Book Review: The Warm Bucket Brigade

“The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency” by Jeremy Lott

When I was in middle school, I had a button with a picture of a potato… with a toenail in it. It was the strange sort of thing only an 8th grade boy could  like! The button was my “souvenir” from the Dan Quayle Center and Museum (now known as the Dan Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center), located in my hometown of Huntington, Indiana. It was supposed to be mocking Quayle’s potato/potatoe controversy, but for some reason I just thought it was cool.

Growing up in perhaps the most vice presidential town in America (the “highway of vice presidents” rolls right through town) helped spark my interest in politics through two large political rallies I was able to attend. The first, referred to in Lott’s book as the “famous Battle of Huntington”, was considered a turning point in the Bush-Quayle 1988 presidential campaign (you can read about it here). The second was the kickoff to Quayle’s doomed presidential campaign, which took place at my high school a few months before my graduation. Our band provided the music (as evidenced here); I was fascinated by the entire political process, as I looked forward to voting in my first presidential election.

So when I saw this book about the vice presidency — which, judging by its cover, wouldn’t take itself too seriously — my interest was piqued. When I opened it and saw that the entire first chapter was about the V.P. museum in my hometown, I knew I needed to buy it!

I’m glad I did. Far from a dry history of an office few people care about (including those who have held it), the book is exactly what it says it is. It’s a story, and Lott tells it well.

The evolution of the vice presidency from a despised and essentially worthless position to the high-powered and influential office it is today is traced through a series of anecdotes about the often colorful men who have served as our nation’s #2 man. There is no shortage of funny, bizarre, and interesting facts here, as Lott traces the history of the United States through the eyes of these men who, prior to 1972, often languished in total obscurity.

The author’s personality certainly comes through frequently, but he does an admirable job of remaining neutral and objective for the most part — his noticeable disdain for certain recent occupants of the office notwithstanding. His sense of humor keeps the reader engaged and amused with what could very easily be an intensely boring topic. All in all, this is a light and enjoyable read for anyone who likes history and/or politics, and it’s almost guaranteed to teach you things you never knew! Buy it here.

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