Weekly Feature

2008-06-11 / Editorial

Spindle items

by DAVID F. SHERMAN Managing Editor

I AM READY TO SERVE - The 2008 presidential election campaign has been one of the most exciting races in the last 60 years. Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama will make history as they build up to Election Day on Nov. 4.

Yet one lingering question remains: who each nominee will select as his choice for vice president. This person will be next in order of succession should the president be unable to perform his duties. With history as my guide, I have an announcement to make.

I am ready to serve.

I take this bold step because of the events which took place exactly 100 years ago when a man from New York State named Sherman joined William H. Taft on the Republican ticket.

OK, that's where the similarity ends.

James S. Sherman was a former mayor of Utica who rose through the House of Representatives to become Taft's running mate, according to the U.S. Senate Historical Office. He was a compromise candidate between the progressive and the conservative wings of the party, whose delegates met that year in Chicago. The Taft-Sherman team defeated William Jennings Bryan by more than 1 million votes and nearly doubled the three-time loser's tally in the Electoral College.

Sherman was put to work by the president mending political fences and trying to unify the bickering substructure of the Republican Party. It was a tough sell.

Former President Teddy Roosevelt was still lurking behind the scenes and mounted an aggressive but unsuccessful campaign to win the party's nomination in the 1912 election. Roosevelt split from the GOP after the convention, forming the Bull Moose Party. The Democrats - who gathered in Denver as they will again this year - sided with Woodrow Wilson.

Sherman had quietly been falling into poor health that summer and less than a week before the election, died on Oct. 30, 1912. Taft felt it best not to replace him on the ticket, and those who cast ballots on the Republican line were actually voting for a dead man. It made little difference, as Taft and Sherman finished a distant third.

More Vice President Sherman trivia:

• His marble bust is the only one in the Capitol Building featuring a vice president wearing glasses.

• He is not the author of the Sherman Antitrust Act. That was U.S. Sen. John Sherman, a Republican from Ohio.

• The vice president's nickname was "Sunny Jim" because of his pleasant disposition.

• Sherman's father, Richard, published a Democratic Party newspaper.

• Speakers of the House often turned to Sherman when they had to leave the rostrum, or whenever the Committee of the Whole was invoked. Working with a smaller quorum, legislation was often acted upon sooner and debate was limited. Sherman was described as "The best chairman of the Committee of the Whole whom that great body had known in many years," according to Rep. Henry Cabot Lodge.

Whomever McCain and Obama select as their vice presidential candidates now, 100 years later, will be wise to remember the words of Vice President Sherman: "I am to be vice president and acting as a messenger boy is not part of the duties."

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