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Spiro Agnew: A Really Bad Hire

• volume 2 • number 5

It's said that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there. Probably no one better proves the truth of this adage than Spiro Agnew, one of the most forgettable characters in the corrupt Nixon administration. Agnew passed away last fall.

Nixon selected Agnew as his running mate in 1968, praising the vice-presidential nominee for his "real depth and genuine warmth, tremendous brain power . . . unprejudiced legal mind, (and the) attributes of a statesman of the first rank."

In fact, Agnew had none of these qualities. He was cold, shallow, and although not nearly as intelligent as his boss, almost as calculating. He was an equal opportunity boor who nevertheless was particularly insulting to Hispanics and African-Americans. His insensitivity was legendary. As Nixon's urban expert, Agnew refused to tour inner cities on the grounds that "If you've seen one slum, you've seen them all."

Faced with a number of criminal indictments, Agnew resigned as vice president in 1973, one step ahead of impeachment. Recruiting him was one of the bigger blunders of Nixon's career. Yet Nixon was a cagey political strategist and nobody's fool. Was Nixon duped by Agnew or was the former president just colossally inept at making hiring decisions? Either way, you've got to wonder what went on in that interview.