Friday, May 9, 2008

The Veepstakes (Dennis)

Alright, I finally feel safe enough to talk about Obama's Vice Presidential pick. Here are my thoughts on several candidates who may or may not get the nod:

Hillary Clinton: I actually think Obama really wants to make her the pick. Back in the fall of 2007, I read a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals about Lincoln the politician . The theme of this book was how an inexperienced, frequently underestimated politician became president, filled his cabinet with his (much more experienced) rivals for the Republican nomination, and ended up skillfully manipulating all of them to successful ends. I thought at the time that Lincoln's as a candidate in 1860 reminded me a lot of Obama at the time. And lo and behold, when he was asked what book he would take into the White House Obama guessed it...Team of Rivals.

So what does this all mean? I think Obama likes the idea of taking on the challenge of picking Hillary. His Hopementum side has to be thinking "I can unify the party, I can bridge the divide..." Meanwhile his Ego is telling him "she probably thinks she can push you around, you'll show her! Be like Lincoln, pick her and use her talents to further your goals and your presidency and someday Doris Kearns Goodwin III will write a book about you."

As for me, I think Hillary certainly brings some good things to the table. The VP slot will be a nice consolation prize for the Hillary supporters, and that would make the uniting of the party a whole lot easier. Also, Hillary, to be a little cliche, really hit her stride in the past month or so as a candidate. She tapped into a visceral passion that a lot of people (including me) thought she had lost for good sometime in the late 1970s. The idea of her and Bill barnstorming the country attacking McCain like tag team wrestling heels really appeals to me; it would be a two person Left Wing Noise Machine that could more than counter any "independent" underhanded efforts McCain has going for him.

The downside is that Hillary and Bill could become to the Obama campaign what Bill became to the Hillary campaign: an enormous distraction. There's a danger that the media would be so tied up with the Clinton melodrama that it would be unclear who was the nominee, who was the Vice Presidential candidate, and who was the Vice Presidential candidate's spouse.

Clinton is a high risk, high reward VP pick. And I think if Obama believes he can control her, she'll get the nod.

Kathleen Sebelius: Ewww....I'm sure I'll get used to her as a VP candidate, and she is apparently a pretty good governor, but anyone who saw the Democratic response to the State of the Union address has to be apprehensive. The VP needs to be a kind of Prime Surrogate, and as a surrogate, I think Obama could do better with a potato. Christ, she would need to bring Reverend Wright along to her campaign events so that people wouldn't fall asleep. No no no please not her.

Claire McCaskill: Unlike Jon I do not hate Claire McCaskill, I'm just sort of meh on her. She is a moderate Democrat from a state we want to win, but she just got into the Senate two years ago by a razor thin margin, so I doubt she has that much institutional pull there. She has also capitulated on votes that I thought were pretty important. So I would be pretty unenthusiastic about this pick.

Mike Bloomberg: Ah Obama/Bloomberg, a ticket the media can believe in! Seriously how many adoring pieces would David Broder write about this ticket? He would actually kidnap Charles Krauthammer so he could forge extra columns for the Post. But seriously, I do like Bloomberg, and he would be better than the Replacement Level VP Candidate (Tom Daschle).

How likely is this, though? It does kind of make sense; they both have sounded similar themes in their recent years. But, then again, this feels a little too gimicky, a little too parlorgameish to be the pick. It's the kind of out of the blue VP pick that you suspect will get a lot of gossip time over the summer, but won't happen in the end (like McCain for Kerry in '04 or Ford for Reagan in '80).

Bill Richardson: Yes he reminds you of a used car salesman/ your dad's tedious friend from work ("You know Bob, you should really try dees new foot inserts, dey do a great jahb protectin yer feet."). Yes you roll your eyes at him constantly. But, then again, he just might be corrupt enough to swing New Mexico for us, which would give him a pretty good VORVP (Value Over Replacement VP).

Ed Rendell: Ed Rendell is really my dark horse pick for Obama's VP spot right now. Doesn't this just make way too much sense to not be considered? Rendell is a real Regular Guy, he has a political machine in a state that Obama will probably need to win, he is a key Clinton supporter, and he's been a great surrogate these past few months. Check, check, and check. Also think of the metaphors that would come out of the feverish mind of Chris Matthews concerning this ticket....

Chris Matthews: Keith, doesn't this remind you of Casablanca?

Keith Olbermann (visibly horrified): ....what?

Chris: Keith I mean this is like...this is like Humphrey Bogart, the hardened cynic coming down on the side of Victor Lazlo, going off with the French resistence...I love it. And Hillary...

Keith: Oh God....

Chris (unfazed): Hillary is like Ugarte, she thought she was getting those Letters of Transit...but she ended up getting whacked! HAAH!.........I mean politically of course...I don't want to get myself in trouble...

Governor X Who Can Carry Swing State Y: To finish up, I just want to say something about this generic class of VP picks. I think there are just a whole class of politicians...Tim Kaine, Ted Strickland etc. who we don't know a ton about except for the fact that they are governors of certain important states. We don't know if they'd be good surrogates, they certainly haven't distinguished themselves on the national stage yet, and we're really just kind of hoping their voters are idiots and will vote for the ticket that nominates their governor. This just seems like small ball to me, trying to bunt a guy over to 2nd when you have 1 out so you can maybe squeeze out that one run with a lucky hit. With so many quality politicians out there beyond who I've mentioned here (people like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd etc.), why waste your VP selection on a chance that's so unlikely to pan out?


Jonathan said...

I agree with most of this, if only to reiterate my dislike of Sebelius, my hatred of McCaskill and my fondness for the idea of Rendell. I would also ask why our boy Biden is? I think he has a shot at this and very well might be interested.

Ted said...

Two words: Bob Graham

Dennis said...

If a potato is better than Sebelius, then a bowl of cold oatmeal left out for 5 days is better than Graham. This was a guy who caused so much excitement during his last run for the Presidency in 2004 that, despite a pretty weak field, he didn't make it to the first primary (or even to the year 2004, now that I think of it). I'm sure even Sebelius would have managed better than that.

I included Biden and Dodd in a parenthetical at the end there. Truth be told, it was like 2am when I was finishing this and I needed to wrap it up. But I would like either of those two, especially Biden for his ability to mock McCain, crucial in any VP pick.

g thomas said...

Wes Clark is the guy i want to see as VP.

Biden has great credentials, but he strikes me as a headliner, rather than an opening or accompanying act, and I don't think Obama would or should risk being made to look weaker by an intended second in command.

Clark is a strong personality too, but without the sort of recognition and star power that would distract and divide in Biden.

In addition to the obvious and excellent military and foreign policy credentials, Clark also brings an implicit conservative bearing that would appeal to some of the Hispanic electorate (though not necessarily the same subgroups) that Richardson might be viewed as appealing to.

Of course, you guys are totally in the thick of this stuff, and know better than I, as I don't know McCaskill from Buckwheat (five day oldmeal or not), but from those I've seen, Clark is the guy.

He fills out the ticket in all the right ways. (Actually, I like him better than both of the dem nominees at the moment, though that might not be so if his were the top name on the marquee).

I'm replying to a variety of recent posts in this one.