Here’s a clue that you’re reading, watching or listening to a political pundit or reporter utterly bereft of story ideas: They are discussing the prospect of a Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton “Dream Ticket.” Type those words into Google and enjoy a torrent of speculative, pointless copy serving no purpose other than to take up sufficient space to sell the ads running alongside it.
Obama’s campaign has repeatedly struck down the prospect of taking Clinton as a running mate. And while Clinton initially appeared receptive to the idea of taking Obama as a running mate, few are raising that option due to the New York senator’s second place standing in the contest for the Democratic nomination.
And yet, these stories persist. Why? Because it’s fun for the media to play psychotherapist and imagine Bill Clinton confined to some tiny office in the White House, chafing against a younger president with less experience than he. It’s fun (for some, though I find it alarming) to imagine egos clashing in the White House the way they have in the campaign. It’s fun to play this twisted form of matchmaker.
The office of Vice President of the United States is an odd one, and the presidential candidate’s process for interviewing running mates is equally weird. So, in searching for a philosophy to select a running mate, I refer to my go-to source for political calculations, the satirical history textbook, “America, The Book: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction” by the writers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
On page 37, the section titled “The Vice President: A Heartbeat Away from Relevance,” has a fictional letter from past vice presidents to the current one. The letter’s first paragraph reads:
“If you are reading this letter you’ve just been elected Vice President. That means your most vital job is already done, namely ‘balancing the ticket.’ Congratulations on being from a region geographically disparate from that of the President. Well done!”
And that, in a nutshell, is the reasoning behind picking a running mate, and also explains why Obama and Clinton will never be on the same ticket. Any candidate from the urban northeast or Midwest – but particularly Democrats – must pick a running mate from the South. Obama won’t pick Hillary as a running mate, not because she is a woman or because she is a Clinton, but because she is a senator from New York. Hillary wouldn’t pick Obama for similar reasons: she’s already got credibility with her Midwest roots and time in Arkansas. She would need a running mate from the Rocky Mountain West or farther southeast.
All of which seems to make John Edwards, who ran a fiery, populist campaign in contrast to Obama’s cool, conciliatory tone, and who announced his endorsement of Obama this week, an ideal pick for a running mate – particularly with his strength in the Appalachian region, where Obama is vulnerable. But anyone who has read this story about the strained relationship between Edwards and John Kerry during their 2004 run would think twice before putting him on another ticket as a V.P. candidate.
So, who should Obama or Clinton pick? I haven’t the foggiest, but probably someone from the South just like Edwards, but not Edwards. Perhaps Obama or Clinton should just ask potential running mates how they feel about the daily duties of Vice President, which consist of, as “America, The Book” puts it, staring at the clock, occasionally casting a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and hitting the bottle:
“The liquor cabinet is usually fully stocked. Go ahead, fix yourself a stiff one. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t spend the better part of your days in a drunken stupor. Just remember, shave for the State of the Union. You have to sit behind the President for that one.”
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