POLITICO reports that one person John McCain is considering as a running-mate is Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture during George W. Bush's first term. Well, okay. She's currently head of UNICEF, the UN agency that helps kids, and there's nothing wrong with that. If I wanted a Republican, I'd probably pick Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet, but he may have spoiled his chances by urging the candidates to talk about the future of Iraq, not just brag about the success of the surge. That seemed aimed more at McCain, who talks about the surge a lot more than Barack Obama, who doesn't.
And if I wanted a Republican woman, I'd certainly have thought of former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman before I thought of Veneman. But so what? It's a guessing game. What does a number two do for a ticket anyway?
The old wisdom was that he carries an important state for you, but that hasn't happened much lately. If you go back to 1960, sure--Texan Lyndon Johnson helped John Kennedy in Texas and the rest of the South where that Boston accent might have sounded fearfully exotic to the voters. But since then? I don't think so. And, of course, that year Richard Nixon ran with Henry Cabot Lodge, who was as New England as Kennedy and sounded it.
Ideological balance? I don't think so. In the first place vice presidents don't really have any power. John Adams called it 'the most insignificant office ever conceived of by the mind of man.' John Nance Garner once said it wasn't worth 'a bucket of warm spit,' though one of the letters in 'spit' is, I believe, incorrect. As a springboard to the presidency? Didn't do much for Walter Mondale or Al Gore.
In fact, it is insignificant, with one screaming exception. 'I am nothing,' one VP is supposed to have said, 'but I may be all.' And of course that happens. Think of Harry Truman: FDR dies and a little-known senator has to decide whether to use the atom bomb, has to help form NATO and the UN, integrates the armed forces, and so on and so on--one of the most powerful presidents, in terms of decisions he had to make, we're ever had..
The other extreme? What would have happened if Richard Nixon had resigned and his VP pick, a crook named Spiro Agnew had taken over? Fortunately, Agnew was uncovered and drummed out of office first (pleaded no contest to one felony charge and was allowed to leave town). When Nixon resigned the office, Gerald Ford, a man everyone knew and trusted, took over.
So sure, it's not worth much. Until it is.
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