"The vice presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit” was the advice that John Nance Garner (vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt) gave to a fellow Texan, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been asked by John F. Kennedy in 1960 to be Kennedy’s running mate. Lyndon B. Johnson accepted the offer, of course, and became president when Kennedy was assassinated. Oddly, Johnson accepted for health reasons—he thought the position of vice president would be less stressful!
Some say that the quote should read “pitcher of warm piss.” Several years earlier, in June 1934, Garner was quoted as saying that the vice presidency was only “a spare tire on the automobile of government.”
Yale Book of Quotations
by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven: Yale University Press
John Nance Garner
U.S. vice-president, 1868-1967
The Vice Presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.
Attributed in L.A. Times, 1 Apr. 1962. Garner’s actual words were probably “pitcher of warm piss.”
Wikipedia: John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner 4th (November 22, 1868 – November 7, 1967) was a Representative from Texas and the thirty-second Vice President of the United States (1933-41). He was known as Cactus Jack.
Early life and family
Garner was born near Detroit, Red River County, Texas to John Nance Garner 3rd and his wife, the former Sarah Jane Guest. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1890, and began practice in Uvalde, Uvalde County, Texas. He was a judge of Uvalde County from 1893 to 1896 and a member of the state House of Representatives from 1898 to 1902. In the 1893 campaign for Uvalde County judge, his primary opponent was Mariette Rheiner, a rancher’s daughter; he married her two years later, and they had one child, a son, Tully Charles Garner (1896—1968).
Garner was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1902 from a newly created congressional district covering tens of thousands of square miles of rural South Texas. He was elected from the district fourteen subsequent times, serving until 1933. His wife served as his private secretary during this period.
Garner’s hard work and integrity made him a respected leader in the House, and he was chosen to serve as minority floor leader for the Democrats in 1929, and then as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 1931.
In 1932, Garner ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination, becoming one of New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt’s most serious opponents for the nomination. When it became evident that Roosevelt would win the nomination, Garner cut a deal with the front-runner, becoming Roosevelt’s Vice Presidential candidate. He was re-elected to the Seventy-third Congress on November 8, 1932, and on the same day was elected Vice President of the United States. He was reelected Vice President in 1936 and served in that office from March 4, 1933 to January 20, 1941
Garner once described the office of the vice presidency as being “not worth a bucket of warm piss” (at the time reported with the bowdlerization “spit").
1 April 1962, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “‘Six Crises’ Nixon’s Own Story of Critical years” book review by Marvin Seid, pg. N21, col. 1:
“The Vice Presidency,” John Nance Garner once confided to fellow-Texan Lyndon Johnson, “isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.”
27 November 1963, Long Beach (CA) Independent, “Eye Opener” by Bob Wells, pg. A3, col. 1:
In the summer of 1960, John F. Kennedy was nominated for President of the United States by the Democratic Party. The nominee after thinking about it offered the vice presidential nomination to Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson.
Johnson hesitated. He held the position of Senate majority leader, a post not without power. In the agony of making up his mind, he called John Nance Garner, vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Lyndon, my advice is don’t take it,” Garner said. “The vice presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.”
Yet, Johnson gave up his position in the Senate to take the vice presidency. Many people have wondered why. Not too long before the tragic death of John Kennedy catapulted him into the presidency, Lyndon Johnson explained to a friend how it was he consented to run for vice president.
He did so upon the advice of his doctor, Johnson said. After his heart attack, his doctor told him to take it easy, to avoid tension and stress.
“Each time I got up on the floor of the Senate with an important bill before us, and felt the blood rising in me, I remembered what my doctor said,” Johnson said. “I decided the strain would be less on me as vice president than as majority leader.”
Today he is President, holding down the world’s toughest job.