Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Remembering Number Two

On this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember some of our too often forgotten past number twos [snickering potty mouths should sober up in embarrassment as they read on]: Elbridge Gerry, Daniel Tompkins, Richard Johnson, George Dallas, Schuyler Colfax, Henry Wilson, William Wheeler, Thomas Hendricks, Levi Morton, Garret Hobart, Charles Fairbanks, James Sherman, Thomas Marshall and Charles Curtis. These distinguished Americans were among those who had the honor of serving as Vice President of the United States.

This weekend, John McCain is hosting some of his potential running mates at his ranch. I guess having a ranch is now a pre-requisite for a Republican who would like to be President, which is probably why Rudy's campaign never got off the ground. And as Barack Obama wraps up the Democratic nomination, talk of his possible running mate is warming up, with Hillary's name unfortunately still popping up. I suspect the number of Hillary supporters who claim they will not vote for Obama is equaled or exceeded by the number of Obama supporters (like me) who regurgitate at the thought of Billary back in the White House.

The VP spot originally went to the number two vote getter in the race for President, but as political parties developed, that concept was dropped and the VP became a running mate perceived as no more than a second fiddle. Indeed, since VP Van Buren won promotion to President in 1836, nobody was able to do it again for 152 years, with Bush I winning the job in 1988 only to be voted out four years later.

Eight Vice Presidents have risen to the Presidency on the death of the President, and one took over when a President resigned in spite of protesting "I am not a crook". Seven Vice Presidents have died in office (the last one in 1912) and two resigned, John Calhoun to run for the Senate and Spiro Agnew who beat his non-crook President through the door marked resignation. That non-crook Nixon is the only VP who was elected President after having been out of the White House for at least four years.

Conventional wisdom nowadays says the VP choice is not crucial, and it is more important that it not detract from the ticket. A favorite son (or daughter) from a big battleground state is considered a strong possibility, so Ohio and Pennsylvania come to mind. Some say the VP candidate should balance and complement the Presidential nominee. For McCain that sounds like a young, black, religious, right wing ideologue - someone like the goofy Alan Keyes. For Obama it might be an older white conservative with Jewish appeal - oh no, not Lieberman again.

Seriously, Obama could be helped by a running mate who is a bit feisty and seems to enjoy sparring with opponents - someone like Hillary if she did not come with all the Clinton baggage. Maybe Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Clinton supporter, could do the job and bring more Clinton supporters to the polls. McCain could benefit from someone who is a solid, knowledgeable conservative who gets the facts straight and is consistent. I don't want to give the Republicans any help, so I'll stick with my recommendation above. John McCain, Alan Keyes is your man.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Time to Get off the Stage

A little trouble with my eye has slowed me down on writing for Sense, but I am continuing to follow the campaign for the Democratic nomination and to sing with the ever increasing "chorista punditi". I would not be so demeaning to Hillary as to say she will be the singing fat lady that ends the opera, but I suppose that role could be credited to the voters in North Carolina and Indiana yesterday. Hillary was waxed in North Carolina and survived by the skin of her teeth in Indiana.

Hillary is going deeper into debt to keep her ineffective machine rolling. Undeclared super delegates are waiting for her collapse, while those that have declared since February heavily favor Obama. Her rapid moving of the goal posts after each setback has become ludicrous. Her pathetic pandering by joining McCain in the gas tax holiday farce has amplified the distrust most voters have of her.

The handful of States left to vote are now almost irrelevant, with their outcomes essentially predetermined, and with Obama to achieve his electoral delegate majority in the next couple weeks. Realistically Hillary can now only try to salvage some of these items: look magnanimous by quitting after a victorious night at the polls, like maybe when she wins in West Virginia; get the Obama campaign to pay her campaign debts; try to look like a principled fighter by negotiating some deal about counting Florida and Michigan; have some say in the process of choosing the Obama running mate; avoid being marginalized by the Obama administration and the Democratic power wielders; and keep open her option to run next time if Obama loses this year.

Focus is now seriously shifting to the candidates for running mate. One thing for sure in my mind is that it should not be Hillary. Obama is a move to the future, and Clinton back to the past. Choosing Clinton would conflict the Obama message. As a VP candidate, Hillary might have more to gain by losing than by winning. She was willing to play second fiddle to Bill, at least in public, while sometimes acting as a power sharer behind the scenes, all the while expecting to have her own shot at the first spot down the line. If she became VP under Obama, I think she would always resent him as a usurper. Her very presence in the executive branch would result in constant attacks by the myriad of Clinton haters, continuing a process of distraction and polarization that Obama himself offers us hope of escaping.

Once Hillary leaves the stage, excitement will shift to the VP choices. McCain may have to pick someone from the right wing, further showing him as more of a flipper than a maverick. Obama will have a greater choice of compatible mates to consider. I hope Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri gets on the list of VP possibilities. Since coming out in support of Obama, she has been making some favorable TV appearances on his behalf. She might be able to keep older women voters from defecting, and being from a swing, border State, bring that aspect to the ticket. She has experience in the State Legislature, as State Auditor and as an elected prosecuting attorney.