Friday, March 23, 2012

Pro Tips for Vetting Veeps

The NYT's Richard Stevenson reports that Republicans are considering actually vetting their VP candidate this time around. It's sort of amazing how many duds they've had (I don't know how you score Dick Cheney, but they surely picked duds in 1952, 1968, 1988, and 2008).

At any rate, in case they're a little rusty from not having done this since 1996, I'm going to give them a quick hint: google your prospective candidate's name with the word "ethics." If what you get back seems to include the words "...charges" or "...violations" or "formal investigations," you probably want to move on to the next pick. Sure, it's possible that it's all just a massive liberal media conspiracy against her, but perhaps, just perhaps, that's not the fight you want to be having on the campaign trail.

This concludes a short lesson in Pro Tips for Vetting Veeps.

(Yeah, yeah, my real advice is as always just to pick someone that's survived a national campaign with reputation intact -- which in this case mostly narrows it down to The Huck. But it's more fun to do a Palin post).

16 comments:

  1. I think your definition of "dud" is a little inconsistent here - Nixon '52 was a "dud" in the sense of being a short-term political liability, but of course he would go on to be elected to 2 terms as President (as well as nearly elected in 1960), and his legacy remains hotly debated even as he resigned in disgrace. On the other hand, Agnew was a nincompoop and corrupt in the pettiest ways to boot but you can make a pretty good case (as I think Rick Perlstein did in Nixonland) that he was a short-term political asset.

    In a sense, I think the Palin pick was a lot like the Agnew pick, and I wonder if the Internet was around in 1968 if that wouldn't have damaged the Nixon campaign the way the Palin pick hurt McCain.

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    1. Trying to keep the item really short...I'm going to call "dud" if the VP selection is either a significant PR problem during the campaign -- best measured by talk of dumping him/her -- or a significant PR problem in office, with the same definition.

      So the ones I mentioned, plus Eagleton and Ferraro on the Dem side. Edwards gets a pass, although again I'm open to arguing it.

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    2. Edwards....REALLY tough call. Are his problems knowable prior to November 2004? Since not elected, we won't know the PR problem in office. I don't recall ANY talk of dumping him in 2004. And, it's notable that nothing came out during that campaign. So, I think the pass is correct.

      However, was there significant talk of dumping Palin in 2008? I don't recall any. Naturally, she was an absolute train wreck. But, I'm not sure that "talk of dumping" is the only measure we should employ.

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    3. No, but there was talk to have her announce that, should McCain actually die, they would have Palin pledge not to ascend to the presidency. That's we-want-to-dump-her-but-we-can't talk.

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    4. >was there significant talk of dumping Palin in 2008?

      Define "significant." Several pundits raised the possibility, most famously Kathleen Parker. Intrade bet on it almost as soon as Palin was selected, and I seem to remember a point where the betters saying she'd be dumped reached a majority.

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    5. Edwards and Lieberman were both bad picks, because neither was willing to subordinate themselves for the sake of the ticket. Lieberman was too addicted to his own sense of himself as a moral bipartisan wise man, and he helped severely fuck up the Gore campaign's recount campaign. Edwards was just a constant self-absorbed prick, who was basically running for president for 2008 from the moment Kerry picked him, and was happy to leak unflattering stories about Kerry to the press. I wasn't impressed with either of them.

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  2. Roy Perkins, impartial dogcatcherMarch 23, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    I think that you are being too kind to Jack Kemp. Yes, compared to Agnew, Quayle, and Palin, he looks good. However, though there was a brief spurt of enthusiasm when he was chosen (I remember Fred Barnes on TV, detailing the chain of events that would follow directly from this to guarantee Dole's election), he was a damp squib of a candidate. He had his own set of issues, and could (and did) talk happily for hours about them, but he could not even pretend an interest in anything else--which was unfortunate, because Dole wasn't running on his issues.

    Also, there was a distinct lack of chemistry between the two men. Yes, I know, "chemistry" is very easy to over-rate (there was not much between Reagan and Bush, after all), but still, Dole seemed unable to hide his annoyance with Kemp after awhile. Of course, Dole was unable to hide his annoyance with practically everyone, so this might have happened whomever he chose.

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    1. I think people are being too critical of Kemp, Edwards, and Holy Joe. Most of this stuff is just the usual campaign junk about a losing campaign. Not that I think any of them should have been presidents, so there's that, but I don't think they're even close to being duds.

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  3. And, I guess then, the real question is: what is a party to do if The Huck is the only potential VP candidate, and he doesn't seem to want the job?

    I mean, they have to nominate SOMEONE. So, what is the decision rule AFTER positive national campaign experience?

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    1. Matt, you're forgetting Joe Lieberman! I'm sure he's still available.

      The real lesson here is: Abolish the vice presidency. That America's Framers came up with it in the first place is our clearest proof that 18th-century wig powder must have contained too much lead. What should happen in the case of a sudden vacancy, in a modern governing party, is some kind of brief caretakership (probably under the guidance of the lost president's chief of staff), followed by a rapid but orderly leadership contest among the party's senior figures. If our system can't manage that, then the successor should be the leader of the president's party in the Senate or something. But the idea that it should be one person's (possibly rushed and since-regretted) choice is just ridiculous, and a formula for real disaster at some point.

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    2. Jeff, since it probably doesn't happen all that often, I thought it was worth noting that I completely agree with your comment above.

      There's something almost embarrassing about the continued prominence of an office for which the most famous quote from a holder was that its "not worth a bucket of warm piss"

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    3. Very true, CSH. And not to pile on the Framers, but this was a mistake that they discovered almost immediately, and yet, instead of thinking it through and actually fixing it in the 12th Amendment, they came up with the current system -- which, as JB said, has flopped as often as it's worked, and that even Abraham Lincoln couldn't get right. And then later we get this cockamamie line of succession that passes through the Speaker to the "president pro tem of the Senate," a position no one's even heard of. It's been one design failure after another, as if Microsoft had followed Windows 95 with Windows ME with Windows Vista. Embarrassing, yes.

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    4. I hate the current succession system after the VP. But I'm OK with the VP. I mean, I think Truman, TR, Coolidge, and LBJ fit in reasonably among the group of all 20th century presidents (Ford is sort of a special case).

      The 19th century had a couple real disasters, true.

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    5. Of course, the 19th century had a few disasters who were elected to the office as well...well, I guess the 20th century did, too...and at least one (elected *and* re-elected) so far in the 21st...

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    6. That's "elected to the office of President..."

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    7. I'm not sure it was firmly decided that the vice president wouldn't fill the office temporarily until the death of William Henry Harrison in 1841. The Constitution says the vice president serves until a new president is elected, but it doesn't say that has to be the next normally scheduled election.

      Regarding a vice presidential choice, I understand that, according to polls, if Romney picks the governor in Virginia, he loses Virginia by seven points instead of eight. There's a possibility!

      By the way, Rachel Maddow has picked up the "Rommney is a liar" theme.

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