It takes a special sort of leader to excel as a wingman in waiting. Patience, wisdom, maturity – these are the requisite characteristics. Theodore Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman both fit this bill. In the case of Truman, historians rank him the 5th and 6th best President and Vice President, respectively. Roosevelt gets even higher marks – as Vice President, he garners 2nd place behind Thomas Jefferson, whose visage is next to his on Mount Rushmore. And he is the 3rd highest regarded President in U.S. history. For others, arguments can be made for stopping while you’re ahead.
As vice president, Nixon burnished his reputation for foreign policy expertise with international travel to dozens of countries. His South American tour garnered international headlines when a mob in Caracas, Venezuela, stoned his motorcade. The confrontations with the demonstrators abroad only made him more popular at home. His 1959 trip to the Soviet Union was even more dramatic and politically helpful. While taking in an exhibit showcasing a General Electric model kitchen at the U.S. Trade and Cultural Fair in Sokolniki Park, Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev traded words about the merits of their respective countries.
Under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nixon’s expertise as a master in foreign affairs was established as he crossed the globe visiting dozens of countries. Two trips in particular endeared Nixon to the American public. An international headline-grabbing mob scene in Caracas, Venezuela, with demonstrators stoning his motorcade proved immensely popular at home. And his 1959 Cold War “kitchen debate” with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev sent his star rising even more. The occasion was an exhibit featuring a General Electric model kitchen at the U.S. Trade and Cultural Fair. Nixon lauded Soviet technology in the realm of outer space but derided their technology in other arenas, such as color television. Khrushchev countered that there was no U.S. “besting” of Soviet prowess in any arena and a spirited debate ensued in which Nixon shrewdly won the war of words.
Danielle DiMartino Booth is founder and Chief Strategist at Quill Intelligence