Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama and the VP challenge

I’ve been loathe to speculate too much about Barack Obama’s imminent VP selection which could come anytime now. In the past, I’ve been as surprised as everyone else when the selections are finally announced.
But I do think that Obama has to be especially careful this time in light of the fact that the Democrats’ last two VP choices have, in retrospect, turned into disasters.
First, there was Joe Lieberman, the turncoat who just eight years after sharing the presidential ticket with Al Gore is now campaigning hard for John McCain and the Republicans. And now we have the scandal-tarred John Edwards who, up until just a few days ago, still seemed like a good pick. I remember at the time when John Kerry picked Edwards thinking it was a politically smart move, and yet I was unhappy with it because I knew it would cost us a seat in the Senate. Which it did.
A much better VP pick was Bill Clinton’s selection of Al Gore back in 1992. Today, the Oscar-winning, Nobel Laureate who rightfully won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential race has seen his political fortunes rise into the stratosphere.
The late Lloyd Bentsen was another good choice back in 1988 who clearly boosted the hapless Dukakis campaign by taking out the clueless Dan Quayle in their one and only debate. But go back a little further and you have the historic and desperate selection of Geraldine Ferraro who today has become an embittered pariah in the party threatening to join Joe Lieberman in the McCain camp after making several intemperate and ill chosen, if not racist, remarks about Obama.
So Obama needs to be careful because, win or lose, these people stick around and become key players in the party for good or bad.

At this point, I think Bill Richardson would still be the best choice for Obama, but has probably been dismissed as too risky for having two minority candidates at the top of the ticket. The short list according to the conventional wisdom crowd right now includes Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. And maybe Kansas Gov. Karen Sibelius, though I think she is just window dressing at this point. Of those choices, I like Biden the best for his experience and foreign policy expertise.

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