James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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The Democrats’ best VP choice–and when Obama should name him

Posted by James McPherson on June 20, 2008

Having offered my suggestions for John McCain a couple of days ago, I’ll now do the same for Barack Obama. It seems appropriate especially because of recent articles listing possibilities that include John Edwards, Al Gore, Sam Nunn, John Murtha and Ted Strickland. The Huffington Post and others have handicapped other top prospects, including western governors Janet Napolitano, Brian Schweitzer and Bill Richardson.

I doubt that Edwards or Gore are serious possibilities. Edwards has already failed in an attempt to be VP, and generated no more enthusiasm in this year’s presidential bid. Gore has been there, done that, and is more influential outside of office than he would be as Obama’s second banana.

Hillary Clinton is the obvious favorite of many who seek the so-called “Dream Ticket,” and it’s good that (as announced this morning) she is going to campaign with Obama, but she brings too much baggage for the “change candidate” that Obama claims to be. Besides, I think she’d be a better choice as secretary of state or perhaps attorney general, moving to the Supreme Court as soon as there is an opening (probably about two days after Obama takes the oath of office, if he’s elected). Of course conservatives couldn’t be told that she’d end up on the court before the election, or that would become their major talking point for the coming months.

Napolitano and her Kansas counterpart Kathleen Sebelius offer other strong female leadership possibilities, and both have succeeded in dealing with Republican majorities. Unfortunately neither helps counter Obama’s biggest perceived weakness–a lack of knowledge or experience in foreign policy.

Nunn and Murtha are better options in this regard because of their military experience, but Nunn has been out of the game for so long that few people outside of Georgia likely remember who he is, and Murtha is viewed by too many as a crank and/or a flake. If Obama were to go that route, a better choice would be Virginia Senator Jim Webb or retired General Wesley Clark, who is well known because of his own presidential bid four years ago. He also might help swing disgruntled Clinton supporters because he was a leading figure in her campaign.

The popular and conservative Southerner Webb would be a good choice (though it might cost the Dems a hard-won Senate seat in the long run) and Richardson may have the widest range of applicable experience of anyone available. Unfortunately, Richardson is unable to do one thing that my top choice can do: attack the Bush administration (and its continuation under McCain) in a credible, logical manner while not turning off listeners.

My preferred candidate, Joe Biden, happens to be stronger on both foreign policy and bipartisanship than McCain, and would reduce the exotic feel of the Obama campaign (something a woman or Richardson would be less able to do). Biden loves cameras, and performs well in front of them. Occasionally verbose, he has become increasingly adept at breaking policy into sound bites. More importantly, for a vice presidential nominee (and perhaps especially with Obama’s efforts to maintain niceness), Biden has no qualms about going on the attack when necessary.

If Obama chose Biden as VP, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Republican Chuck Hegel as Secretary of Defense, the administration would likely be both functional and well repected. Of course the Senate would suffer greatly.

Whomever Obama chooses, he should name his running mate by mid-July. That would give the team plenty of time to make the rounds of talk shows and to hone their message throughout the dog days of summer, peaking just in time for the Democratic National Convention Aug. 25-28

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15 Responses to “The Democrats’ best VP choice–and when Obama should name him”

  1. Ben K said

    Biden seems to really want the job, not sure if that helps or hurts him

  2. Michele C said

    Joe Biden is my preferred choice, as well. He has been well-vetted (gaffes and talk-too-much at times, plagiarism error – all have been tossed out, explained, re-explained, and will be re-iterated). The voters who don’t look beyond the pundits and the 30-second sound bites may feel he doesn’t fit Obama’s “change needed” saying he’s a part of the old Washington politics should consider that not only is he is exactly opposite of that analogy, he has exactly what Obama needs: vast foreign policy and national security knowledge far beyond any other potential, has demonstrated bi-partisan legislation is achievable and has successfully done so not only foreign, but domestic front legislation, as well. We’ve already seen his ability to outperform during debates, hands down. (I believe) this general election campaign will be the most divisive, bitter campaign in history. He’s more than ready and capable of firing back without hesitation (blunt and straight to the point – but always right on the money) – his bite is as harsh as his bark. He’s a tried and true loyal Democrat – no worry he will be doing any flip-flop on changing his stance on defending the Dems against the Reps -or doing so just to woo the Indeps, either. One thing is for sure, he will be sorely missed in the Senate as his voice there has been responsible for many of the laws and legislation that benefit the morale majority of “We, the People.”

  3. Ted said

    Can’t realistically imagine McCain selecting anyone other than Palin as his Veep!

  4. jordan said

    What do you make of the chatter about Chuck Hagel as a contender?

  5. James McPherson said

    Hagel would be an interesting choice, bringing many of the same pluses as Biden. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him asked to play some role (Secretary of Defense or State), but unless he renounces his GOP ties I can’t see him being chosen as VP. Even then, it might cause a backlash. For example, I don’t think Joe Lieberman’s recent conversion have helped him overall (definitely not with Dems, of course). The Hagel rumors help Obama’s “get-beyond-politics-as-usual” perspective, though.

    Though I don’t see it happening, this would make for an interesting contest: McCain/Lieberman vs. Obama/Hegel.

  6. jordan said

    I would tend to with Hagel maybe being a pawn in terms of garnering attention. I would be really surprised if it came to fruition. Who knows. At this point, I’m on politics burnout for a day or two.

  7. 4 bob said

    Well, here’s McCain’s best VP choice, Alaska Gov Sarah Palin. A commenter on another post says it much better than I can:

    “They say McCain reads the blogs, so here goes —

    Senator McCain- Don’t let the campaign kibbitzers muddle things up.

    First and foremost, Sarah Palin shares your values. She killed the bridge to nowhere. Need we say more?

    As for the politics, Sarah Palin transcends geography. Her constituency, like yours, goes beyond state lines.

    She will get your ticket access to voters all over the country based on who she is and what she stands for. Because she’s young, a woman, a mother with young kids, she will grab media attention more than any other potential candidate.

    Gov. Palin also has a son in the active duty military. You have very wisely taken your son’s service in Iraq off the table as a campaign talking point. That is and should be respected. But others can talk about it and reflect on what it means.

    A McCain-Palin administration would be the first in memory which has family members in uniform during wartime from both the President and Vice President. That would be a powerful statement as to the importance of national service, especially in uniform.

    Most importantly, any Vice President should be ready to step up and serve in the event she is needed. Frankly, who is really ever ready? Gov. Palin is as ready as anybody, she is a quick learner, and in her public career has exhibited the courage and decisiveness needed for a great leader.

    Godspeed to you in your campaign and in making this important decision.”

  8. Danny said

    For a viable VP, Obama may need someone with 1) Military/Foreign experience and /or with 2) executive/Administrative experience. 3) A more conservative person than he is who can help him win and Govern. 4) One whom he can work with comfortably especially one who share similar Ideology about the war in Iraq. Among those listed, Jim Webb from Virginia, a winnable state, is THE ONLY ONE WHO FITS OBAMA LIKE A GLOVE PERIOD. He is a conservative, Vietnam vet like McCain but with more Administrative experience (secretary of Navy under Regan). A brand new CHANGE Democrat. He opposed the Iraq war which his own son is still fighting and became a senator to stop these macaque policy.

  9. Danny said

    Selection of Jim Webb by Obama can disrobe McCain’s strongest suits-national security. Then let’s debate the issue. Is the Economy stupid?
    McCain’s best choice would be a younger independent economist. Generally, the conservatives would prefer him over Obama.

  10. […] elsewhere by James McPherson on August 23rd, 2008 It has now been more than two months since I wrote that Barack Obama should name Joe Biden as his running mate. Though his choice comes at about the […]

  11. […] To me, her selection at this point is tinged with a bit of desperation, like the timing of Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden (whom I also had recommended).  […]

  12. […] The Democrats’ best VP choice–and when Obama should name him […]

  13. […] Drudge disagrees) that Sarah Palin might be the pick–which would mean both McCain and Obama made the selections I said they should (though I doubt either of them was reading my blog for […]

  14. […] should select as running mates: More than two months before they made their choices, I suggested Joe Biden and Sarah […]

  15. […] as much attention to the VP process as I did four years ago when I recommended Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as VP picks (and no, I don’t think the campaigns were reading my blog and following my […]

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