In a few hours, Senator Barack Obama will make the announcement we've been waiting for all summer. Through text and email messages his campaign supporters will be notified of Dick Cheney's possible replacement this winter. The name Cheney makes me want to write a ten page essay on how not to be a Vice-President, but I'll restrain myself tonight. It's not clear what significant impact Obama's choice will have on the campaign. However, it would still be a plus if his choice is someone who will further unify the party.
An article in The New York Times yesterday discussed prospective choices and subsequent consequences on the campaign. The article named current Virginia governor Tim Kaine and Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana and Joseph Biden of Delaware as prospective choices. Of the candidates, I am more familiar with Joseph Biden. I heard Senator Biden speak for the first time almost 5 years ago on the Charlie Rose Show. Hearing him speak gave me a Richard Holbrooke moment (there's nothing like hearing experts discuss foreign policy). He was eloquent, poised and moderately charming. I can almost say I've idolized Biden since then. His expertise in foreign policy will clearly make up for deficiencies Obama has in this arena. Regarding Governor Kaine, I heard him speak for the first time after the Virginia Tech massacre. His speech was not only very eloquent and well paced but was comforting and unifying. I was reminded of Guiliani post September 11. Kaine's speech gave the Commonwealth of Virginia the assurance they needed. Now, I am quite unfamiliar with Senator Bayh and do not remember if I've heard him speak before. Nonetheless, to be considered for the office of Vice-President though is some indication that he has something to bring to the table.
Earlier on in the campaign most people hoped for a Democratic ticket that had a mix of Senators Obama, Edwards and Clinton. We can almost guess that neither Clinton nor Edwards will be on the ticket. Clinton for one does not seem to have the ability to unify the party. Although Senator Clinton is incredibly intelligent and a good politician and would undoubtedly have made a fine President she is just not well liked. Ask Willy Loman. If you haven't read Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," and can't quite understand the benefits of being well liked, then fix your mind on an episode of "The Hills." Politics is a popularity contest. Then, there's Edwards. We went from questioning how he would handle his wife's illness if he got elected to wondering how much of the budget mght be used to pay his occasional playmate.
So for all the buzz, how significant is the American Vice-President? The answer is not much. Most Vice-Presidential candidates do the most work during the campaign than they do once in office. Now I might be exaggerating but really what do the Vice-Presidents do? Few Presidents in office had pleasant relationships with their Vice Presidents. Ask Richard Nixon what he thought of Spiro Agnew. Agnew and Nixon had perhaps the most bizarre of all relationships in modern political history. Nixon made sure Agnew was kept well away from him and excluded Agnew from his decision making processes. For a Vice-President, Agnew was not even part of Nixon's inner circle. At one point they communicated by trading notes back and forth. Or consider Clinton and Gore. How on earth did they ever meet? The two men together do not seem as though they had any chemistry. I find it even hard to picture them as friends who met at the PTA. I'm not sure what the relationship is now but I bet Gore hates Clinton's guts. I've tried to imagine how Clinton told Gore about Monica Lewinsky. I wonder what Gore must have told Bill? Given these examples, the United States does not have a very rosy history of a President who worked well with his Vice-President. Although it seems as though Dick Cheney broke the mold. He seems to have a good working and personal relationship with George Bush, although I wouldn't call him a Vice-President. Most times I forget he is a political figure. He seems constantly removed. Remember him in his parka and boots ensemble at the Holocaust Memorial? Classic.
The United States needs a boost in all respects. Hence, I hope Obama will not make the same historical mistake but will rather choose someone with whom he can work with properly. After having served in an office while in school, the benefit to having a Vice-President you can plan with and delegate responsibilities to is priceless. Politics should never make strange bedfellows but it does. It is quite pointless trying to make a ship go northbound when you have two captains who are not on the same page. I am pretty excited about Obama's selection but I don't want to expect much. This country deserves more than two individuals on an ego-trip who loathe each other but still make for good photographs.