Th' prisidincy is th' highest office in th' gift iv th' people. Th' vice-prisidincy is th' next highest an' th' lowest. It isn't a crime exactly. Ye can't be sint to jail for it, but it's a kind iv disgrace. . . .
-- Finley Peter Dunne (Mr. Dooley)
. . . The chief embarrassment in discussing his [the Vice-President's] office is that in explaining bow little there is to be said about it, one has evidently said all there is to say.
-- Woodrow Wilson in Congressional Government
With an audacity that astonished both friends and some confidential advisers, the Vice-President-elect moved swiftly to stake out a power base even before the inauguration of John Kennedy. Having possessed for eight years one of the mightiest voices in the Democratic party, it was only natural that Lyndon Johnson would refuse to accept the historic fact that Vice-Presidents were made to be neither seen nor heard, only to wait. He did not agree with Thomas R. Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's undistinguished Vice-President, that the Vice-President "is like a man in a cataleptic state. He cannot speak. He cannot move. He suffers no pain. And yet he is conscious of all that goes on around him."
Yet for Johnson to seek new avenues to vice-presidential power was a contradiction in terms. His effort's total failure was a foregone conclusion.
Johnson's first target was the United States Senate, for so long his base of power. When the sixty-four Democratic Senators met on. January 3, 1961, for the regular party conference that always preceded the beginning of a new Congress, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana