Balancing Act

What sort of running mates should Barack Obama and John McCain pick?

People who are under the influence of alcohol often are seized with impulses that seem brilliant at the time but end up looking like horrible mistakes the next day. We are now at the stage of the presidential election when intoxication at the prospect of the fall campaign produces ideas that, if adopted, will lead only to regret.

One came in an article on the influential op-ed page of The Washington Post, proposing a simple way to reconcile Hillary Clinton and her supporters to Barack Obama's looming victory. "It's likely that the next president will face at least one Supreme Court vacancy," wrote James Andrew Miller, formerly an aide to Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. "Obama should promise Hillary Clinton, now, that if he wins in November, the vacancy will be hers, making her first on a list of one."

In Miller's view, it would guarantee a quick Senate confirmation, gratify her supporters by assuring her life tenure in a job more consequential than vice president and add a solid liberal vote to a conservative-leaning court.

No doubt. But it would brand Obama as an unsavory deal-maker willing to bribe a rival for her blessing, badly tarnishing the rationale of his candidacy. It would also give Republicans a matchless opportunity in the fall campaign—trumpeting the specter of an Obama presidency and a Clinton court.

Making her his running mate, as many people have suggested, would be nearly as bad an idea. It, too, would taint him as a cynical pol bartering his soul for the White House. It would do little to attract the independent voters he will need, many of whom detest her. And who would trust Obama to negotiate with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after this craven appeasement of Clinton?

But not all the bad ideas are on the Democratic side. John McCain spent some time the other day looking over possible vice presidential nominees, including Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former rival Mitt Romney, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The choice of a running mate is especially important for McCain because, at 72, he would be the oldest person ever to become president. So his first priority should be to find a vice president who is ready from day one to take over if the worst should happen.

None of these prospects qualifies. Crist has only 17 months' service in the statehouse. Romney is a one-term governor whose presidential race exposed him as a man of weak political skills and weaker political convictions. Jindal is 36 years old, barely above the minimum age for the office, and was elected governor only last fall. All are conspicuously lacking in experience on matters of national security.

Any of these candidates would make it hard for McCain to exploit an issue that should work greatly to his advantage: Obama's skimpy political résumé. If it's unwise to entrust our security to a neophyte, how can McCain expose the nation to that very risk? And how can the GOP say national security should be paramount in choosing a president if it is irrelevant in choosing a vice president?

Time was you could pick a running mate with modest credentials purely for political reasons. But in recent decades, Americans have come to expect considerably more heft—which is why Dan Quayle was a liability to George H.W. Bush and why George W. Bush picked a No. 2 from a state with only three electoral votes that he was sure to carry anyway.

History suggests that running mates make little if any difference in the outcome of an election. So Obama and McCain have a duty to choose someone who would be both a useful contributor as veep and a suitable replacement as president.

There are plenty of good options available. In the spirit of bipartisanship, let me suggest two. For Obama: former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Vietnam veteran who received the Medal of Honor and was a member of the 9/11 commission. For McCain: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a military lawyer who has been an independent voice on the treatment of enemy prisoners and whose voting record is more conservative than McCain's.

In weighing how to vote in November, Americans have to wonder how McCain and Obama will handle the sort of difficult, inescapable, important decisions a president has to face. When they grapple with these matters, we won't have to wonder.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  • ||

    Americans have come to expect considerably more heft-which is why ... George W. Bush picked a No. 2 from a state with only three electoral votes that he was sure to carry anyway.

    You really think Bush picked Cheney? That's an embarrassing level of political naivety.

    Come on Reason, surely in all the vastness of would be writers you can find someone more attuned to 'Free Minds and Free Markets' than Steve Chapman. Just about anyone would be more politically astute.

  • ||

    DOH stupid unclosed tag

  • Guy Montag||

    Holding onto my money and credit cards before clicking through to the article . . .

  • Guy Montag||

    In other news, Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600 last night.

  • Phillip Conti||

    surely in all the vastness of would be writers you can find someone more attuned to 'Free Minds and Free Markets' than Steve Chapman. Just about anyone would be more politically astute.

    yeah I agree, I really disliked his article on capital gains taxes.

  • Curious Hussein George||

    Lindsey Graham?

    Let's see he brings to the table:

    An important swing state, McCain needs to be be competitive in South Carolina.

    An "outsider" image, McCain needs to distance himself from Washington and the US Senate.

    Balance on immigration, McCain needs to temper his support for amnesty with a "control our borders " veep candidate.

    All kidding aside, Lindthy might steal some of the all important Gay Marriage vote from Barr/Root.

  • Eric Dondero||

    Nat Hentoff has a piece over at RCP this morning endorsing Sarah Palin for VP with McCain. It's quite a strong endorsement.

    That's McCain's only hope now of holding libertarian-minded voters, with the Libertarian Party moving to the mainstream this weekend in Denver with Barr/Root.

    If McCain doesn't move libertarian with Palin, or some other like Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, SC's Sanford, or fmr. NM Gov. Gary Johnson, he's limiting himself to just the conservative and moderate independent voters, and kissing off libertarian voters.

    Even with Palin, because of the LP's action, it's going to be real hard for him to win libertarian voters back.

    The LP really made a monumental decision this weekend: One that will have huge ramifications to the entire election.

  • ||

    The disturbing thing is, I would actually consider voting for McCain if his running mate was Palin..

  • ||

    Its the fundie/Christ-Nut vote McCain is in danger of losing - especially now that he is distancing himself from their high preistchers. This is the true "base" of the GOP. I live in Georgia and when it was discovered that McCain had never been baptized I saw heads shaking.

    Prediction - Huckabee.

  • Jino||

    Steve Chapman still has 2 months of probabtion in my book before I can trust anything he writes as a result of his ubermoronic capital gains tax article.

  • ||

    My predictiona is the Huckster for McCain. He has the most experience and best image for that side of the Fox News television screen.

    My prediction for the Democrats is Bill Richardson. Yes, Bill Richardson. His gushy endorsement of Obama and his tenure as a governor and Energy secretary set him up better than anyone I see on their side. Plus, being of hispanic descent, he will sway a vastly growing demographic of the population that could turn a victory into a landslide.

  • Jino||

    Does Bob Barr really hurt McCain that much against real libertarians? If not for a Libertarian candidate, I wouldn't be surprised if close to half of libertarians voted for Obama because of his anti-war and pro-medical marijuana federalism stances.

  • Jino||

    If McCain wanted to do a pure demographic play for veep, why not Hawaii gov Linda Lingle? She's a woman AND Jewish, both democratic constituencies Obama could have trouble with.

  • Pottsy||

    Sarah Palin, because REAL libertarians believe in propping up failing state owned businesses.

    Donderooo picks another winner!

  • ||

    Sarah Palin, because REAL libertarians believe in propping up failing state owned businesses.

    You're right, Pottsy, real libertarians expect perfection in their candidates. Better to go with Huckabee and fuck over everyone than to pick someone who might make things a little bit better.

  • Colin||

    Palin just gave birth to a retarded child. It's amazing she can handle that a being governor at the same time. No way is she going to be the nominee. Just think of the amount of travel she'd have to do.

    And she's a libertarian only in Donderoworld.

    Conservatives hate Graham more than McCain. Bad idea.

    Jindal was a deer in headlights througout Katrina. Another bad, bad choice.

    So, let's hope McCain picks one of these people.

  • NP||

    This is a pretty good column by Chapman, but Bob Kerrey as Obama's running mate? The guy's clearly a hawk, and picking him prolly won't make Obama's antiwar supporters delirious.

  • Elemenope||

    I wouldn't be surprised if close to half of libertarians voted for Obama because of his anti-war and pro-medical marijuana federalism stances.

    Not to mention his transparency-in-gov't initiatives.

    Us supposedly non-existent left-libs are not opposed to an Obama vote if Barr doesn't wow us with some win.

  • Elemenope||

    We are, apparently, also very much against subject pronouns.

  • SIV||

    Jindal was a deer in headlights througout Katrina.

    Colin,

    Pulled that one out of your ass, eh?
    Why do you think Jindal is governor of LA?

  • ||

    You really think Bush picked Cheney? That's an embarrassing level of political naivety.

    Warren, I think Ruwart must have rubbed off on you. You've been firing off nonstop non sequiturs for a couple of days now.

    And if you're going to slam someone like that, at least get the spelling right.

  • ||

    Jindal was a deer in headlights througout Katrina.

    You do know he was in the House of Representatives at the time, right?

  • ||

    And if you're going to slam someone like that, at least get the spelling right.

    Sorry, no can do. If the spell checker doesn't flag it, I can't be bothered.

    In this case only "Cheney" gets the red, and Wiki OKs that. Dictionary.com backs up spellcheck in giving the green light to "naivety". Can't see what else might be misspelled.

  • Chris in NJ||

    Now that the libertarians have selected a very strong ticket, McCain has two options : Choose Mark Sanford or completely write off the libertarian vote. At least that's how I see it.

    Sanford is the only VP choice that would even make me think about voting for McCain. On the other hand, Sanford isn't stupid. He may not want anything to do with the train wreck that awaits the GOP in November.

  • Elemenope||

    You know, I'm driven to wonder...

    McCain is hated by:

    1. Evangelicals
    2. Libertarians
    3. Dubya Fanbois
    4. People from South Carolina

    So, who, exactly, is his base?

  • ||

    McCain does not need to pick a bible-thumping VP. All he has to do is blow the SCOTUS nomination whistle and they'll fall in line.

    Huckabee is a gaffe machine, Dan Quayle with the added bonus of some serious dirty laundry from his time as governor. McCain would be insane to pick him, but I've not been impressed with his mental state so far, so who knows.

    I don't think the full-blown libertarians are retrievable for McCain. Economic conservatives are the biggest bloc he has to mollify within the GOP that may require a VP pick.

    Of course, anyone who allows the VP pick to have any sort of positive effect on their evaluation of the ticket as a whole is a dupe.

  • ||

    Dictionary.com backs up spellcheck in giving the green light to "naivety".

    Hmm, that spelling flags my brain's spell-check. I've always seen it spelled "naivete" (with an accent on the final "e" that I don't know how to type).

  • Chris in NJ||

    Of course, anyone who allows the VP pick to have any sort of positive effect on their evaluation of the ticket as a whole is a dupe.

    Normally, I'd agree with you there. However, McCain is an old man and there's a 50/50 chance of him keeling over while in office. I'd be inclined to take a 50/50 chance of a Sanford presidency over a 100% chance of an Obama presidency.

  • ||

    So, who, exactly, is his base?



    Moderate Democrats, especially those in the press corp. Of course, they're all going to be voting Democrat. The reason McCain is getting the nomination is not that the has support, but because he was the least objectionable to most of the voters. If you discount the "Muslims are Scary" vote in 2004, the last time the Republicans nominated their first choice was Reagan.

    The election isn't about Filet Mignon versus Lobster Newburg, it's about hamburger versus fishsticks. McCain is the fishstick.

  • Nutter||

    McCain must be grinding his dentures in rage at losing the chance to pick Root, now that the LP snapped Rooty up first as part of their brilliant strategy to get a 30 second mention on the Russert and Stephanopolous shows.

  • thoreau||

    I think Obama should pick Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. I don't know much about her except that (1) Napolitano is a woman, (2) Napolitano is from Arizona, and (3) Napolitano endorsed Obama.

  • ||

    If McCain wanted to solidify the conservative base and potentially get some libertarian votes, I'd guess he could pick Tom Coburn. I still probably wouldn't vote for it because Coburn's a religious Right nut, but he's probably the best in the Senate on cutting spending.

    I don't think it will happen (mainly due to the reaction of "betrayed" Clinton supporters), but Richardson would be the best VP for Obama. He's got the credentials and is considered within the "libertarian wing" of the Dem party. It might be more strategic to pick Kerrey or Wesley Clark, both of whom are Clinton supporters. Wesley Clark could be the best pick - I was kind of rooting for him in 2004.

  • vccccbv||

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  • Syd||

    Bill Richardson's a very good fit for Obama (and, if the Clintons aren't that mad at him, could build some bridges between the two camps). But Bob Kerrey's a fine suggestion. He not only has two terms as Senator to his credit but four years as governor. He's also endorsed Clinton, so could be a compromise choice. He's also 64, so probably wouldn't be a VP looking forward to running himself in the future.

    Palin has two drawbacks. She's from a small state which McCain will carry anyway, and she hasn't been in office very long. Plus she'd probably want to be with her family right now with a new child. On the positive side, she's a good and honest governor and has a winning personality. I'd like to see her spend another four years cleaning up Alaska, then run for president herself.

  • Kolohe||

    Conservatives hate Graham

    Really? I don't like him because he's a lightweight version of Trent Lott (and that's saying something), but had thought he was pretty solid with the conservative base.

  • Kolohe||

    McCain should pick Frist or Huckabee.

    Obama should pick Richardson or Clark

  • ||

    If McCain wanted to do a pure demographic play for veep, why not Hawaii gov Linda Lingle? She's a woman AND Jewish, both democratic constituencies Obama could have trouble with.

    Yeah, picking a flip-flopping RINO from a solidly Democratic state with 4 electoral college votes, an appeaser of statists who OK'd the largest tax increase in Hawaii history to build a pork barrel rail system and pushed through massive increases in government spending -- yeah, that'll shore up the conservative GOP base ready to stay home on election day because they think McCain is a RINO.

    But -- but -- she's a woman! And a Jew! She MUST be alright!

  • philosophystudent||

    Whatever happened to Frist, anyhow? A few years back, he looked like a strong contender for the '08 nomination.

  • ||

    Of course, anyone who allows the VP pick to have any sort of positive effect on their evaluation of the ticket as a whole is a dupe.

    For a younger guy like Obama, I agree. But for someone with a significant chance of keeling over like McCain -- if he picked a libertarian like Ron Paul or Jeff Flake, I'd grit my teeth and vote GOP for the chance to actually get a libertarian as president.

    Not that there's a snowball's chance of McCain doing something like that.

    Jeff Flake would be a brilliant choice -- several million Democratic-leaning women would vote GOP just because he's so good-looking, starting with my wife. And it would shore up the fiscal conservatives and pick off lots of LPers.

  • Elemenope||

    Whatever happened to Frist, anyhow?

    Terry Schaivo happened.

    Credibility, meet toilet; toilet, credibility.

  • Chris S.||

    "Whatever happened to Frist, anyhow? A few years back, he looked like a strong contender for the '08 nomination."
    -----------
    What happened is terrible reviews of his job performance as Senate Majority Leader, culminating in the Dems winning control of the Senate in '06. Not that that was all his fault, but he got some of the blame.

  • Chris S.||

    To debunk some of the VP ideas in this thread.....

    Obama isn't going to pick Richardson because he's one of the worst debaters on the planet, and giving a half decent debate performance is one of the few things that a VP candidate has to do during the campaign.

    He's not going to pick Clark because Clark is an insane conspiratorialist who sticks his foot in his mouth:

    http://www.forward.com/articles/top-dem-wesley-clark-says-ny-money-people-pu/

    http://www.democracynow.org/2007/3/2/gen_wesley_clark_weighs_presidential_bid

    And he's probably not going to pick Kerrey because of a certain incident during his Vietnam experience.

    McCain is not going to pick Graham because of rumors about Graham's sexuality.

    He's not going to pick Palin because she just had a baby, and because of the experience issue.

    He's not going to pick Lingle or any other pro-choicer, because it would lead to riots at the convention, and the whole thing would be a huge unnecessary distraction.

    And he's not going to pick Huckabee because Huckabee's religiosity is too overt, even for many Republicans, and would play very poorly to many swing voters, and "movement conservatives" hate him just as much as they hate McCain. Plus there's the "Is this guy really ready for prime time?" issue, which stems from comments like "We ought to have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there's any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country" after Bhutto's death.

  • philosophystudent||

    Losing the majority in the Senate when you are leader would hurt your image, I suppose.

    Sam Brownback would be a strong choice in my mind. Like McCain, he's willing to take positions contrary to GOP dogma (death penalty, immigration), but is on the whole, a social conservative, which moderates the ticket nicely.

    Of course, the anti-immigration wing of the GOP would howl. And who knows how Dobson and other evangelicals would view him, since he left evangelicalism to join the RCC.

  • ||

    John McCain needs to very careful with his pick. His running mate should be someone who shares his values on the biggest issue of our age (the Iraq War), who has a proven record of being able to accomplish things in Washington, who is popular among the Republican base, and who can bring some necessary style and charisma to the ticket.

    You put that all together, and the choice is obvious:

    McCain/Chalabi '08.

  • Elemenope||

    ...but is on the whole, a social conservative, which moderates the ticket nicely.

    You must have really odd definitions for "moderates" and "nicely".

  • ||

    Bobby Jindal looks like John McCain should be handing him a diploma.

    Bad optics.

  • ||

    If McCain gives even a thought to using the VP pick to mollify religious conservatives, he's wasted a thought. They're like the African-Americans of the GOP. All he has to do is bring up the possibility of Obama nominating three Ruth Baider Ginsburgs to SCOTUS and his work is done.

  • ||

    What about McCain/Putin?

    The Cheney model worked for Bush. Put a guy on the ticket who can "crack heads", a strong authoritarian at that - and someone who supports the notion of a unitary executive.

    Short on electoral votes for sure - but ideology trumps all.

  • ||

    All he has to do is bring up the possibility of Obama nominating three Ruth Bader Ginsburgs to SCOTUS and his work is done.

    Word. The WorldNetDaily crowd will always vote for the GOP guy, no matter who he is. They're griping about McCain (and playing up Baldwin and/or Keyes) now, but a week or two before the election, David Kupelian (or one of their other nutbars) will run another "I know [mediocre Republican nominee] shares none of our opinions on anything, but if you don't vote for him, you're really voting for [evil Democratic nominee], so forget third party candidates" column, and they'll all fall in line like the sheep they are.

  • ||

    A sure-fire vote-winner VP that I'm certain nobody will even think to put on their ticket:

    Lance Armstrong.

    And I'm only half kidding, so you probably don't need to ask what I think about the intelligence of the average US voter.

  • wingnut||

    Why not Bob Barr? He could go back to the party where he belongs and the LP can find a real libertarian. We all win.

  • Jumbie||

    Lance Armstrong is a statist bastard.

  • LarryA||

    Prediction - Huckabee.

    I sure hope not. I'm having enough trouble holding my lunch while voting for McCain.

    If she were willing, selecting Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin to run with McCain would really uptump some apple carts. Except for her political inexperience, she'd be a dream candidate.

    She eats moose burgers and rides snowmobiles. She admits that, when marijuana was legal in the state, she used it; however, she didn't like it.
    Palin's education includes a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho. She briefly worked in the media and utility industry. Palin was named one of Alaska's "Top 40 Under 40," Alaska's Public Works "Person of the Year," and was recently inducted into the Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society at Alaska Pacific University. She is also a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.
    Palin's husband, Todd, works on the North Slope and is a commercial fisherman. On September 11, 2007, Palin's son Track joined the Army. Age 18 at the time, he is the eldest of her five children. She also has three daughters, Bristol, 17, Willow, 13, and Piper, 7. On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to her second son, Trig Paxson Van Palin. The boy has Down syndrome. The Palin family lives in Wasilla, about 40 miles north of Anchorage.
    A May 2008 poll showed her continuing to maintain her approval ratings in the mid 80s, the highest of any elected official in American politics.

    Obama is Clinton Left with Northeast elitist writ large over him. He needs to think about where the gains that gave the Democrats back Congress came from and balance his ticket with a governor from one of the cowboy states.

  • spiker||

    Graham and Kerrey would be great veep choices. Well thought out advice.

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