The Most Insignificant Office

I can’t decide who Barack Obama should choose as his running mate.

I’m sure he’s on the edge of his seat, waiting for my call, but I’ve got nothing to tell him yet. Ken Rudin at NPR discusses the pros and cons of Mrs. Clinton, and a short-list of other possibilities, including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, and Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, among others.

Who do you think it’s gonna be? Who do you think it should be?

The pertinent Clinton question is, will her supporters vote for Obama because they’re Democrats even if she’s not on the ticket? And the question’s corollary: could the vitriol against Clinton get-out-the-vote for the GOP when faced with their own lackluster (to some) candidate?

Although I think Clinton’s bad rap is mostly undeserved, folks do love to hate her, so I would make her the Health Care Czar and move on — betting that Dems love to hate Bush more, and that the chance to put a Democrat in the white house after eight years will get out the Clinton vote, while a less well-known Veep could help keep disaffected conservatives home.

Sebelius and Napolitano are excellent politicians (each was named by Time in 2005 as one of the five best governors in the U.S.), but I worry that the news story would be, in this race, that Obama picked a woman for a running mate that wasn’t Clinton (although Sebelius, along with Obama’s Kansas roots, might get the Dems those six electoral votes).

Jim Webb, the conservative-ish Senator from Virginia, is an interesting choice. He makes sense geographically, as Presidential candidates often try for a Veep from a different region of the country, and VA’s got thirteen electoral votes up for grabs — at a dead heat in the latest polling. Plus, he’s a decorated Vietnam veteran, which might bolster the ticket’s national security ethos against McCain, who is, of course, the more well-known veteran.

But, on the other hand, Webb’s conservative. (Ish.) Anti war but pro gun. Hard on corporations, but hard on immigration, too. It’s refreshing to see a politician from either side have a complex take on the issues, but, for me, I like it better when politicians take my side.

Webb brings up a good question; how important is the Vice’s politics anyway, considering, as VP John Adams, once said, that his or her job is “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived?” If somebody helps electoral math, do their stances have to add up?

(A final word on Webb: although he’s pro gun and was Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, this does warm my heart — when Bush asked him, about his son serving in Iraq, “How’s your boy?” Webb said, “That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President.” Plus Phillip Thompson, the aide who was arrested for carrying Webb’s loaded gun, in a briefcase, into the Senate Office Building in March? A high school friend of my brother’s.)

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