Lazy Sunday VP Speculation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Veepstakes recently. Obviously, I’m none too happy with the notion that Clinton has somehow “earned” or “deserves” the slot; I think Neil Sinhababu does an excellent job enumerating the many reasons why an Obama/Clinton ticket would be a lousy, lousy arrangement. His reason #4, “I don’t trust the consultants in Hillaryland to play well with an Obama campaign,” is perhaps the biggest one for me. I don’t like the idea of Clinton setting up a parallel, further right policy shop in the Naval Observatory one bit, and I think anyone who cares about having a unified Democratic executive and Congress in 2009 should hate it too.
So, who would I like? Having thought about it, here are my top seven (yes, seven) choices, in descending order, with pros and cons listed. If I haven’t included somebody here, it is meant as a negative comment on their suitability for the post. It means that whatever reason (too conservative, not adding to the ticket, too old, not “vetting”, I like them where they are), I don’t think they’re an appropriate choice. This includes, off the top of my head, Jim Webb (see here), Sam Nunn (hates gays), Ted Strickland and Bob Casey (antiabortion), Janet Napolitano and Bill Richardson (don’t “vet” and, in the latter case, too gaffe-prone), and Sherrod Brown (über-protectionist).
7. Jack Reed:
Pros: West Point grad and former 82nd Airborne captain, big on the Armed Services Committee, against the war from the start, very liberal voting record.
Cons: May be seen as compensating, from a blue state, no major legislative accomplishments.
6. Kathleen Sebelius:
Pros: Reinforces Obama’s unity message (convinced the state GOP chair to be her running mate), has been an excellent governor by all indications, brings executive experience, and satisfies some Hillary supporters who want a woman on the ticket.
Cons: No foreign policy background or federal experience, lackluster SOTU response, and having both a black man and a woman on the ticket may be too much for some bigoted voters to handle.
5. Vic Snyder:
Pros: Clinton supporter to shore up that base, Arkansan to help in Appalachia, doctor to bring credibility on health care, against the war from the start, served on the Armed Services committee and a killer voting record.
Cons: Exactly no national profile, no office other than the House, no major legislative accomplishments.
4. William Cohen:
Pros: Huge foreign affairs experience as Defense Secretary and in the Senate, bipartisan cred as a liberal Republican who worked in a Democratic administration.
Cons: Blue state background, ties to McCain that would make being an attack-dog difficult, interracial marriage that would enrage the crazies.
3. Bill Bradley:
Pros: Huge domestic policy wonk, big name recognition, liberal record both in Senate and during ’00 campaign, great campaigner, loyal Obama-ite.
Cons: Blue state background, not big on foreign affairs, might alienate Gore loyalists.
2. John Kitzhaber:
Pros: Executive experience as governor of Oregon, incredible record on health care reform both as governor and with the Archimedes movement, very charismatic, and may just be made of concentrated awesome.
Cons: Blue state background, no foreign affairs or federal experience.
1. Wes Clark:
Pros: Clinton supporter to shore up that base, Arkansan to help in Appalachia, to the left of Obama on foreign affairs and Iran in particular, against the war from the start, charismatic, lots of foreign affairs experience as NATO commander, and has outsider appeal as non-politician.
Cons: Poor campaigner. For a flag burning amendment. Anything else? Really, I can’t think of anything.
So there you have it. If there’s a takeaway point here, it’s that I really, really want an Obama/Clark ticket, and that Kitzhaber isn’t talked about nearly enough as an option. If he isn’t on the ticket, he needs to be HHS secretary.

3 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday VP Speculation

  1. I think you’re focusing a bit too much on qualities that would make these guys good politicians and too little on if they would be good VPs. The VP will have the inside track on the nomination in 8 years potentially, and could potentially be taking over the country during a national emergency.
    William Cohen is perfectly intelligent and decent person but not really the kind of person Democrats should want running country. I know that’s easy to lose track off given the current state of American leadership. In general most of list seems based of geography and experience working with the military in some capacity.
    Unless a candidate is particularly popular I don’t think it’s likely they’ll flip a state. As for the military I think you need to extent your analysis of Jim Webb a bit further. You say picking him would like the same failed strategy that picking Kerry, but still list Wes Clark, a Republican, and a Senator nobody’s every heard in your list of the best choices. (and you indicate you considered Sam Nunn and Webb) Rather saying picking people with a military background to deflect national security attacks is misguided you’re only saying we be more clever about which ex-military guys we pick.
    My only objection to Wes Clark is that I think his “poor campaigning” might be a bigger problem then must think given that you have at #1. He’s got no history of being anything other then a dud in terms in getting votes. Wes Clark is a descent choice in terms being somebody you actually want making decisions, his instincts seem to be in the right place. Maybe Obama’s exciting enough it won’t matter he’s got a boring VP.

  2. I think you’re focusing a bit too much on qualities that would make these guys good politicians and too little on if they would be good VPs. The VP will have the inside track on the nomination in 8 years potentially, and could potentially be taking over the country during a national emergency.
    I think John Nance Garner had it about right when he said the vice presidency is worth about as much as a warm bucket of piss. It just isn’t a very powerful post. What I want in a vice president is (a) someone who helps get Obama elected and (b) someone who will be a useful advisor to him once he’s in office. Everyone on my list was born before 1950, and all of them would be too old, in my book at least, to run in 2016. So much the better, I say; this will allow for new blood to emerge.
    William Cohen is perfectly intelligent and decent person but not really the kind of person Democrats should want running country. I know that’s easy to lose track off given the current state of American leadership. In general most of list seems based of geography and experience working with the military in some capacity.
    How so? What’s your problem with Cohen? That’s a rather flip statement. And I think your point about military and geography determining the list is false on its face. Only two veterans are here, and four of the seven are from blue states.
    Unless a candidate is particularly popular I don’t think it’s likely they’ll flip a state. As for the military I think you need to extent your analysis of Jim Webb a bit further. You say picking him would like the same failed strategy that picking Kerry, but still list Wes Clark, a Republican, and a Senator nobody’s every heard in your list of the best choices. (and you indicate you considered Sam Nunn and Webb) Rather saying picking people with a military background to deflect national security attacks is misguided you’re only saying we be more clever about which ex-military guys we pick.
    Um, selecting a General is very different from selecting a first lieutenant. I’m saying we should pick people with actual expertise on national security issues. Jim Webb was Navy Secretary for less than a year, and has been a Senator for barely more than one. Jack Reed has served on the Armed services committee for over a decade. I’ll let you figure out the difference. And if you want a racist like Webb or a homophobe like Nunn representing the Democratic party nationally, I really don’t know what to say.
    My only objection to Wes Clark is that I think his “poor campaigning” might be a bigger problem then must think given that you have at #1. He’s got no history of being anything other then a dud in terms in getting votes. Wes Clark is a descent choice in terms being somebody you actually want making decisions, his instincts seem to be in the right place. Maybe Obama’s exciting enough it won’t matter he’s got a boring VP.
    I don’t know; only three candidates won primaries in 2004 before dropping out, and he was one of them. What’s more, he got in late, once Dean already dominated the anti-war vote. He’s a good attack dog, which is what a VP candidate should be.

  3. Regarding Cohen
    My primary problem with him is that when looking for Democratic VP you generally look for a member of the Democratic Party. Like some other members of your list I don’t get a good sense that’s driven to be involved in national politics.
    Regarding the military
    You mentioned Webb and Nunn as people you’d exclude, but their inclusion as people worth explaining their absence speaks loudly. Nunn hasn’t been in politics for more then 10 years, isn’t from a swing state. Webb’s only been politics for 1 ½ half years, and would potentially lose the Democrats his Senate seat. National security experience is the only criteria that makes either of them worth considering.
    I’m not sure if you’re saying national security experience is an important consideration for political or governing reasons or both. Either way I doubt I would agree with. In terms of politics VA is the only state where I could see it effecting outcome of the vote (which I’ll grant you could be important). In terms of governing it’s really not important because there’s no guarantee Obama would be taking national security advice from his VP. Historically presidents don’t even reliably take advice foreign policy advice from their Secretary of States, much less their VPs.
    Regarding VPs importance.
    Truman dropped nuclear bombs on Japan, and LBJ increased our involvement in Vietnam massively. It is unlikely George H.W. Bush would have been president without the VP nod from Reagan. Sometimes VPs matter a lot.
    Regarding Clark
    The more I think about it the more I want to back track on that. I still think he’s dud on the campaign trail, but Obama’s got charisma enough for both of them. And I suppose your right that he would make a good vehicle to attack McCain. He meets all my other basic criteria as well. My only point with Clark is that it’s easy to get carried away people that look on paper, but don’t deliver when it comes to getting votes.

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