An informative examination of the most overlooked national office in America. Walch, director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, has gathered together papers presented at a recent conference on the vice presidency in the 20th century. Most of the pieces included here explore the historical, political, and constitutional forces that have shaped the office. Theodore Roosevelt's ascendancy to the presidency on the assassination of McKinley in 1901 led future party leaders to more strongly consider the choice of a vice president, because despite his very strong presidency, Roosevelt was considered a loose cannon by establishment Republicans. The vice presidents under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman ranged from colorful--as in the case of John Nance Garner, FDR's first vice president, who labeled his office ``not worth a pitcher of warm piss''--to sturdy ``company men'' like Alben Barkley, Truman's vice president, to whom the term ``veep'' was first applied. Beginning with Nixon's vice presidency, the collection turns toward more pressing issues, such as the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows a standing president to hand-pick a vice president with the Senate's confirmation, and the damage that is done when an assertive vice president is eclipsed--and even held in check--by a formidable president, as happened to Lyndon Johnson during John Kennedy's term. As a result of Johnson's frustrations, he made the quite able Hubert Humphrey his frequent patsy, ruining the latter's chances for the presidency. The unlikely hero of this collection is Walter Mondale, whose assertiveness as vice president under Jimmy Carter has shaped the executive relationship for the past two decades. The essays on the Reagan and Bush administrations, the former asserting that Bush acceded to the presidency ``perfectly prepared after eight years'' as vice president, despite his obvious failures as chief executive, and the latter a memoir by the always lighter-than-air Dan Quayle, are the only weak spots in this otherwise sound and useful volume.