Obama’s Veep Choice Should Be...

Back when it looked like Obama had the nomination in hand in February, I nominated Sen. Jim Webb as the best Veep choice. After hearing from readers, I also wrote about some other options including Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and General Anthony Zinni. Since February, Hillary Clinton’s resilience has increased the desirability of choosing a woman for the second slot. I nominate Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. But, wait a minute! Sen. Snowe is a Republican. Precisely. Obama is running as the change agent this year and it is a desirable place to be. Yet, he has not really sketched out precisely how he intends to change the ways of Washington to better accomplish the people’s business beyond a verbal commitment to move beyond partisanship. What better way to add some substance to his commitment than by picking a Republican vice-presidential candidate? Snowe’s bipartisanship is real. She was part of the Gang of 14 who pulled the Senate back from the precipice of a disaster on the issue of judicial confirmations. Many Democrat and Republican partisans criticized the deal. Democrats were especially upset after it paved the way for the confirmation of both John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the high court, but the agreement nonetheless staved off a potential crisis of confidence in government’s ability to function. There is not a whiff of the right-winger about Snowe. In 2007, she co-sponsored a bill with Democrat Sen. Evan Bayh that demanded troop re-deployments in Iraq unless the Iraqi government met certain benchmarks. Unlike McCain who voted against the Bush tax cuts and then changed his mind, Snowe has gone the other way, supporting the 2001 round of cuts but opposing Bush’s request for further cuts in 2003. She is pro-choice on abortion but she also supported giving $100 million to preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, which is the first step the left is taking away from NARAL-inspired orthodoxy. Would she join Obama on a Democratic Party ticket? Hard to know. She began her career as an aide to Republican congressman William Cohen who went on to serve as Secretary of Defense in Bill Clinton’s second term. Surely, the prospect of serving in the minority in the Senate is growing less attractive as it becomes clear the GOP is headed for a shellacking at the polls this autumn. (This morning’s Washington Post shows how it is possible that the Democrats may get 60 votes in the Senate, denying Snowe and other moderates the decisive role they have enjoyed.) And, she could be the first female vice-president in the nation’s history, a post that has in recent years become as consequential as the personal chemistry between #1 and #2 permits. If she and Obama get along just fine, she would have every reason to take it. Maine is a small state and it is looking blue already. But, geography is over-stated as a rationale for choosing a Veep. John Edwards did not deliver North Carolina in 2004 after all. Obama should follow the model of Bill Clinton in 1992. Instead of looking for geographic or ideological balance, Clinton’s choice of Al Gore reinforced the image he wanted to project of himself: young, southern, New Democrat. Obama could similarly tell the nation a lot about himself by his choice. In picking Olympia Snowe, he would tell the nation that he really means it when he says he is tired of partisan bickering and scorched-earth politics, that it is time we give the benefit of the doubt to those who do not share our ideological blinders, that only by getting along can we get anything done. Michael Sean Winters
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9 years 5 months ago
The argument in favor of your suggested Olympian for VP, viz., that she's no right winger, is perfectly charming. It gracefully, though prhaps unintentionally, makes the point that Obama is but a doctrinaire liberal who has yet to work meaningfully with the opposition. The effective opposed forces in American political life are not Dems v Repubs but rather Libs v Cons. These lines of opposition are often messy but it is clear to this humble observer that Snowe falls only on the left side of that mountain.
9 years 5 months ago
I appreciate your thoughts but I am still hoping for General Anthony Zinni. He will help with defense and foreign policy, put his home state of Pennsylvania in the bag and offer a fresh face rather than a tired old politican. An Italian Catholic (papally decorated) Marine should help on multiple fronts. Zinni, while mostly contributing to an Obama administration on defense and foreign policy matters, should announce during the campaign that he has successfully requested that as Vice President he would be charged with heading up an abortion abatement initative.
9 years 5 months ago
I guess great minds think alike, because I just wrote the same thing (adding Susan Collins as a possibility as well) as a comment to a blog (something I seldom do). I've been following an academic feminist discussion in which some women appear downright heartbroken by Hillary Clinton's failure to clinch the Democratic nomination. If Obama can choose a woman as a running mate, it could alleviate some of that heartbreak and ensure that those women don't simply stay home on Election Day. I had been thinking of Janet Napolitano, but then another commenter on the aforementioned blog wrote something about "converting" Snowe and Collins to further strengthen the Democratic majority in the Senate. At that point, the bulb went off: why not nominate one of them for Veep? Good thinking.
9 years 5 months ago
Well, now, an abortion abatement initiative? Perhaps you will recall that we've already had one: the vote to end partial-birth abortion. That had no support from ANY Democrat presidential candidate and Obama notoriously opposes it. And every other policy with any teeth. Unfortunately, in the Democrat Party, there is an orthodoxy governing dispensibility of babies. It is a long and sad story but the discipline to enforce it is severe and a change is not imminent. It is commendable that Katherine would like an abatement (sic) but, pardon me for disbelieving its potential as an inducement to vote for Obama.
9 years 5 months ago
Interesting idea however Obama would never select a VP that highlights his LACK of bi partisanship in the senate. Let's remember that Snowe and McCain stuck their political necks out as part of the Gang of 14. Now that’s the kind of "Change America Needs"

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