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Watching the Sausage Get Made: The Selection of a Presidential Running Mate

- June 2, 2008


The Sunday Washington Post ran excerpts from five interviews conducted by the Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. The topic was how presidential nominees choose their running mates, and the interviewees were all individuals who had been intimately involved in the process in past campaigns: Richard V. Allen, on tutoring Sprio Agnew on international affairs in 1968; Martin Anderson, on the wheeling and dealing between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan in 1976; Richard Moe on Walter Mondale’s decision to join Jimmy Carter’s ticket in 1976; Lyn Nofziger on Reagan’s choice of George H.W. Bush in 1980; and Stuart Spencer on Bush the Elder’s selection of Dan Quayle in 1988.

The excerpts are fascinating.

Here, to get you started, is the excerpt from Richard V. Allen:

bq. I had the joy of providing [Agnew] with his first foreign policy briefing, which was a hoot … We sat in beach chairs out on the beach, with a map of the world on the ground and four stones holding the map down, and I with a pointer and Agnew in the chair wearing shorts, very casual.

bq. Before I started the briefing, he said, ‘You know, I want to tell you something Dick. I’ve never been out of the country before, except to go to Greece, and I came straight back.’

bq. And I said, ‘Well, that’s going to complicate things a little bit, so I’m going to take you through the world, a tour d’horizon, and I’m going to tell you what our policy is in each area. … I got down to South Africa, I had my pointer, I said, ‘Okay, now we come down here.’ He said, ‘Don’t tell me. I think I know this one. … That’s a black government, right?’ Well, it surely wasn’t a black government in 1968. And so we had to walk back from that one.

To read the four other excerpts, click here, gated. Or if you want to proceed directly to the full texts of the interviews for the Carter and Reagan presidencies (which cover much more ground than vice presidential selection and involve many more interviewees than those named above), click here. Those who can stomach watching political sausage being made will find some wonderful morsels here.