taking a look at every Veep in history and considering how well they filled the role, in terms of what they did on the campaign trail, what they accomplished in office, how they complemented the President, and more.

#10: Gerald Ford
1973 - 1974

Ford had it tough from day one: amid Spiro Agnew’s tax evasion and money laundering scandals, President Richard Nixon had to select a Vice President that would both calm the country’s nerves and re-establish confidence. Ford filled this role admirably, as the Republican was relatively admired on both sides of the political spectrum. While the Watergate scandal was already in full swing when Ford was sworn in as VP in December 1973, things worsened considerably following his appointment. As evidence mounted against Nixon, Ford was assigned the near-impossible task of staying above the fray. He did so gracefully, ultimately stepping up when called upon to replace Nixon as President in August 1974.

#9: John Adams
1789 - 1797

The very first Vice President of the United States, Adams was tasked with establishing the role. True, he was not consulted particularly often by then-president George Washington, and their views may’ve actually contradicted each other in some cases. However, Adams was a highly influential VP in his capacity as President of the Senate. The Senate’s official government website confirms that Adams cast the most tie-breaking votes in history, with roughly 30 separate votes. With such decision-making power, Adams was able to heavily influence the country’s policies during his time in office. He must’ve done something right: the American people later elected him President, a job he held from 1797-1801.

#8: Joe Biden
2009 - 2016

Unlike many Vice Presidents – who have a ceremonial relationship with the President, but do not take an active role in his decision-making process – Joe Biden acted as a serious advisor to President Barack Obama. It’s reported that Biden purposefully provided opposing views to the President’s, so all perspectives were represented when choices were made. He was active in government, heading the Gun Violence Task Force and overseeing infrastructure spending in Obama’s stimulus package. What’s more, he helped pass the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and championed reauthorization of his own Violence Against Women Act. Biden’s popularity can’t be understated, and in early-21st century’s political climate, that’s some accomplishment.

#7: Dick Cheney
2001 - 2009

Some would argue that Dick Cheney was the real brains behind the second Bush Administration. Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but what isn’t is the fact that the 46th VPOTUS was a key player in the White House from 2001-09, bringing with him the foreign policy expertise W lacked. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Cheney spearheaded the anti-terrorism movement by asserting that Iraq had WMDs, claiming links between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, seeing to the use of purported “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and by coordinating the War on Terror. However, perhaps his greatest accomplishment was balancing the “anti-intellectual” accusations leveled at George W. Bush.

#6: Harry S. Truman
1945

It’s hard to accomplish anything as Vice President in 82 days. Unfortunately, that was all the time Harry Truman had before being thrust into the Oval Office upon Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death on April 12th, 1945. Before that time, however, Truman was given a tough task; in a position he didn’t necessarily want, and basically shut out of Roosevelt’s administration, the so-called “forgotten man” had to make his mark in the Senate. With the end of WWII in sight, Truman tried his best to position the country for life after war as second-in-command. It was a mighty responsibility, but pretty soon he was called on to serve his country from a higher office.

#5: Al Gore
1993 - 2001

Unlike many other Vice Presidential candidates, Al Gore didn’t necessarily balance out running mate Bill Clinton; he more or less mirrored him. It worked to great effect, however, as the country became enamored with their work as a cohesive, dynamic duo. Still, on his own, Vice President Gore established himself as a leader concerned with the environment and technology. Many commend his emphasis on technology as an integral part of the dot com boom and the ensuing success of the U.S. economy. And, of course, one cannot understate Gore’s contribution to global environmental awareness: his role in heightening awareness and establishing active initiatives to reverse climate change continues to prove important.

#4: Lyndon B. Johnson
1961 - 1963

While his tenure as POTUS has been highly scrutinized, Lyndon Johnson’s time as Vice President is largely recognized as successful, as he was instrumental in increasing the responsibilities ascribed to the post. History books suggest Johnson’s relationship with the Kennedy brothers was strained, so – basically to keep him out of their way – the VP was named head of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities. It was here that Johnson established his legacy, as his work on the Committee served as the foundation for his role in passing Civil Rights legislation as President. LBJ also convinced JFK to put a man on the moon, which also – importantly – came to fruition.

#3: Richard Nixon
1953 - 1961

Johnson’s presidency may’ve been scrutinized, but there’s no beating the controversy elicited by President Richard Nixon. Even so, his work as Vice President was impressive. Called “the first modern vice president,” Nixon held an advanced advisor role in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, attending cabinet and National Security Council Meetings. When Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955 and was out of commission for six weeks, Nixon filled in seamlessly. His lasting legacy as VP, however, was his work abroad: Nixon established strong bonds with various foreign countries – especially China. Also memorable was his time in the USSR, where he famously debated Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev on the advantages of communism versus capitalism.

#2: Walter Mondale
1977 - 1981

Mondale’s name may not be the most memorable on this list – especially considering he served under one-term president Jimmy Carter. Nonetheless, he’s widely regarded as one of the most important Vice Presidents in America’s history because of how he changed the role. Originally, the Veep was essentially a figurehead. Many VP’s on this list had to work very hard in the Senate to make an impact, but Mondale directly worked with the President. He was the first with an office in the White House, the first to receive the same intelligence briefings as the President and the first to engage in weekly lunches with the Commander-in-Chief. Only since Mondale has the VP held any real power.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Thomas Jefferson
1797 - 1801

- Martin Van Buren
1833 - 1837

- John Tyler
1841

#1: Theodore Roosevelt
1901

A rugged cowboy with a love of political reformation, Teddy Roosevelt followed an interesting trajectory to the Vice Presidency: popular with his constituency as Governor of New York but not with the state’s Republicans, Roosevelt was named as William McKinley’s vice-presidential candidate ostensibly to get him out of NY politics and into a job that had very little power or influence. However, true to his nature, Teddy proved he had both those attributes by campaigning extensively for McKinley nationwide, making almost 500 stops in 23 states. His famous energy lit up the campaign trail, and was a major factor in the Republicans winning the election. It also proved valuable when Roosevelt was forced to replace McKinley as President following his assassination.

Do you agree with our list? Who do you think was the best Vice President? For more political Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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