Marinating the Veepstakes

MARINATING THE VEEPSTEAKS….Thanks to Kevin for inviting us, and for putting up the post below! I don’t know if any of the guestbloggers own cats, so I was worried that I’d have to take a picture of myself laying around with costume ears and a tail to satisfy Friday catblogging obligations.

With that embarrassment averted, why don’t we do what political junkies do, and talk Veepstakes? I’ll start by suggesting some general strategic principles for progressives as they approach the 2008 VP nomination. (I’ll be assuming that Obama wins. If Clinton wins, she should pick the Penrose triangle for Vice-President — who better for an impossible situation than an impossible object?) Everybody thinks about electability, but these considerations are important too:

Think about 2016. Intrade is giving Obama a 60% chance of winning the election. Assume — conservatively, I think — that he has a 50% chance of winning re-election and that his VP has a 50% chance of getting the nomination in 2016. That multiplies out to a 15% chance of today’s VP selection being the person who we’re all donating to in 8 years when wise Democratic stewardship of the economy has doubled our annual income.

So don’t just pick VP candidates because they’ll appeal to one of this year’s swing voter blocs du jour, or compensate for a perceived Obama weakness. Giving somebody a 15% chance of becoming our nominee (even barring tragedy) is a pretty big deal, so be sure to support somebody who would be an excellent presidential candidate and an excellent president.

Think about what they’d do in office. Despite its general lack of official powers, the Vice-Presidency turns people into top-notch political celebrities who command huge media attention. (Cabinet positions, on the other hand, have lots of power but don’t come with quite the same celebrity.) Who would use this particular kind of power most effectively to make things better in America and the world?

Furthermore, the VP will be a key member of Obama’s inner circle. Let’s hope for somebody who has the right tactical instincts and who will represent progressive views effectively in those discussions. Obama’s VP certainly won’t end up with as much influence as Cheney has, but it’d be surprising if the VP ended up being totally sidelined.

Don’t disrupt Obama’s excellent foreign policy message. Just as Clinton made the economy a solid Democratic issue, Obama has the potential to make foreign policy a solid Democratic issue for a long time. He’s bold in standing up to GOP foreign policy attacks, and he predicted many of the problems with invading Iraq in advance.

We need a VP pick who won’t get tied into Kerryesque knots trying to justify mistaken support of the war, and who will be able to go on the offense on broad strategic questions. This isn’t just important for winning the election, it’s important for establishing the Democratic Party for the long term. And it isn’t just about Iraq, it’s about a general approach to foreign policy. (Obviously, I’ve been reading Matt Yglesias’ book.) Somebody who voted against the war is best, somebody who wasn’t in Congress but never supported it is good, and somebody who voted for it but repented and now thinks it was a total disaster is okay too. What’s important is that you have a forceful advocate for Obama’s foreign policy message.

If I actually tell you about my favorite and unfavorite VP picks in this space, the discussion is going to be all about them and not about these general ideas. So why don’t we save that for later?