Tuesday, March 20, 2012



Every four years, about the time the parties’ presidential nominations get (or the party’s nomination gets, depending on the year) locked up, the attention of political aficionados like yours truly turns to the vice-presidential possibilities. We do this because it’s fun, a parlor game of sorts (if anyone still had a room called a parlor in his or her home), but it is, ultimately, about as meaningful as any other parlor game. Why? First, because our prognostications are usually wrong. Second, and more importantly, vice-presidents, even the most powerful and influential vice-presidents, like Al Gore, rarely wield much power in their administrations. (Dick Cheney (aka Edgar Bergen to George Bush’s Charlie McCarthy or, perhaps more properly, William M. Gaines to George Bush’s Alfred E. Neuman) is a special case for obvious reasons.) Third, being vice-president is not the leg up on becoming president it once was. True, five of our twelve post-War presidents had been vice-president before moving into the Oval Office (That includes President Nixon, who I counted despite his eight years pretending to practice law between the two jobs.), but there has been only once president (the first George Bush) since President Reagan assumed office 32 years ago who had been vice-president before moving on up.

Even though speculating regarding the choice of VP is usually futile and pointless, we engage in such prognostication because, as I said before, it’s fun and it gives us something to do during that usually long period of time between the nomination’s being settled and the general election campaign’s starting in earnest. Even in this year, when the Democratic nomination was never in any realistic doubt and the GOP nomination is at least theoretically still undetermined, yours truly and others are already mulling over the choice of VPs.

Loyal readers remember that I have already speculated about the Democratic second spot; see my 10/18/11 post “I’LL MAKE (HER) AN OFFER SHE CAN’T REFUSE.” in which I opined, long before such opining became popular, that it might be a very good idea for President Obama to ask Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to change jobs. I stand by that contention, though it looks at this stage like such chair rearranging may be unnecessary given the declining prospects for any of the GOP candidates, including the nearly certain Republican standard-bearer, to seriously challenge the President for his job. (See, inter alia, but most recently, my 3/14/12 piece YEAH, BUT HE’S OUR CONDESCENDING CLOWN.) Given that Mr. Obama, like most politicians, is cautious and harbors some deep-seated insecurities and thus will not offer someone as powerful, popular and thus as threatening as Mrs. Clinton the VP post unless he has to, it looks like the chances for such fun and games on the Dem side are, while still very real, fading. The fade will end quickly if, for instance, gasoline reaches, say, $6.00 a gallon out here in the hinterlands this summer, but that is another issue.

The real fun, of course, comes from guessing who Mitt Romney will ask to join him on the ticket as he prepares to challenge President Obama. Yours truly was, happily, prodded to begin such speculation after Mass last Sunday morning by a great friend, and fellow political enthusiast, over coffee in the Dunkin’ Donuts at 104th and Western. I, for one, can think of few better places to discuss politics. Probably due to the aptness of the location and the insightfulness of the company, I think I came up with the PERFECT running mate for Mr. Romney…seriously.

First, of course, one has to eliminate the obvious possibilities:

--Mr. Romney’s current opponents. The baggage of Messrs. Gingrich and Santorum is too much for them to bear; why should Mr. Romney allow such baggage to drag down his already rapidly depleting chances at defeating Mr. Obama? The country, which, to the extent that it understands the Constitution, considers it as an impediment that must be gotten around in order to “get things done,” (i.e., “to get me what I want from government”) is, sadly, not yet, nor will it ever be, ready for a Paul vice-presidency or presidency. Either Paul.

--Mitch Daniels. Probably not a bad choice for most people. I, for one, being a lifelong sufferer from Irish amnesia (i.e., I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.) will never vote for Mr. Daniels given that he was OMB Director for George W. Bush, a job very much akin to being chief chastity enforcer in a house of ill-repute. But the GOP is not concerned with getting yours truly’s vote; it is concerned with winning the White House. And most people don’t know enough history to be aware of anything that happened before the last episode of American Idol and will take into account only Mr. Daniels’ admittedly quite good job as governor of Indiana, or, more properly, what they will be told about Mr. Daniel’s admirable work in his latest position. So Mr. Daniels is not a bad choice, but not THE choice.

--Jeb Bush. As you might suspect, I will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, under ANY circumstances vote for someone from that family again for ANYTHING. I don’t think I’d even vote for anyone completely unrelated but with the same last name, even a name that is phonetically the same, for ANYTHING. In fact, if I still drank beer, I would have to give up Budweiser and its “popular priced” companion, because they are (or were, depending on how you look at it) brewed by Anheuser Busch. I don’t care how much one would argue that Jeb is not George; he is still related and that’s enough for me to send a few bucks to his opponent, ANY opponent. While most of the public probably does not share my intensity, they doubtless share my feelings and, hence, Mr. Romney is smart enough not to take this chance. I hope.

--Chris Christie. Nothing short of a Ron Paul draft at the GOP convention would make yours truly as happy as having Chris Christie as Mr. Romney’s running mate. But it won’t happen—two northeastern governors, neither of whom has much appeal to the true believers on the social right, is not the formula for the GOP this, or any, year. Further, Mr. Christie’s honesty in saying, when asked why he didn’t run for president this year, that, as a first term governor he was not ready to be president, works against him. Can you imagine what David Axelrod and his henchmen would do with that statement? Ironically, though, the honesty and sense of self reflected in that comment only heightens my, and, I am sure, others’, enthusiasm for a future Christie run for president.

--Everyone’s odds-on favorite, Marco Rubio. Another favorite of yours truly has many things going for him—young, articulate, genuinely conservative, thoughtful, from perhaps ultimate swing state Florida, and more than vaguely ethnic, indeed, the son of Cuban immigrants. The latter is not as big a deal as most Anglo political strategists suppose because most Hispanics are smart enough to realize that “Hispanic” is too broad a category to form a single lump. Further, Mr. Rubio, as a 41 year old (on election day) first term senator is probably not the ideal vessel for attacking President Obama as an ingénue. But despite these drawbacks, Mr. Rubio would be a good candidate and therefore merits being at or near the top of everyone’s list.

But it was speculating with my buddy at the Dunkin’ on Western about Mr. Rubio that I almost inadvertently stumbled on the PERFECT running mate for Mr. Romney….

--Senator Tom Coburn. Dr. Coburn is exactly what Mr. Romney is looking for:
--unquestionably conservative on social and fiscal matters,
--reasonable in that he works with Democrats (or at least works better with congressional Democrats and the President than just about any other Republican in Congress), so much so that he is personally friendly with President Obama, thus showing that he is an example of that increasingly rare animal, especially in politics: a gentleman who can put political differences aside when choosing friends,
--a medical doctor, which can’t help when so much discussion and decision making both during and after the campaign will revolve around health care and paying for health care,
--the right age, not too old yet not a kid, at 64,
--honest enough not to break the three term pledge he made when he first went to the House in 1994 (as so many of his GOP colleagues did once they figured out that making one’s living having one’s hindquarters smooched beats working at a real job) and not to have any scandals in his background worthy of mention by any but the most disingenuous, and
--having been around Washington for 18 years but having had a life and a profession before heading to that Dystopia on the Potomac that usually turns those few who go there for worthwhile reasons into public nuisances.

So you heard it here first—Mitt Romney should pick Tom Coburn as his running mate. In the unlikely event that anyone else gets the GOP nomination, s/he should also select Senator Coburn as his or her running mate.

Note I didn’t say that Mr. Coburn will be on the GOP ticket; I only said he should be on the GOP ticket. As loyal readers know, I try to refrain from making overt predictions.

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