Tuesday, August 19, 2008



The smart money seems to indicate that Barack Obama will be announcing his running mate sometime this week. I’m no longer in the political prediction business, so I won’t try to predict whom Obama will select. However, I will say that he would be smart to select either Joe Biden or Evan Bayh. Both are safe and both bring credibility and stature to the ticket. Tim Kaine, the other apparent front runner, makes Obama’s Achilles heel, inexperience, even more vulnerable and would be so blatantly political that it would further expose Obama’s contention that he is the candidate of “change” (whatever that means) as the lukewarm gruel that it is. I still don’t know why Bill Richardson dropped off the favorite list; he would appear to be an excellent candidate. Perhaps he is being eyed for Secretary of State in an Obama administration, but Senator Obama ought to bear in mind that if he does not become president, he will not be able to select the Secretary of State. Hillary? Initially I would have said too much baggage for too little return. However, now that this race is tightening, she tends to make more sense. But why take a chance? Biden and Bayh would be good, safe choices.

The more interesting speculation surrounds McCain’s (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) choice of a VP. Should McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) win, he will in all likelihood be a one term president, so, in selecting a VP, John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is selecting the successor, or at least the successor candidate, of a President McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?)
with an even higher degree of certainty than past presidential candidates have picked their successors in their selections of their running mates. On the other hand, until recently, most observers thought that a President McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) was a long shot, so the selection of VP perhaps was not thought to be as momentous as such selections have historically been. But now that the race has tightened, the dynamics of the situation have changed, and several points should be made, all of which reinforce the advisability of making a “safe” choice in a (relatively) daring fashion. Again, I’m making no predictions. I’m out of that business. I’m only pointing out what I think would be advisable, not what is necessarily probable.

First, McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) should announce his selection during the Democratic convention in order to steal some of the Democrats’ thunder. Some might argue that doing so would constitute dirty pool, but, given the direction in which this campaign appears to be headed, making a major announcement during the Democratic convention will appear, in retrospect, to have been a relatively minor breach of etiquette.

Second, this race is getting tight and thus there is no reason for McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) to throw the Hail Mary. While someone like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Joe Lieberman, or Mike Huckabee might have made sense if this race were a long shot, now that it appears to be a horse race, caution should be the watchword. So those four should be out; they probably weren’t under serious consideration anyway.

Third, the reason that John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is in this race is twofold. First, and less important, there is a clear perception that McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) will be a one term president, and, this perception goes, how much damage can a one termer really do? This is clearly a specious argument; a one termer can start World War III as easily as can a two-termer, and, after all, that is most people’s real, albeit probably (hopefully?) exaggerated fear about John McCain. (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?)

The one term president argument becomes more formidable when combined with the second, and more important reason that McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is still in this race, to wit: John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is in this race because he, or his people, have successfully played on the fears people have regarding Barack Obama. There is plenty to be afraid of in Barack Obama, among them his youth and inexperience and the growing perception that he might be an empty suit who reads the teleprompter very well. For me, the biggest thing to fear about Obama is his apparently fervent belief in the omniscience of government and his consequent apparent desire to complement that perceived omniscience with omnipotence. Mine is not the fear, however, that will make a difference in this campaign. Let’s be blunt about it: the biggest fear that a lot of (I didn’t say “most;” I said “a lot of,” enough to make a difference in a general election operated under the auspices of the Electoral College) people have about Barack Obama is not his liberalism or his inexperience but his race. Does anyone think that Hillary won West Virginia or Kentucky because voters in those states love Hillary? Whether we as a nation want to admit it, there are plenty of people who simply will not pull the lever for a Black man, resulting in the Bradley effect’s still being very much alive and, consequently, this race being a lot closer than even the polls show, or perhaps even tipping toward McCain. (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?)

Given that McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) can remain in this race only if he keeps fear alive, he needs to select a running mate who will reinforce the unspoken theme of “Be safe; vote for a relatively conservative white guy.” Such a cautious selection is especially advisable because, should John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) become president, his VP will probably be the next president. This only reinforces the Machiavellian wisdom of avoiding Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, or Bobby Jindal. (See my 6/15/08 post on the utter folly of selecting Governor Jindal.) This also would make Joe Lieberman a poor choice, but Mr. Lieberman’s largely liberal voting record on domestic issues also would cause apoplexy among the GOP base even if his name were John Smith and he were a rector of the Episcopal Church. Tom Ridge is also probably out for ideological reasons, though his apostasy from Rightist Writ has its origins in only one issue. So this leaves us with the front runners as the preferred choices: Crist, Pawlenty, and Romney. Are any of these men especially attractive? Probably not. But none would cost McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) the election, as would some others. Further, an attention getting “surprise” candidate is a lot less advisable now that it looks like McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) actually has a chance.

Making a safe choice would be the smart move for either candidate. I would complete the paraphrase from the greatest movie ever made, but that would require stating that either Obama or McCain “was always the smarter one.” That I can’t do.

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