But here's what I was gathered in that period today, thinking about what makes a president great. It's not political philosophy (I consider FDR a great prez, despite the fact that the New Deal has done more damage to this country than we can imagine). It's not necessary eloquence (George W Bush, following 9/11 was passionate in a way that overcame his eloquence, or lack thereof). It's about having an effect on the country, defining (or redefining) the role and power of the presidency, and to some degree, being at the right place in the right time. I'll use the G W Bush example. The Bush presidency started on a rough and uncertain footing. However, it changed completely by the events of 9/11, for good or ill. And any taint or issues of the later years of the administration does not erase the days and weeks following the attack.
It certainly isn't defined by the personal nature of the man that takes the office. One of my favorites, John Adams, was prone to stubbornness, mood swings, and his own history. Richard Nixon did good things prior to Watergate. And I find myself admiring much of what occurred in the Clinton administration despite even his personal politics and his cock-sure free-willy ways.
In the end, every president you agree with is the greatest thing since sliced bread until he is on the outs, and the ones you disagree with are the ass end of the Devil until they're the hell out of the White House. But it's what they accomplish, and how they accomplish it once history has had time to digest it that really matters in the end.
But not so for the poor bastard that's only a heartbeat from working in the Oval Orifice:
Since the Washington administration, when future President John Adams had the thankless and shitty task of presiding over the Senate, the office of Vice President has had two perks. First, you had the chance of the President dying and putting you in the top spot. And second, you didn't have to put up with the crap that being the POTUS entailed. And nowadays, the office gets you the chance to run around the world visiting places the President doesn't have a need or desire to visit (like funerals).
And the VP is also the hatchet man. He can be the asshole (and asshat) while his president stays aloof and above the fray.
First, there's Cheney, the ever-pissed defender of what has come before (that "last 8 years" thing). And with the current administration running the talking points after a few years of bad press, the need to justify has the suck-o-meter cranked up to 11.
And who can forget Biden, the ever-eloquent human gaffe machine. The Democrats have been perceived as the weaker on defense since the debacle of foreign policy that was Carter, and after the antiwar mantras that Obama has had to shed after taking office, Biden's been handed a serious shit sandwich to eat.
But they wanted the damned job in the first place. So to "honor" the place that a VP has in the hearts of the people, I'll give it to the dueling veeps.