When President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack ... the heart of all America stopped for a moment, and for that matter, the heart of the world.
— RICHARD NIXON, 1971 1
WHEN EISENHOWER WAS INAUGURATED PRESIDENT for the second time in 1956, a crass witticism began circulating in Washington: when Nixon heard "Taps" being played he said to his wife, "That's our song, dear." 2 Such graveyard jokes are as old as the vice-presidency. Nixon himself began his chapter on Eisenhower's heart attack in Six Crises quoting Vice-President Charles G. Dawes, who described the job of vice-president as "the easiest in the world." Dawes said, "he had only two responsibilities—to sit and listen to the United States Senators give speeches, and to check the morning newspapers as to the President's health."
Nixon apparently cherished the story, only to add that "During the three years I had been Vice President, I had not consciously thought of the possibility of his becoming ill or dying." 3
No vice-president can wholly blot out fantasies of being an instant president, nor can members of his family. Alice Roosevelt Longworth described cheerfully how when news of President McKinley's assassination reached her as a girl, she "did a little dance of happiness."
I was never so pleased about anything. I didn't give a damn. Father wanted the White House. Father must have the White House. 4
Lyndon Johnson admitted with grisly honesty that "Every time I came into John Kennedy's presence, I felt like a goddamn raven hovering over his shoulder." 5
The president, too, is affected by what corrodes even an affectionate relationship. John Adams in 1801, suddenly uneasy in the