First in Line

Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power
From the author of the New York Times bestsellers First Women and The Residence, an intimate, news-making look at the men who are second in line to the most powerful office in the world—the vice presidents of the modern era—from Richard Nixon to Joe Biden to Mike Pence.

Vice presidents occupy a unique political and social position, living partway in the spotlight and part in the wings. Of the forty-eight vice presidents who have served the United States, fourteen have become president; eight of these have risen to the Oval Office because of a president’s death or assassination. Kate Andersen Brower took us inside the lives of the White House staff and gave us an intimate look at the modern First Ladies; now, in her signature style, she introduces us to the second most powerful men in the world, exploring the lives and roles of thirteen modern vice presidents—eight Republicans and five Democrats.

A very tangible sense of admiration mixed with jealousy and resentment invades nearly all the relationships between the number two and his boss, even the best ones, Brower reveals. Vice presidents owe their position to the president, a connection that affects not only how they are perceived but also their possible future as a presidential candidate—which is tied, for better or for worse, to the president they serve. George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had a famously prickly relationship in the 1980 primary, yet Bush would not have been president without Reagan’s high approval rating. Al Gore’s 2000 loss, meanwhile, could be attributed to the sexual scandal involving Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

This rich dynamic between the president and the vice president has never been fully explored or understood. Compelling and deeply reported—with interviews with more than 200 people, including every living former Vice President and those closest to Mike Pence—grounded in history and politics, and full of previously untold stories, the book pierces the veil of secrecy enveloping this historic political office to offer us a rich portrait of what it truly feels like to be FIRST IN LINE.