Thursday, May 15, 2008

Would Edwards Make A Good Obama Running Mate?

Written on M.S. Prinsendam, Approaching Malta--

The 2008 presidential race is perhaps the most riveting political story of my life time. Every day brings a fresh perspective, a new twist and turn. If it ends with an Obama election, it will be without peer in modern history.

Today (for me -- this came at 2 a.m. Thursday, Middle Eastern time), there's the endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama by former Sen. John Edwards.

Normally, I'd be comparing the vigorous Chinese response to the Sichuan earthquake with the disgraceful response to the typhoon by the Burmese junta and cautioning on the need for more earthquake preparedness in California. Or I'd be commenting on President Bush's trip to Israel to commemorate the Jewish state's 60th birthday.

But, as usual, the presidential campaign trumps everything. And the Edwards endorsement, coming just when it does, opens up options for Obama if, as appears likely, he is the Democratic presidential nominee.

Up until this well-timed endorsement, it appeared that Obama was increasingly being forced into a position where he would have to take Sen. Hillary Clinton as his running mate, and I've been writing that might be necessary to unite the Democratic party. But Hillary has not waged a very upright campaign, she has pandered, and, in any event, she carries a lot of baggage. Having Bill and Hillary Clinton beside him in the Administration would be a very great burden on Obama. Who wants another menage-a-trois in the White House?

Edwards would be a lot easier match. He could appeal to the same groups of elderly and low-income voters that Hillary has been winning in her campaign, and, judging from his speech last night in Grand Rapids, which CNN showed in its entirety on its international service, he would be prepared this time to make an energetic and resounding defense of the Obama candidacy.

Edwards was criticized in 2004 for not being a sufficient hatchet man for Sen. John Kerry when he was his vice presidential running mate. This go-around, he seems prepared to be, and, while he's ambitious and something of a slick trial lawyer, I still felt last night that he and Obama looked great together.

Edwards waited quite a while to make his endorsement, although as early as the New Hampshire campaign he seemed to be siding with Obama most often against Hillary. He probably would, as Time magazine's Mark Halperin speculates this morning, been of considerable help to Obama in Pennsylvania, Ohio or Texas, had he endorsed him before those primaries.

Still, we can't expect Edwards to be an angel. He has calculated what would be of most use to his own career, and politicians do that. As it was, his endorsement, coming right after the drubbing Obama took in West Virginia, was opportune.

Clinton, by the way, was on her best behavior yesterday when she was interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Had she taken that tone throughout the campaign, she might conceivably have fared better. But running against a Barack Obama would not be a cup of tea for anyone.

Clinton keeps saying she will stay in. It would be far better, both for Obama and her, were she to get out after the last primary in early June. Even some of her prominent supporters, such as Gov. Ed Rendel in Pennsylvania and James Carville now seem prepared to accept that.

--

I've finished reading Bill Boyarsky's book on the life of Jesse Unruh and found it often entertaining and insightful, though I agree with Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters that Bill might have tried to evaluate why the Unruh legislative reforms, the full-time legislature in California, have not proven a success. His book may have been a little longer, but anything anyone does constructively in retirement deserves commendation. Bill worked hard on this book, and should be congratulated.

I had friendly relations with Unruh when he served as state treasurer, and my fondest memory was the day I learned from the news wires that Gov. Jerry Brown's parole board was considering the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. (Unruh had been present at the assassination in the Ambassador Hotel, and in fact had been instrumental in saving Sirhan from injury or death at the hands of the outraged crowd).

Calling Unruh the afternoon I learned of the possible parole, I asked him, "Are you going to let this happen?" "Absolutely not," Unruh replied. "I'm going right across the street to see the parole board, and I can promise you one thing: Sirhan will never get out." I can still remember the emphasis with which Jess used the word, "Never."

Sirhan remains in prison to this day. As an early terrible example of Palestinian terrorism, he should never be free to boast of his crime, and Unruh's determination is something I will always appreciate.

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