The Veepstakes

Michael Graham asks who should be at John McCain’s side come November.

Here’s my three-point test. The VP nominee must:

1-Be perceived as “ready to be president” immediately. One of the major issues of the ’08 general election will be John McCain’s age. That Washington Post story about McCain being required to get a special life insurance policy will come back in the fall, I guarantee.

2– Add a state to the GOP column. If the GOP has any hope of holding the White House, it will likely involve state by state fighting and getting smart, lucky or both in one or two key states. A Great Lakes state maybe, or Florida. . . .

3–Be a woman or a member of a minority group. It’s tragic but true. 2008 is the year of identity politics. It is dominating the political conversation this year.

To me, #1 and #3 add up to Condoleezza Rice.

She has more foreign policy experience than the two surviving Democrats together. Hillary Clinton’s experience jet-setting around to feel-good conferences as her husband’s stand-in counts for nothing, and Obama knows as much about foreign policy as you would expect from someone who apparently thinks all he needs to know he learned in kindergarten.

None of them has significant executive experience, but Rice was the provost at Stanford, and the Stanford faculty are a lot harder to manage than the hand-picked members of Hillary’s health care task force, and we all know how well that turned out.


A Republican black probably will not trump a Democratic black, given that blacks are going to vote overwhelmingly for the Democrat anyway, whoever it is. But a black candidate might shift a few of them.

A Republican woman may not trump a Democratic woman, but Rice should be competitive, and there’s the further point that if she runs, win or lose, she’ll be a stronger contender for future presidential nominations.

The Republicans can wait to name their VP candidate at their convention in St. Paul, after the Democratic nominee is chosen, whether at the convention in Denver or before. If Rice were not available, it might be prudent to delay until they know who they’re running against. But there she is. McCain doesn’t need to wait.

(H/T Instapundit)

About linsee

Linda Seebach retired in 2007 from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where she was an editorial writer and columnist.
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6 Responses to The Veepstakes

  1. Hey Linda,

    Good post. I agree with the upside to Rice as VP material – foreign policy and executive experience, woman and black as positives, etc… – but I think you ignore the obvious negative, and it’s a huge one: 8 years as lackey and mouthpiece for one of the worst Presidents in American history represents excessive baggage. At best, she could be seen as loyal. At worst, as hollowly opportunistic and a dupe.

    Even within the Republican party, there are many who have expressed the desire to separate from any “Bush taint” for the immediate and foreseeable future. Rice will probably never be able to distance herself far enough from that stink to win a national election; especially not now when that haze hangs heaviest on the political scene.

    Thanks for the great writing. I enjoy your insights and obvious intelligence.

  2. linsee says:

    Hi, Brendon, and welcome to Bella, too.*

    I agree there’s a useful discussion to be had about the extent to which Rice’s association with the Bush administration is a “taint,” it just wasn’t particularly germane to the topic of the post, which was her fit with Michael Graham’s three criteria.

    However, there’s also a useful discussion to be had about how to frame discussions, and since you seem to wade into that topic with great enthusiasm (and good humor)*, I hope you’ll indulge me in trying to have it with you here.

    People who write persuasive essays for a living (that would be editorial writers and columnists, including me for the past 15 years) generally operate under the assumption that the people you’re trying to persuade are the ones who don’t already agree with you. I mean, otherwise what’s the point?

    So if you aim to persuade your readers of the truth of proposition Q — it is desirable to expand the federal role in paying for children’s health insurance, say, to take a recent example — it is pointless to cite in support a far more general proposition P that the federal government should underwrite all health insurance. Yes, P implies Q, but so what? People who believe P already believe Q, you don’t need their support.

    What’s that to do with Condi Rice? You wrote, “. . . I think you ignore the obvious negative, and it’s a huge one: 8 years as lackey and mouthpiece for one of the worst Presidents in American history represents excessive baggage.”

    What’s Q here? “Holding office in the Bush administration is a negative.” Not self-evident, but arguable.

    What’s P? “Bush is one of the worst presidents in American history.”

    Oh, do be serious. Just among W’s 10 postwar predecessors, we count Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. And maybe Gerald Ford; it’s hard to remember anything Ford did.

    I’d personally put JFK on that list, because if the press had collectively conceived its job in his time as it did during the Clinton administration, Camelot would be just as historically suffused with sexual sleaze.

    Well, so was Arthurian Camelot. But never mind; I don’t need to pick fights.

    I’ll spot you JFK, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Not such shabby company. Don’t overlook the 19th century, either.

    It’s just that you don’t need to have that grand-historical fight in order to argue that Rice would be a handicap for McCain.

    Pejorative terms are often best avoided unless you’re supposed to be preaching to the choir. Mouthpiece. Lackey. Hollowly opportunistic. A dupe.

    How does that language help you with winning over those who are inclined to think well of Condi Rice?

    * For those from away, inside Northfield joke, for which see, especially comments #51, 52, 54 and 57.

  3. Right Hook says:

    I disagree about the suitability of Condi Rice as a VP on the ticket. She has shown some RINO tendencies and has given far too much deference to the UN. She also comes off as too academic to a lot of people.

    I don’t think the nominee absolutely has to be a female or minority. He or she does have to be unquestionably conservative, ready for the presidency, probably from the Southeast, and without strong ties to the Bush administration. Mark Sanford from NC and Haley Barbour have been mentioned by some. Perhaps even Fred Thompson would fit the bill if he showed the energy he did in his final debate.

  4. Linda wrote:

    “What’s P? “Bush is one of the worst presidents in American history.”

    Oh, do be serious. Just among W’s 10 postwar predecessors, we count Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. And maybe Gerald Ford; it’s hard to remember anything Ford did.”

    I think history will vindicate my opinion to a great extent. I’m comfortable leaving that question to more talented historians and analysts than myself.

    As for Clinton being worse than Bush, the Younger?

    Hold on, Linda, I think I need to change my pants. Yes, oh dear, I’ve pissed myself with laughter.

    Obviously, we are dealing with some unresolvable differences of opinion.

    I’ll stand by my “pejorative terms” in my description of Rice. To the extent that she allows herself to be dragged along by disastrous foreign policies in the name of lofty political position, she represents hollow opportunism. To the extent that she is genuinely persuaded by the administration’s claims of effectiveness, she’s a dupe.

    If she’s honest with herself, she, too, will suffer Colin Powell Regret Syndrome (CPRS) when she’s out of office.

    I feel bad for Rice, as I felt bad for Powell. I know they don’t need my sympathy, but I offer it up anyway. The same way one feels bad for a dog who lies by his master’s side long after his master has died. (Pun intended.)

  5. linsee says:

    @ Brendon Etter, 2/11 12:07 p.m.

    Brendon, dahling, you’re not listening.

    I said I liked Condoleezza Rice as a VP prospect, you said you didn’t. Fine so far; you are under no obligation to agree with me, nor I with you.

    You need not even feel any obligation to declare your intention to stand by your pejorative terms; nobody is demanding that you change them. (Though I do note that in your first post you say that Rice is “At worst, as hollowly opportunistic and a dupe (emphasis mine).” while in your follow-up post you characterize these two possibilities as mutually exclusive.)

    But never mind; the issue on the table is why you choose to express your opinion in a manner to make others less likely to agree with you. If the limit of your aspirations is to make sure people know what your opinions are, then I suppose it doesn’t matter how ineffectual the manner of their expression is. If you would like your opinions to have any influence, it does matter.

    I write with intent to influence, and I don’t mean by precipitating a dry-cleaning emergency

    And by the way, I must express my sympathy for your terrible affliction. I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered a case of philosophical incontinence before. It must be awful that you can’t risk going out in public anywhere you might encounter someone who disagrees with you.

    As to the comparable merits of Clinton and Bush43, you say, “I’m comfortable leaving that question to more talented historians and analysts than myself,” but you self-evidently are not comfortable, or you wouldn’t rush in to challenge the first differing opinion that happens along.

    The question on the table is, why do it like this? Assuming the dry-cleaning emergency is merely rhetorical hyperbole, why do you think it’s rhetorically effective? It’s entirely free of substantive argumentation. If you think my opinion is funny, you can say so, but why should I care what you think? Is expressing yourself in such a juvenile fashion likely to make me, or anyone else, more likely to care what you think?

    Or has it never occurred to you to consider the matter?

  6. Linda,

    Prove the effectiveness of your writing style to me. Show me your legions of converts.

    You’ve accomplished nothing on my front for instance. I doubt you’ve influenced others. You ignored the largest negative against Rice, the single biggest reason she should not be chosen as a running mate – her Bush affliction – and then you say that me bringing that up was irrelevant to convincing people she was not a good VP candidate?

    I pointed out a glaring flaw in your “persuasive” argument. Ignoring the weakness of a candidate does not a comprehensive, convincing case make.

    As for the effectiveness of my writing, I find humor to be much more effective in influencing people than dry editorializing.

    Ask yourself, how many people read your editorials, or even the New York Times editorials, versus how many read, watch, listen to and are influenced by John Stewart, Letterman, Stephen Colbert, the Onion, etc…

    Which are more effective, Linda, words that, somewhat shallowly, only frame one side of the argument (“Rice is a good VP candidate because of X and Y.”) or words that acknowledge a more encompassing view and do so with a spot of satire (“Rice would be good because of X and Y, but she also reeks of Eau de Shrub.”)?

    And don’t make me piss myself again with your well-worded but empty denials of the obvious.

    Face it, you’re mad because I called Bush, Jr. arguably the worst President in American history. This was an obvious opinion, but you felt it was important to state that he was not. Therefore, I don’t think your counterargument was about “framing” the discussion, as much as simple political disagreement. However, even though I made this apparently horrendous misstep, this egregious, non-persuasive overstatement, people who do not agree with me will probably recognize the strength of my argument over yours, because I presented a more complete picture.

    I acknowledged Rice’s strengths and called out her unfortunate burden. A burden that you could easily witness if you looked at something as simple as Bush’s approval ratings.