Opinion | The Vice President Question: The Stakes Are High

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To the Editor:

Re “Voters Should Pick the Vice President,” by Greg Craig (Opinion guest essay, March 5):

Mr. Craig’s article raises a larger question. The vice-presidential nominees of the two major parties are too often chosen largely or entirely because of their perceived ability to help elect their presidential running mate, rather than an apparent ability to act as president if needed.

Considering the stakes, the main or sole criterion in selecting a vice-presidential nominee should be that person’s capacity to immediately and competently step into the president’s shoes, if required.

Just in the last century, Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan all labored under the specters of age, infirmity or both. This clearly demonstrates the national interest in vice-presidential nominees having the qualifications, experience, health and ability to competently represent the country as a whole.

If a vice-presidential nominee is also a plausible national candidate in her or his own right, all the better, and having a nominee of such stature should benefit his or her party and the ticket.

Over the last 50 years, some vice presidents, such as Spiro Agnew (crook), Dan Quayle (lightweight) and Dick Cheney (unelectable) were unqualified, and Mike Pence seems marginal. Lyndon B. Johnson, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush, Al Gore and Joe Biden were clearly qualified, reflecting positively on those who chose them.

The question for whoever chooses vice-presidential nominees should always be “Can this person competently lead the country?” — not “Will this person help our party get elected?”

Anders I. Ourom
Vancouver, British Columbia

To the Editor:

I’m very grateful for “Voters Should Pick the Vice President.” Greg Craig has raised perhaps the most significant and worrying issue, however delicate, of the Biden candidacy.

Given the entirely realistic concerns over President Biden’s age and chances of dying in office in a second term (and I write as an 87-year-old in decent health), the choice of a running mate shouldn’t be a reflexive decision.

It should be one requiring a great deal of thought, consultation and polling about who could handle the most demanding of offices in these difficult and perilous times — and whom a wide spectrum of Democratic voters see as the most convincing possibility as their next president.

Barbara Quart
New York

To the Editor:

As our octogenarian president ponders another presidential run, he needs to consider replacing his 2020 running mate. It’s a delicate subject, sure to arouse fierce opposition within the Democratic Party (however it’s accomplished).

Forget loyalty, tradition or popularity. In 2024, the top priority for selecting the second-highest elected official in the country should be proven foreign policy experience.

President Biden has an age problem that he can’t control. It will be a major campaign issue that will only place greater emphasis on who would be next in line for the presidency.

Continued support for Ukraine (including maintaining the broad coalition of European and NATO nations forged by President Biden) and other brewing major-power standoffs demand a vice president with longstanding, first-rate diplomatic skills.

Replace Kamala Harris with Susan Rice, the longtime diplomat and policy adviser. It’s time to dispel conventional wisdom and go bold.

Carl R. Ramey
Gainesville, Fla.

Mike Pence, It’s Time ‘to Do the Right Thing’

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Asks Judge to Block Pence’s Testimony to Grand Jury” (news article, nytimes.com, March 4):

There is no doubt that former Vice President Mike Pence did the right thing (and his constitutional duty) by certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.

Now is the time for Mr. Pence to do the right thing by honoring the Justice Department’s subpoena to testify about his knowledge of the events before and after Jan. 6. Mr. Pence says he will fight the subpoena, citing specious legal arguments. But why?

Mr. Pence, you know what former President Donald Trump did and did not do. Tell us. It is your duty as a citizen, and it is the right thing to do.

William D. Zabel
New York
The writer is a lawyer, the chairman of Immigrant Justice Corps and the chairman emeritus of Human Rights First.

To the Editor:

Re “Pence Says That History Will Judge Trump” (news article, March 13):

The shortcoming of former Vice President Mike Pence’s pronouncement that “history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for the former president’s lead in fomenting the violent Capitol insurrection is obvious.

History’s verdict takes a long while, and it is rarely unanimous and subject to revisionism.

Mr. Trump and his minions must pay the price now, and Mr. Pence should render an unequivocal verdict to that end, instead of punting into history.

Justice delayed is justice denied, especially in this case.

Lawrence Freeman
Alameda, Calif.

What Chris Rock Gets to Be

To the Editor:

Re “Chris Rock Looks Very Small Right Now,” by Roxane Gay (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, March 11):

Chris Rock’s recent Netflix special certainly deserves critique, but Ms. Gay’s article gets one thing very wrong. As the target of another man’s violence, Mr. Rock is not responsible for entertaining us with his response to that attack, nor redeeming himself with the right joke.

He gets to just be angry.

Catherine Hodes
Florence, Mass.

Stains Left on a Rare Text

To the Editor:

“For Rare Book Librarians, It’s Gloves Off. Seriously” (Arts, March 11) notes that stains left on a rare book tell us something about who has used it in the past.

I was once privileged to see the original Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest extant Passover Haggadahs. It dates to the 14th century.

I was deeply moved to see this ancient text. But the thing I remember best were the wine stains on some of the pages. Clearly, long before this book had become a priceless object listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, someone had used it at a Seder and had, as still happens in the 21st century, spilled their wine on it.

Deborah E. Lipstadt
The writer is the professor of Holocaust history, currently on leave from Emory University.

Family Values? We Need to Talk About School Shootings.

To the Editor:

Re “The Party of Family Values Should Truly Value Families,” by Patrick T. Brown (Opinion guest essay, March 9):

The idea of a political “parents’ party” may be a good one, but the total absence of any discussion regarding school shootings is glaring. Republicans won’t be much of a parents’ party if they can’t figure out how to deal with an issue that parents and their children think about every day.

Jeff Welch
Livingston, Mont.

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