Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Veep Sweepstakes

Summer is fast approaching; only 10 weeks remain until the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Which means that it won't be too long until John Kerry picks a vice-presidential running mate. It's an important pick -- the election may very well come down to the wire, and the VP candidate could be the difference between sending Bush back to Texas or keeping him in Washington for four more years of... oh, I can't bear to think of it.

I've read talk that because Iraq and the state of the American military will be such a big factor in the election, Kerry should pick someone with strong national security bona fides -- someone like Wesley Clark. I don't agree with this line of logic. Kerry, thrice wounded in Vietnam, has plenty of military-man credentials. And having Clark in the race might make Iraq too much of an issue.

Let me explain. Kerry needs to hammer on Bush's failures in Iraq as much as possible. But Clark has a history of foreign intervention and nation-building and the like. So with Clark in the race, Karl Rove will be able to deflect the debate away from Bush's record as a commander, and focus on Clark's record as a commander. Rove will have the GOPers continually asking, "Well, maybe things haven't gone perfectly in Iraq, but they didn't go perfectly in the Balkans, did they, now? A lot of people died in Bosnia, didn't they?" Republicans will be able downplay Bush's performance by comparing it with Clark's. Kerry will have the maximum political advantage (to be perfectly blunt about it) if he can critize Bush's performance with Iraq without offering a specific alternative of his own. With a military commander such as Clark as his running mate, Kerry will be expected to offer specific plans.

My feeling: the VP candidate should probably be John Edwards. The guy really is the anti-Kerry all the right ways. He's young, he's good looking, he's charismatic, he has a relatively short history in Washington, and he's from the South. Edwards wasn't my horse in the race for the presidential nomination, but he's tailor-made for VP.

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