Tradition holds that the vice-president of the United States matters about as much as an anonymous body double in an all-star movie.
John "Cactus Jack" Garner, Franklin Roosevelt's deputy, supposedly remarked that the job was "not worth a bucket of warm spit". The fluid he actually mentioned was not saliva.
Modern commentators are no less scornful. The satirist Jon Stewart rarely misses a chance to ridicule Joe Biden as a blowhard, despite the fact that Barack Obama's understudy was re-elected to the Senate on six occasions. In Armando Iannucci's Veep, the Americanised version of The Thick of It, a running gag sees vice- president Julia Louis-Dreyfus asking her secretary repeatedly if the president has called. He never calls.
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