First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
The Party Tickets
I belong to a group of guys who get together to discuss articles from magazines and basically solve the problems of the world. (We're certain that the FBI is spying on our meetings and passing along the information to Rush Limbaugh and George Soros, the two dominant leaders in American today.)
We decided that in our meeting near the end of February, we'd discuss the presidential candidates. At the time, it seemed like this was going to be a hotly contested race in both parties right up to the convention, and we'd have at least five, probably six candidates to talk about.
Now it looks like three, maybe two.
On the Democratic side, Obama is winning steadily, a groundswell of support, probably owing to the fact that Democrats are catching on that they can have a candidate with all the moral flexibility of Hillary Clinton and almost none of the flaming hatred from the electorate.
On the Republican side, Huckabee is still riding his train of smug bigotry, but he has almost no chance of getting the nomination -- or a place on the ticket.
I'm a Democrat who has no intention of voting for any Democrat in the general election, because both surviving candidates are committed to plunging us into a devastating world war against jihadist Islam by shamefully abandoning our unfinished campaign in Iraq.
But when the North Carolina primary rolls around -- in May -- I will definitely go to the polls and vote for Barack Obama. After all, even though the election of either Democrat would have devastating consequences for a generation, it still might happen. Therefore I have a responsibility to do my bit to make sure that the Democratic candidate is the best my party has to offer.
Obama is, by far, the best Democrat that had a serious run for President this year. (Lieberman was not available to us, alas.)
Yes, I know Obama remains a cipher, avoiding divisive stands on every issue but one -- the war, where his position reveals him to have as much understanding of world affairs as your average five-year-old child in 1960 (or college student in 2008).
Yes, I know he has never governed anything. But then, neither have Hillary or McCain.
Yes, like Hillary and Edwards, Obama has been running for President from the moment he took office in the Senate, so his voting record there, like Hillary's and Edwards's, reveals only what they think the voters will want to see.
But Obama does have a track record in Illinois, and from what I've seen, he was an effective legislator who knew how to compromise to get half a loaf (which is, as we all know, better than none). He works hard. People like him and trust him.
His wife is tough as nails, and smart, but we're getting none of that "two for the price of one" nonsense the Clintons put us through. In other words, Mrs. Obama is not running for President.
The second most important attribute Obama has is this: He is not Hillary Clinton.
The most important attribute is this: He is not John F. Kennedy.
When I read the section about the Kennedy years in Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, a history of the CIA, I was retroactively terrified.
I had known, from reports that surfaced here and there, that Kennedy was probably the most dangerous, untrustworthy man ever to have the power of the United States military under his control.
Now, however, I understand that from the moment he took office, he was shamefully obsessed with his ability to order the overthrow of other governments and the assassination of enemies -- while committing every single constitutional "stretch" for which Nixon and Bush have been vilified -- and worse.
Obama, for all his stealth about his positions on the issues (though how else do you get the nomination in the ideologically fanatical Democratic Party -- while competing with the sneaky and ethically challenged Clintons?), has not a sign of macho madness in his personal history.
We know this because you can be sure, if there were the slightest blot on his escutcheon, the Clintons would have had surrogates trumpeting it in the media for the past month. (Though I know some people who think Hillary is just holding back on smearing Obama until the timing is right.)
David Letterman, the political idiot of late-night television, the kind of man who chooses the team to root for by the color of their uniform because he has no understanding of the game, has declared that he thinks Hillary/Obama would be the "Dream Team" for the Democratic Party.
Here's why he's wrong.
1. If Hillary is the nominee, then the Democrats will lose. Forget what the polls are saying right now. Hillary is so cold, arrogant, hateful, and genuinely bad with people, and her positions are so transparently fake, that only by nominating a moral cretin like Huckabee could the Republicans fail to win.
2. If the Democrats lose, the last thing Obama wants is to be on the ticket. Because you can be sure that he will be blamed. "It was just too soon to have an African-American on the ticket," people will say -- or at least Hillary's people will say. "Hillary should have gone more mainstream."
3. And even if Hillary wins, Obama would be the most-ignored vice-president since Dan Quayle. Hillary's real vice-president would be Bill Clinton. Obama would be lucky to be invited to the inauguration.
4. If Obama declines a Hillary invitation to be her running mate, but then campaigns assiduously for her -- and not just in the black community -- then whether she wins or loses, he is still the guy who nearly took the nomination from her and he's a party loyalist and he's still very young. 2016 isn't that far away, and he's stronger keeping his distance from the Clintons while building up a track record in the Senate than being their lapdog.
5. In fact, Obama should seriously think of running for governor of Illinois. I know, it didn't work out so well for Nixon in California in 1962, but if Obama has actually governed something he will be far more qualified -- and have far better understanding of how to get control of our berserk executive branch.
On the other hand, if Obama is the nominee, he cannot have Hillary on the ticket.
1. She would say no anyway; Hillary has lived in the White House. She ain't going to Blair House now.
2. She would bring all the same negatives to the ticket that kept her from winning the Democratic nomination.
3. Hillary's only qualification for anything is being Wife Of Bill. Obama doesn't need any Clinton baggage to carry into the campaign. What in the world would he do with Bill Clinton as Second Lady?
4. If Obama won and Hillary was, for some reason, his vice-president, she would be uncontrollable. She would make her own foreign policy. She would act as though her press conferences were more important than his.
5. Only complete cynics and Vince-Foster-was-murdered conspiracy theorists would suggest that Obama would need to double his Secret Service protection. I am too classy even to bring that up, except as a joke. (Ha ha.)
The first thing we have to understand is that McCain is not the inevitable nominee.
1. He is an old man with a choleric disposition. He may blow a gasket, physically or emotionally, before the convention and make it plain to all that he cannot be the Republican nominee.
2. Who knows? Maybe the Republican Party has a death wish and will rally behind Huckabee as the "true (but not an evil Mormon) conservative." In which case, what does it matter who his running mate is? Might as well be Curtis LeMay. Except that Curtis LeMay is dead. (Technically, the Constitution doesn't forbid that, as long as he's a dead natural-born citizen over 35 who has not been elected president twice before.)
If the McCain candidacy -- or just McCain -- falls apart, then all those Romney delegates are still there, pledged to Romney. And don't forget Giuliani as the go-to moderate candidate after McCain.
But assuming that McCain manages to keep from imploding before the convention, whom will he tap for his running mate? Whom should he tap?
Some say he needs to reach out to the right wing of the Republican Party -- all the people who voted for Romney and Huckabee. After all, together they got way more votes than McCain in almost every state.
There are conservatives who have declared that if McCain is the nominee, they'll sit out the election.
By that strategy, McCain should choose as his running mate a true-blue Republican, preferably from a southern state.
But I think that's crazy.
Take a good look at whom McCain will be running against. An anti-war social liberal. And the more the media tout McCain's opponent, the crazier it will make the Christian Right and southern white voters. With McCain making sufficient conservative noises, the far right of the Republican Party will be thoroughly energized no matter who his running mate is.
If It's Hillary he's facing, the media won't even be so very against him. Hillary is such a repulsive human being that the media who have to be with her all the time thoroughly detest her. Just as cold-fish and compulsive-liar Al Gore found that he didn't get quite the free ride from the media he expected in 2000 (they didn't "love" him until Gore tried to steal the Florida election), Hillary would find the media much more inclined to find in favor of McCain.
So against Hillary, McCain doesn't need to energize the far right of the Republican Party (i.e., the Republican Party).
Let's face it, reaching to the extreme ideologues of your party is how you get the nomination, not how you win the election.
Reach for the Center
What McCain has to do in choosing his running mate is look to the center of the American electorate. The moderates. The undecideds. The Democrats who, like me, think that the Islamofascists' proclaimed goals are too scary to treat cavalierly.
The center is where elections are won.
McCain's dream running mate is already in place and perfectly obvious.
It's not Romney -- he would bring to the general election all the negatives that kept him from getting the Republican nomination: He's a Mormon, he's a Mormon, and he's a Mormon.
It's up to Romney to spend the next four or eight years turning himself into Mr. Republican, campaigning for, shmoozing with, and paying for ads to help elect Republican evangelicals as well as moderates in state elections around the country. Until he accomplishes that, he's useless to a Republican national ticket.
Huckabee? That's a sure way to drive undecided voters straight into the arms of Obama or Hillary.
What McCain has to keep in mind is that he's old enough that voters are going to think very seriously about who his successor would be if he died in office.
And the Republican Party should think very seriously about what would happen if McCain died on the campaign trail before the election.
You don't put your B team in that slot.
The only plausible running mate for McCain is the other candidate who brings a similar eclecticism to the ticket: Rudy Giuliani.
There are things about Rudy that make conservatives' skin crawl. Some of them really might sit out the election. Worse yet, they might even stage a rebellion at the convention and try to nominate somebody more to their liking.
But it won't matter. If the far right of the Republican party makes it extremely clear that they hate the idea of Giuliani as their vice-presidential nominee, it will only bring more votes to the Republican ticket from the great center of the voting population.
McCain can only hope that his vice-presidential nominee provokes a huge huff from the far right. It will make their ticket, without question, appear to be the moderate one. Meanwhile, the Democratic nominee, no matter what, will be celebrated by the most fanatical members of the Democratic Party as "their" candidate, thus allowing McCain to paint that nominee as the candidate of extremism on the Left.
With the Democrats fielding an anti-war candidate no matter what, and Rudy and McCain both tied to victory in the war against Islam, they will be very convincing when they label their opponent as another Neville Chamberlain, bringing us a huge world war because of their refusal to fight a far cheaper (in life and treasure) war on enemy turf now.
And Giuliani will match McCain in the eyes of independent voters as a straight-talking, straight-shooting guy who doesn't care what the ideologues think, he's going to tell it like it is.
Besides, Rudy is likeable, and McCain isn't; Rudy isn't a war hero, but the penumbra of 9/11 still clings to him; above all, they are moderates.
America hates to lose wars.
America likes to elect moderates.
(Conservatives would immediately answer me with the example of Ronald Reagan. But please remember the two presidential elections Reagan won. In the first, his opponent, Carter, was the candidate of defeat, having been humiliated by the Ayatollah Khomeini for more than a year.
(And in the second, Reagan didn't win by pushing a conservative agenda. His campaign was as empty as Obama's. His slogan was "It's morning in America." Reagan played, not the ideologue, but the charming old uncle.
(And his running mate was Bush Sr., the moderate whom the party's conservatives had rejected.)
It doesn't matter what the polls say right now. Polls in February have nothing to do with what happens in November.
McCain is the candidate of victory. He is the candidate of moderate politics.
The Democrat will be the candidate of defeat. The Democrat will be the candidate of political correctness and divisiveness.
So as long as McCain promises us that, in the event of his death, his successor will be just as centrist in his ideas and just as committed to victory, the great center of American politics will belong to him, and the Republicans will win.
And not just at the top of the ticket. Republicans will retake both houses of Congress on the coattails of such a strong moderate ticket.
And then we might just win the war and keep the world safe from Muslim totalitarianism.
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