Thursday, July 17, 2008

On VPs and tie breakers

Vice presidents are famously unimportant. John Nance Garner, who served as vice president under FDR, once said that the office wasn’t “worth a pitcher of warm piss.” Generally, the veep’s job is to remain alive and break ties in the Senate. It is simply assumed, of course, that the tie breaking vote will be cast in the manner the president wishes.

This is true in Latin America as well (at least in those countries that have veeps). What a shock, then, to see Argentine VP Julio Cobos vote against his own president in a tie breaker for a bill on agricultural export taxes:

``This is the hardest day of my life,'' Cobos said on the Senate floor after about 18 hours of debate, his voice wavering and his hands quivering. ``Let history judge me, I ask for forgiveness if I'm wrong.''

Given the major protests the Fernández government has faced, this is huge. Her approval ratings already hover around 20 percent, and she needed a win. Instead, she loses the vote and looks weak. If you cannot control your own VP, then what does that say about leadership?

As far as I’ve seen, she has yet to issue a statement. Cobos says that “the president will understand me.” We’ll see about that.


Anonymous,  10:54 PM  

That was astonishing, & among the most riveting political news I've seen on TV. People here in BA are talking about Cobos possibly having a strong political future, the rare Argentine politician who understands consensus.

On this morning's TV he was adamant that he wouldn't resign. After the long interview surrounded by a dozen or more reporters, Cobos was greeted by applause...much of which seemed to have come from the media.

Cristina appeared on TV tonight at an airport inaugural in Chaco and said nothing about the vote. Oddly, she appeared very happy and cheerful, i.e., not her usual self, particularly on a day like this.

It remains, however, to be seen whether Cobos gets devoured by the peronist political machine.

Dan Joyce 4:04 PM  

I think it was a bucket, not a pitcher. I'm not sure if that's more or less valuable. I'm sure Cristina would take either over Cobos at this point.

MSS 5:18 PM  

For whatever it might be worth, I add my thoughts on VPs and tiebreakers over at F&V.

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