Playing second fiddle has its benefits

David Micali, Crier staff

New York Times bestselling author Kate Anderson Brower spoke at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to discuss her books about the White House and her new book about the vice presidency.

Introduced by NHIOP Ambassador Sarah Murphy, Kate Brower is a New York Times bestselling author known for her book, The Residence, which tells the stories of the White House staff. Before becoming an author, Mrs. Brower worked for CBS News, Fox News, as a contributor at CNN, and Bloomberg News. While working for Bloomberg News, she was assigned to cover an East Wing event featuring then-First Lady Michelle Obama. During the event, a butler came into the room and seemed to be very close with Mrs. Obama. This got Mrs. Brower thinking; “who was he?” It was there that Mrs. Brower decided to write a book focusing on the staff of the White House. In her book, The Residence, the reader sees a unique perspective of the people who led the country. President Jimmy Carter helped exonerate his daughter’s nanny who was an African American woman convicted in 1960s Georgia, President George H. W. Bush would play horseshoes with his staff, and First Lady Laura Bush gave the eulogy at her butler’s funeral. After doing a book on the White House staff, Mrs. Brower decided to do a book on the First Ladies, which she published in 2016 under the title First Women.

In her latest book, First in Line, Mrs. Brower focused on the vice presidents as a “different way of looking at the presidents.” For her book, she interviewed all six living former vice presidents from Jimmy Carter’s Walter Mondale to Barack Obama’s Joe Biden. In her book, she also discusses current Vice President Mike Pence. According to Mrs. Brower, the easiest vice president to interview was Dick Cheney who served as George W. Bush’s VP.

She described Joe Biden as being straightforward saying “what you see is what you get.” She says that the American people will be seeing him again, saying that he will probably run for president in 2020. Mrs. Brower says that Obama and Biden’s relationship seemed to grow stronger as the presidency went on. When Biden’s son, Beau, passed away in 2015 of a brain tumor, Biden asked Obama to give his son’s eulogy. Not all president-vice president relationships are like Obama and Biden’s.

During the Clinton presidency, Vice President Al Gore distanced himself from President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky Scandal, and during the 2000 presidential election, he refused to ask Clinton to campaign for him in his native state of Arkansas. Another president-vice president relationship that went sour was the relationship between Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. During Bush’s first term, Cheney had a strong influence over the president. This influence waned in the second term, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gained more of a say with the president. Few would listen to Cheney and he was described by one Bush aid as “the grouchy uncle yelling at everyone to get off the grass.”  

When Donald Trump was picking his vice president, it was his wife, Melania Trump, who said whoever was chosen must be “clean,” according to Mrs. Brower. Melania Trump realized that they needed a VP that did not come with controversy. At the time, President Trump was considering New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (who allegedly ordered his staff to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to get back at the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ), Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who allegedly served his wife divorce papers while she was in the hospital with cancer). Although “Bridgegate” was never tied back to Governor Christie (it did put his Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and his Deputy Chief of Staff in jail) and Gingrich had separated from his wife before she was hospitalized, both Christie and Gingrich were still controversial. Ultimately, Trump picked Mike Pence as his vice president.

When asked about the relationship between President Trump and VP Pence, Mrs. Brower said she would not describe them as friends. She describes Pence’s role as the person who calms the allies when Trump says something that worries them. She said Pence is a man who “wants to be the president one day” and she has “every belief he will” run in 2024. She noted that Pence has told her that he liked her book though she does not know if that is “a good thing” or “a bad thing.”

Mrs. Brower ended her talk by sharing a quote by the first vice president, John Adams. Adams once said “I am vice president. In this, I am nothing, but I may be everything.” The vice president is one heartbeat away from becoming the most important person in the country and Mrs. Bower’s new book, First in Line, explores that role through the people who lived it.