Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Re-Thinking Barack Obama's Vice-President Choice

No Future Presidents Need Apply?

I remain steadfastly on the record for Barrack Obama selecting someone for VPOTUS who will help him govern as opposed to helping him get elected. That's because I see that his greatest challenges will be coming at him in the next four years as opposed to the next four months. Such is the ruination left behind by the Busheney epoch that:
  • The Obama ticket should win a comfortable margin even among the least informed sectors of the electorate.
  • Cleaning up the mess from the Republican years is too much for one full-time chief executive.
If Obama demonstrates, partly by his choice for Vice-President, that he means business as far as sanitation engineering in national and international policies, he should have no difficulty in being elected. Even more than in his Cabinet, Barrack needs to assign the Vice-Presidency to a member of the Democratic "varsity".

To briefly review possible criterion for running mates:
  1. Someone to balance the ticket by clenching the electoral votes of one or more battleground states.
  2. Someone who can be trusted to carry and share a substantial burden of governing with the President-Elect.
  3. Someone to be groomed to run for president following the term of the Presidential nominee.

I have already stated my reasons for thinking that the short list of first-stringers for this position has to include General Wesley Clark. Wes definitely scores high in reason #2.

In the Los Angeles Times this morning, a highly thinkable alternative was suggested by UCLA political science professor Thomas Schwartz who says, VP Wanted: No future Presidents Please. Schwartz builds a historical argument as to what bad presidential candidates Vice Presidents make.

Balancing the presidential ticket has been the traditional selection criterion for Veeps, he says. Eisenhower broke that mold when he selected Richard Nixon, who was groomed to be his successor. "The pattern was set," says Schwartz, "The vice presidential nomination came to be seen as the anointment of an electoral succession." However the results were mixed. Candidates apprenticing as vice-presidents were only 50% accepted by the electorate. Despite the Bush and Cheney struck another model as co-presidents. Still, the model of vice president as future president is still currently widely held. Not a good idea Schwartz argues,
the pattern is now so ingrained that if McCain or Obama puts a plausible electoral successor on the ticket, he will have partly rigged the 2016 election, loading it like a bad pair of dice. No one is smart enough to choose the best candidate for president eight years in advance.
While I may quarrel with Schwartz's historical arguments, I certainly have to admire his recommendation for Barrack Obama's considerations:
A better running mate is a distinguished elder statesman eminently qualified to assume the presidency but too old to run in eight years …

For Obama, an obvious choice is Bob Graham, also born in 1936. The former Florida governor and U.S. senator (and more recently a professor at Harvard) is a renowned expert on intelligence policy and a marvelously articulate speaker. His own 2004 presidential bid fizzled, but in part for a commendable reason: Unlike John Kerry and Howard Dean, Graham unequivocally opposed the Iraq war all along.

More often mentioned as a running mate for Obama, former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia resembles Graham in age (69), region and national security expertise. But Nunn lacks Graham's charisma and breadth of experience, and although he too opposed a war, it was the wrong one: He opposed the Persian Gulf War of 1991, President George H.W. Bush's geopolitical masterpiece that saved not only Kuwait but the United Nations.
I certainly agree that Bob Graham should rank over Sam Nunn on Barack's short list (by a whole lot). Also, picking Graham over Wes Clark could smooth Clinton feathers:
For Obama , the conventional choice of an electoral successor creates a dilemma. He does not want Hillary Clinton hanging around the White House (with her connubial baggage) for eight years, and he knows that her formidable talents would help him more in the Senate or the State Department. But if he chooses any other plausible electoral successor, he unfairly hurts Clinton's prospects in 2016, infuriating her present fans. Even more than McCain, Obama has no good alternative to the choice of an elder statesman.
In other words, an elder statesman like Bob Graham would not hurt Hillary's aspirations in 2012. I still like Wes Clark, but Bob Graham is totally thinkable!