March 4, 2004
POLITICS: Kerry Veepstakes Begin
Via the Command Post, the Campaigns and Elections Mag power rankings from two days ago, presented here with my own two cents; basically, I'd rank the contenders in terms of likelihood (1) Richardson, (2) Gephardt, (3) Rendell, (4) Edwards, (5) Cleland, (6) Landrieu, (7) Hillary!, (8) Rubin. (Not listed here is Bill Clinton; as James Taranto and others have pointed out, NYU Law professor Stephen Gillers' NY Times op-ed touting Clinton for veep ignored the 12th Amendment, which provides that ""no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States" - an embarrasing and inexcusable omission both for Gillers and for the Times.
DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL SELECTION 2004
TOP TIER CHOICES:
Sen. John Edwards (NC), 4 to 1 (20% chance) - Kerry reportedly thinks he's too green, and Kerry doesn't want someone to outshine him. A lot of strong seconds Tuesday could have made him hard to resist, but he didn't really make that deep a dent.
Gov. Bill Richardson (NM), 5 to 1 (16.7% chance) - The favorite - swing state, foreign policy credentials, Latino.
Gov. Ed Rendell (PA), 10 to 1 (9.1% chance) - Has common touch, proven winner in crucial state, 2008 contender. I'd give him a look.
Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), 10 to 1 (9.1% chance) - Not happening. Another senator is a bad idea, and occasional pro-life views will sink him.
Sen. Bill Nelson (FL), 10 to 1 (9.1% chance) - Seen as a moderate, but FL may not be that close this time. Rendell's a better geographic pick. I couldn't pick him out of a police lineup.
Gen. Wesley Clark, 12 to 1 (7.7% chance) - Nutjob, bad campaigner, adds nothing to Kerry's military cred, Kerry may blame him for intern story.
Sen. Bob Graham (FL), 12 to 1 (7.7% chance) - Orders of magnitude duller even than Kerry, poor health, neurotic, not really in sync in foreign affairs.
U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt (MO), 20 to 1 (4.8% chance) - A logical choice, party veteran who speaks Shrumish. Holman Jenkins in the WSJ's Political Diary said he thought Gephardt was the front-runner.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA), 30 to 1 (3.2% chance) - Always mentioned . . . another senator, teachers unions are mad at her.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY), 50 to 1 (2% chance) - Only if Kerry's in real trouble in mid-July. At least she's been vetted.
Ex-Sen. Max Cleland (GA), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - Kerry's bud. Then again, a one-termer who was tossed out 2 years ago.
Ex-Sen. Sam Nunn (GA), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - The Dems' Cheney; but if he really wanted the job, wouldn't we have seen him in public lately?
Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - Been there, lost that.
Sen. Richard Durbin (IL), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - I don't see it. Too big-city liberal.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - Could happen - she's a woman, photogenic and thought of as a moderate, but she's as notorious a flip-flopper as Kerry, and not a great speaker.
Ex-Tr. Sec. Robert Rubin, 100 to 1 (1% chance) - Wall Street's not in great odor right now; not his moment, although he is widely trusted.
Sen. Joe Biden (DE), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - Loose cannon. Not a bad choice, but can't stay on message, which will be a challenge given the vacuity of the message anyway.
Sen. John Kerry (MA), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - No; Edwards' only hope was a complete self-destruction anyway.
Gov. Tom Vilsack (IA), 100 to 1 (1% chance) - Well-liked and from a swing state, but no national profile. Kerry may feel he's already won credibility in Iowa.
AG Elliott Spitzer (NY), 200 to 1 (less than 1% chance) - Would be a daring pick, but too northeastern and too narrow a resume. More likely a Cabinet pick.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR), 200 to 1 (less than 1% chance) - She'd probably have to quit re-election campaign, Dems can't afford another open seat in the South. Also deeply obscure.
Sen. John Breaux (LA), 200 to 1 (less than 1% chance) - If'n he wanted to be in Washington, he wouldn't be retiring.
Gov. Howard Dean (VT), 500 to 1 (less than 1% chance) - Yeaaaarrrrggggh.
Al Gore (TN), 500 to 1 (less than 1% chance) - Shoot me now.
Someone else, 30 to 1 (3.3% chance)
"no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States"
Does this refer to eligibility regarding age, citizenship, etc?
Clinton still meets those eligibility requirements.
Sure, Clinton can't be elected to the office....but does that make him ineligible?
PS - It appears to be at least debateable. And it was an Op-Ed piece. Making this "omission" hardly embarassing and certainly excusable for the Times.
I dunno, this was something that sounded wrong to me right away, and it only took a few minutes with the Constitution to find the answer. It wouldn't be embarrassing if Gillers mentioned it and tried to explain it away, but for a law professor to just ignore this? And when an argument swims uphill against the conventional wisdom like this, somebody at the NYT should have asked a few questions. It appears that their op-ed editors just never do that.
My view is that he’d be crazy to take anyone other than Edwards.
And I loved Eric Alterman’s bone-headed suggestion that he take John McCain. It’s a bad sign when you’re viewed as so liberal that you need someone from the other party to counter-balance you on the ticket.
Clinton's ineligibility seems pretty cut and dry to me. I don't have my Constitution in front of me (yes, I have one, and I know its out in my car--don't ask), but after FDR they amended the Constitution, added the two-term limit, and that makes Clinton ineligible for the office of President, and therefore VP as well. If the NYT wanted to debate some particular interpretation of that, they should at least bring it up, not totally ignore it. That is what's inexcusable.
I like Richardson. And not as a hypothetical, because I actually want Kerry to beat Bush. He brings lots of creds to the table: former cabinet guy, negotiated with N Korea, former Congressman (right?), and popular current governor. Always nice for a Senator to balance the ticket by plucking the VP from somewhere other than DC. If you can't be a governor, you should pick one as your VP.
I also believe the geographic benefit of Richardson is greater than Edwards or a traditional Southerner. Bush is winning all those states anyway, even Florida looks bad for the Dems. But AZ, NM, NV are potential winners, and that could tip things for them.
The Case For Cleland
By Ross Gorbert
A message to the powers-that-be: please, please bump Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) up to the first tier of considered candidates in the Veepstakes. Here is a rationale why Cleland would make an excellent strategic choice.
First, Kerry needs to continue in the trend of running-mates selected for the reinforcement of a particular campaign theme. The Clinton-Gore ticket broke the mold of geographic/ideological balance by putting two southern centrists on the ticket in an effort to vanquish the Party of Dukakis (read: Northeastern Out-of-Touch Liberal) image. Transmogrified into a non-threatening brand of southern-friendly moderation, the conventional wisdom was successfully rebuffed, defeating Bush the First’s particular brand of Northeastern Out-of-Touch Conservatism. The 2000 election follows the trend on both sides, with Cheney supposedly heading up the neo-Reagan Bakerian post-amberic “All Star Team” (read: “at least he’s surrounding himself with competent people”) and Lieberman holding up his “least likely to be a heartbeat away from a blowjob in the Oval Office” function. And, the conventional geographical balance strategy hardly translated into Bob Dole carrying Jack Kemp’s New York.
Cleland reinforces the obvious theme the Democrats need to win the first post-9/11 election: strong on defense. War hero. And yet, still maintaining fundamental policy distinctions (as opposed to the summarily rejected “me too-ism” strategy of Liebermann’s 2004 theme) from the Republicans (e.g., true multilateralism, and refraining from financing the war on time). In fact, on this front, choosing Cleland would be a deft master stroke: on the one hand it would please the hawks, in selecting a self-evident patriot with no hesitation to swear life and limb for love of country; and yet, for the doves, Cleland would be an embodiment of the grim realities of war, serving a marked contrast to the flippancy with which Cheney and Rumsfeld are often seen committing our troops.
What about the 2002 loss to Saxby Chambliss? Doesn’t that show that Cleland can’t win Georgia? Doesn’t that show that Cleland’s self-evident patriotism is not invulnerable to attack by the Republicans? These are the obvious drawbacks that have so far kept Cleland from being included in the first tier of consideration.
First, as to the question whether or not Cleland can win Georgia: so what? No reasonable strategy short of dumping John Kerry in favor of Zigzag Zell would have won Georgia for the Dems anyway. Remember, this choice would not be about geographic balance or winning a state; it would be about reinforcing a crucial theme.
Second, even if Cleland can’t win Georgia, it would still shave Georgia away from the solid red column and force the Republicans to spend money there where they would not have otherwise. Kerry choosing a running-mate from a “battleground state” may help him win that state, but it would do nothing to dissuade the Reps from going all out in spending on the battlegrounds. Having to defend Georgia might be enough to drain their own resources from Ohio.
Third, Cleland might help them win Georgia. Particularly if you believe the theories which posit that Cleland actually beat Chambliss (http://www.bartcop.com/111102fraud.htm), but for the nefarious Diebold voting machines. In 2004, the Dems will be (or damn well should be) scrutinizing each and every precinct using those machines; and the upset victory will be particularly fresh in Georgians’ memories. If nothing else, Cleland’s presence on the ticket would help raise the level of awareness about the Diebold machines to a national level. The negative in 2002 could be turned into a rallying point for Dems in 2004— don’t let these cheats pull the same chicanery again.
There is one other thing Cleland would have in 2004 that he didn’t have in 2002— his loss in 2002 to crib from. Before Cleland’s loss in 2002, Democrats were naive: “surely the Republicans wouldn’t stoop so low as to question the patriotism of a triple-amputee who sacrificed so much for his country? They wouldn’t do anything as ugly as juxtapose Cleland’s image with that of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein would they?” Yup, they sure would, and now we know (not that it helped, but the Gainsville Times stuck up for Cleland: http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/news/stories/20021016/opinion/297860.html). Forewarned is forearmed.
In fact, the 2002 loss would actually become an important bludgeon in the ammunition of a Kerry-Cleland ticket. Just because the hyper-nationalist, and absurd, strategem of challenging Cleland on defense worked one time in one election in one state— in a midterm year when the pre-Dean national Democratic party was particularly paralyzed— doesn’t mean this gambit would work twice, on a national scale, with a re-energized Democratic establishment that has found its nerve, with two additional years of hindsight witness to Bush’s recklessness and incompetence.
Putting Cleland on the ticket would put the issue of tactics into sharp clarity on the national stage: look how they trashed this guy, this triple-amputee in a wheelchair. Look how they will stoop at nothing. Is this the level of discourse that the American people deserve? Is this the party that deserves four more years? Clinton was able to neutralize any attempt by Bob Dole in 1996 to resort to negative campaigning with a pre-emptive strike against the Gingrich bogeyman. On a national stage, these wacky, racist, contemptible southern Republicans like Saxby Chambliss and Trent Lott could serve nicely as Gingrich-like bogeymen, particularly if the DLC Democrats grow up, forget the now-irrelevant Clintonian strategies and commit to a southless tack. The Cleland trashing may have played in Georgia 2002, but would it play in 2004 Ohio or Missouri, where giving up a limb (or two or three) for one’s country may still have a little cache with midwestern sensibilities?
Putting Cleland on the ticket would also allow the Democrats to make a potent and vastly important point in the first post-9/11 election, without their even having to take the low road and say word one about it. Just imagine Cleland in the debate sharing the stage with Chickenhawk Cheney. Enough said. Or not said.
Liberals need to grow up too. They need to forget Nader and Kucinich (and I voted for Kucinich in the primary!) and realize that first things come first: first you have to remove the crazy, rabid neo-con ideologues with their enormously destructive and unworkable proto-Revelation interventionist theories. Then you can occupy some space on the centrist stage in order to reach toward the true progressive left. The neo-cons didn’t get where they are today overnight either. First they needed to jettison an ineffectual and bland minority leader like Bob Michel (http://www.makethemaccountable.com/podvin/more/021107_RendezvousWithLunacy.htm) in favor of a firebrand like Gingrich. Then they had to get Bush the First elected to install at least one additional right-wing ideologue on the Supreme Court (he tried for two, but who knew that David Souter had integrity and an intellect?). Then they had to take the House. Then they had to take the Senate. Then they had to endure two terms of an enormously popular and populist Democratic president and generate a trumped-up scandal with machinations dreamt by Rube Goldberg in order to tear that president down to the point where their next candidate could seize the presidency by appointment, even without a popular mandate. It took twelve years before you could go from the palpably innocuous, coalition-building, diplomacy-not-completely-eschewing Bush the First to the off-the-radar-of-all-reasonableness Bush the Second.
Cleland is that non-threatening, acceptable-to-middle-America moderate, at least in terms of voting record and ideological posture (http://www.issues2000.org/Senate/Max_Cleland.htm). And yet, even the Dean and Kucinich doves would be hard-pressed to challenge the notion that a President Cleland, even in the event of war with which they may disagree in policy terms, would commit real men and women to real danger without all due deliberation. In other words, with exactly the kind of deliberation this present administration, devoid of any tangible and tactile connection to the real horrors of war, completely lacks.
But in spite of having a center-reaching appeal, Cleland would nevertheless electrify the base for reasons that go beyond policy. Kerry needs to make his pick a gesture, a broad stroke. None of this play-it-safe Gephardt crap. Picking a safe, bland, tried-and-true establishment figure like Gephardt will only reinforce the stigma that Kerry is a purely political animal with no convictions and too great a comfort with expedience.
Kerry is making a miscalculation if he believes that one has to be completely 100% pacifistic to tap into the Howard Dean anger (read: base energy). The Dean phenomenon wasn’t so much about specific policy goals (he being friendly to guns and loggers). The energy was more likely a result of one thing: a willingness to fight, front and center, on display. The anger was as much about the deep resentment by Democrats over Bush and company co-opting all things American as their own private preserve, and tarring anyone with the brains not to conform to their agenda as Unamerican, as it was about specific policy-pacifism.
Picking Cleland would send one message: we’re going to fight. And history shows Democrats in wheelchairs actually win their wars. It would give post-9/11 America a naked choice: faux flight-suit-moviemaking-chickenhawk-empty gestures of heroism, or the real damned thing.
I believe the key sentence in that last comment was "I voted for Kucinich in the primary!"
As with Kerry, Cleland has neither done nor said anything in the past 30 years that you could point to with pride. A has-been hero is still a has-been.
This may seem an odd request, but could you pass on my email address to the Ross Gorbert that posted on your web site May 18th, 2004