Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gore Would Be Hillary's Best Choice For VP

Former Sen. Albert Gore, who won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming last week, is probably better qualified to be President than anyone presently in the race in either major political party.

But, as Michael Finnegan outlined in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, for reasons of primary qualification deadlines, lack of preparation, lack of financing, and his own seeming determination not to put himself through this meat-grinder again, Gore in all likelihood will not toss his hat into the ring.

So, I have another idea, which might seem too far out to some. It seems to me that Gore, vice president of the U.S. under President Bill Clinton, would make the best possible running mate for Sen. Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket in 2008.

I know, as very fully laid out in Vanity Fair's November, 2007, edition in an article by Sally Bedell Smith, that Gore's relationship with the Clintons, and particularly Hillary, became poor in the last years of the Clinton presidency. In large part, this was because as Hillary emerged in her own right as a national political figure, and decided to run for Senator from New York state, she was more and more perceived as a rival of Gore. She even took from his fund raising to some extent in the 2000 presidential race, and, then, at the end, Gore decided not to even ask Bill Clinton to campaign for him. This was ostensibly to put some political distance between himself and a man whose second term had been tainted by the Lewinsky and other impeachment scandals. But the fact is that if Clinton had campaigned for Gore, if only in Arkansas, Gore would have won the electoral college as well as the popular vote, and been elected President. The race was so close that just winning Arkansas (much less his home state of Tennessee) would have put Gore over the top.

Now, it might immediately be said that since the Clintons came in the end not to like Gore, this rules him out for the vice presidency, and he does not have an inclination in any event to repeat an earlier stage of his life.

But the fact is that frequently in past history, some one has been chosen as a running mate not because he or she was liked by the presidential candidate, but simply to balance the ticket or bring something to it it doesn't have already. This was certainly the case in 1960 when John F. Kennedy took Lyndon Johnson on the ticket with him. It was true also in 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower selected Richard Nixon as his running mate, and there are other examples. Franklin D. Roosevelt took John Nance Garner of Texas on the ticket with him in 1932. Theodore Roosevelt was put on William McKinley's ticket in 1900, in part for balance, but in part to "get rid" of him as a political figure that seemed to menace mainstream Republicanism by shunting him to a "do-nothing" vice presidency.

Of course, sometimes it doesn't work out as planned. When McKinley and Kennedy were assassinated, Roosevelt and Johnson became presidents.

It might also be suggested that Gore would simply tell Clinton no, saying he had already done that. But the fact is that when the President, or a prospective President, calls on someone, the person usually feels constrained to say yes. It's not easy to refuse a strong request by the head of the ticket.

It seems rather obvious, also, that Clinton needs a settled figure of experience as a running mate, and one that is not going to add to her challenge of becoming the first woman to be elected President.

If Clinton takes her challenger, Sen. Barack Obama, onto the ticket, or even Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, she finds herself in some people's eyes, presenting what my L.A. Times colleague, Nick Williams, Jr., used to call a "double negative."

The Times' old View section didn't simply like stories about people who had just one handicap, Williams would say. It liked to find people with two: mentally-retarded Hispanics, atheistic Jews, etc.

So, if you assume, as I do, that Clinton is going to have to jump some hurdles to become President, because of her sex, it would be silly for her to present to the country a ticket with the first woman AND the first African-American, or the first woman AND the first Hispanic. Even in what looks increasingly like a Democratic year, that could simply turn out to be too much for the bigots to take, and we have more bigots than many of us imagine.

But if Clinton, who does look more and more as the most likely Democratic nominee, does not take Obama or Richardson, who will she take? Certainly, not former Sen. John Edwards, who is not as appealing to the electorate now as he was when he was Sen. John Kerry's running mate.

Well, there are any number of possibilities other than Gore, and vice presidential candidates have not always been all that well known. But I still feel Gore would bring substance to the ticket, and give voters new reasons to vote for it.

Would they be able to get along in the end? Well, politics frequently in the past, and certainly will in the future, makes strange bedfellows. I think another Clinton-Gore ticket would make sense, even if it did seem slightly old hat.

Gore, as vice president, could do even more prominent work on the global warming issue, than he has already done, and could be a new Clinton Administration's ambassador of good will on what it bound to become an ever more important issue. That too, I think, would appeal to him.

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No one, absolutely no one, has done the job of reporting the Iraq war as well as the New York Times' John Burns. Today, in the newspaper's Week in Review section, Burns writes about giving shelter at the Times' Baghdad bureau to starving cats, driven to his office by the atrocious violence in the city of Baghdad.

Now that Burns has moved on to the Times' London bureau, he has managed to take several of the cats with him, despite all the onerous bureaucratic restrictions, a six-month quarantine in Britain, and so forth.

I loved this story, in part because I love cats myself, have always had one, and my present cat, Skipper, is really a cherished member of my household at age 15. Nothing Burns could have written was as revealing of his admirable, mellow personality as his story about the dozens of cats of the New York Times Baghdad bureau.

The Baghdad cats are, like everyone else, startled by the sounds of suicide bombings. But, Burns writes, they somehow are able to program this sound in their brains, and when they hear more bombings, they don't turn a hair.

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