By Leroy Douresseaux
September 21, 2008 - 12:59
Bill Kelter on Martin Van Buren (VP to Andrew Jackson): "It’s a safe bet that there are few porn stars whose lips have touched as many human arses as Martin Van Buren’s, and certainly none who have been so rewarded for their efforts.”
Kelter on Dick Cheney (President to George W. Bush): “And there he likely would have stayed, just another harrumphing Caucasian male with a bad heart holding a no-heavy-lifting job in a petroleum-related industry – until 2000 when the elder Bush came calling again."
If the thesis, theme, or concept of your book project is “that American voters have sent a platoon of rogues, cowards, drunks, featherweights, doddering geriatrics, etc.” to the Office of the Vice Presidency of the United States, then, your text/prose should attest to and illuminate your argument. In the new book, Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance, Bill Kelter successful accomplishes that and writes a winner.
This combination history, trivia book, droll comedy, and sarcasm engine takes a brief look at the 46 men who have been the Vice-President of the United States of America. Yes, these men were just one heartbeat from being the President of the United States, but as of this writing, only nine have succeeded the President (eight because the Commander-in-Chief died in office). However, Kelter informs his charmed readers that for the most part, the men who have occupied the Office of the Vice President have been forgettable… almost implausibly forgettable. Those whom we remember are connected to shockingly bad behavior, baffling stupidity, shameless self-interest, outrageous sexual conduct, etc.
It’s true that some of the VPs are merely unlucky and harmless. Some are good men who would have made good presidents in there own right. For some, things just didn’t work out for them. Visually, Kelter’s partner, Wayne Shellabarger, who provides illustrations for Veeps, captures, in his black and white portraits/semi-caricatures, the hapless or wretched nature of the VPs. Kelter even manages to portray the wily, brash, and mischievous (and in some cases evil – Dick Cheney) natures a few of Vice Presidents dared to have.
With rascally wit and a bloodhound’s nose for the absurd in history, Kelter opens the cellar door on the history of the men our Presidents keep in the back – way in the back. Veeps is the best memorial for which they could hope, even if it pours salt on the graves that were their careers.