Thursday, August 14, 2008

Say It Isn't Joe

The speculation now that John McCain declared that being for “choice” isn’t automatically a disqualification for being his running mate, is that former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge is first in line for the job. It was Ridge who, to secure the Homeland, invented color-coding. Notwithstanding that display of genius, a Ridge candidacy would be good news for Barack Obama. After all, he almost got the nod in 2000; presumably on the grounds that he’d make George Bush look good by comparison. But I’ll bet it’s not going to be him, and it won’t be the repellent Mitt Romney either. No such luck.

It’ll be even better. It’s a long shot, but I still think Joe Lieberman will be John McCain’s running mate. If so, I will personally thank G-d. Lieberman’s position on abortion will tick off the McCain “base” as much as Ridge’s will. And if that isn’t enough, don’t forget that he’s even worse than a Mormon; he is of the race that killed Our Lord. On the other hand, the Christian Right, eager to be raptured away, will not hold it against him that he is a de facto Israeli agent, and they’re sure to like the fact that he is a sanctimonious twit. But, thanks to Cheney and Bush, even the most benighted evangelicals are becoming war weary, and Lieberman’s bellicosity is limitless. “Conservatives” of all stripes will rejoice in the fact that Lieberman is not above using traditional anti-Semitic slurs against Obama; for them, Muslims, especially secret Muslims, are the new Jews. Nevertheless, I think Lieberman will cost McCain votes. His anti-Muslim bigotry and his overt religiosity will not cancel out his position on abortion and his war mongering. In the end, Lieberman will therefore appeal only to hapless “independents,” hankering for “bipartisanship,” and to the ever-diminishing ranks of reckless neo-cons. This prospect makes it a lot easier for those of us who don’t want to vote for the lesser evil and his coterie of Clintonites to cast protest votes.

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Then, there’s the other, much less evil, Joe. Inside tipsters – for example, the pundits on “Countdown” last night (August 13) – now think that Barack Obama is going to name Joe Biden to be his running mate. That cloud too has a silver lining: if Obama does this, then Biden won’t be Secretary of State. But it is a dispiriting prospect nevertheless, even for those of us who harbor no illusions about Obama.

The pundits’ speculation is based on the naming of former Virginia governor Mark Warner to give the keynote address at the Denver infomercial later this month. Supposedly, that takes Virginia’s current governor, Tim Kaine, off the list; apparently, on the grounds that you can’t have more than one Virginian speaking in prime time. How far we’ve come since the Constitutional Convention!

In any case, between Biden and Kaine, even I’d have to go for Biden. And I’d certainly go for him over Evan Bayh – an even more ardent Bush aider and abettor than Hillary Clinton. As he pursues the office, Biden’s motto should be: “Better than Bayh.” Bayh was an ardent supporter of the Bush War in Iraq. Then, when he had the wits to see that the war had gone sour, he turned on the way the war was being waged, not the war itself. Shades of John McCain! Bayh is a Democratic Leadership Council, New Democrat Coalition, National Endowment for Democracy type of Democrat. This side of Joe Lieberman, it doesn’t get much worse. Moreover, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, he looks like the guy whose picture comes with the photo frame you buy in the drug store. In other words, vote-grabbing charisma is not his strength.

So if it’s between Kaine, Bayh and Biden, as the media reports, then Biden is surely the best (least bad) of the lot. But why not Bill Richardson? His anti-war position is better than Obama’s, not worse; he has “executive experience”; and his foreign policy credentials rival Biden’s. Or, if Obama feels that it would be too much for two “persons of color” to be on the ticket, why not Chris Dodd? In many respects, his politics are as good or better than Richardson’s. For that matter, why not do as Dick Cheney did in 2000 when he was assigned the task of finding a running mate for the Bush boy; let Caroline Kennedy pick herself. The irony would be lovely, especially for die-hard Hillary supporters. In our dynastic political system, a Kennedy on the ticket could well be a vote getter. Meanwhile, compared to Joe Biden, better the devil we don’t know.

[Now that John Edwards has permanently disqualified himself, we have no chance of electing a VP significantly to the left of Obama. I condemn him for it. I feel betrayed. But then I don’t understand the appeal of a party girl turned New Age floozy – especially when a woman of worth is waiting at home. On the other hand, I perfectly understand the appeal of all those trashy bimbos and of that zaftig, racé twenty-something. That was Bill Clinton’s finest, most human, moment.]

Would Hillary be worse than “Plagiarism Joe”? I used to think so. But that was mainly because she promised a full-scale Clinton Restoration. My other reason was that I believe that the Clintons deserve to be defeated abjectly -- it is the least we can do since they will never be brought to justice for their actionable crimes (murderous sanctions, encouragement of ethnic cleansing, wanton bombing, etc.), and never called to account for the political harms they’ve done. But this second reason has vanished as Obamamaniacs fall over each other making nice to that gruesome couple; and the first reason has very nearly vanished too as all but the most vicious of the old Clinton hands (Richard Holbrooke, for example) have already been incorporated into the Obama fold. So it’s not at all clear that Biden would be a better VP than Hillary. She’s off the list, however, so the question is moot. Go Joe!

Meanwhile, for the next few days (or hours?), there is still a chance, albeit a vanishingly small one, that Obama will “think outside the box” for once – and select somebody with better politics than his, or at least better politics than he’s willing to own up to. [Unlike the Clintons, who have been running for President for too long, I think Obama still knows better.] I’m not holding my breath, however.

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