(I just can’t figure out why anyone cares what Doug Wilder has to say about anything at this point… – promoted by lowkell)
by Paul Goldman
Did Governor McDonnell forget to call my old boss, former Governor Doug Wilder, for his recent birthday? I called, a little late though, so it is good thing I am not running for Vice President. According to Wilder, writing in Politico, McDonnell doesn’t have the right stuff for Vice President this year. Instead, Wilder thinks that Condi Rice — one of the architects of the widely unpopular Iraq War and George W. Bush’s failed foreign policy — should be Romney’s pick.
Romney and Rice? Wow, what a put down of McDonnell. I read my old boss’ piece for Politico yesterday, wondering what Governor McDonnell did to be put him in the dog house. Condi Rice over Bob McDonnell? Like I say, I read the piece and to be honest, I still have to figure the reason for the conclusion isn’t printed there.
Why do I say that?
Simply this: Wilder’s claim that a Romney-Rice ticket would be the best for the GOP defies everything we know about successful VP selection in the modern era of presidential campaigns. Wilder mentioned a lot of reasons to justify his selection. But based on history and logic, they don’t add up.
The only person in the modern era nominated for national office at a convention in the modern age, without prior elected office experience, was D-Day legend Dwight Eisenhower. But even he had to prove himself capable of playing at the national level by winning a series of primaries before acing out Robert Taft.
No one who has never held elective office, indeed never run for any elective office, has been chosen as Vice President in the modern era by delegates to anything. In 1972, George McGovern, a sure loser in the polls, was forced to replace Thomas Eagleton as a running mate. No one with any elected office experience would take the job. So, McGovern had to settle for Kennedy brother-in-law Sargent Shriver — who proved beyond inept. Of the other VPs, some have had limited such experience, for sure.
George H.W. Bush had brief stay in the House of Representatives. But he had run for the Senate, been head of the RNC, and more importantly, had won the Iowa Caucuses against Ronald Reagan, along with being the runner-up in 1980. Governor Spiro Agnew in 1968 likewise had limited time as a rookie Governor, but he had also been elected Baltimore County Executive prior to winning the Statehouse. Sarah Palin had less than 2 years as Governor, with a losing race for LG. Experience wise, she is closes to Condi among VP picks in this era. If that doesn’t tell Romney something, what will?
There is thus a good reason presidential candidates of either party in the modern era have never wanted to run with someone with Ms. Rice’s lack of campaign or elected office experience. The history of going for political “rookies” at the national level, that is to say going for the “Hail Mary” if you will, has proven to be a disaster for every presidential candidate who has taken former Governor Wilder’s advice.
Nixon, untested in 1952, almost derailed Ike’s candidacy with a slush fund scandal. Nixon made the same mistake 16 years later, when he chose Spiro Agnew as his own running mate. Within a few weeks, Agnew had become a punch line, so much so that Hubert Humphrey ran ads with people laughing at Agnew’s name. Humphrey then made a huge comeback, barely losing to the heavily favored Nixon. We have already discussed the Shriver situation. Dan Quayle, another of the “you can’t be serious” VP choices, proved no help to George HW Bush. As for Mrs. Palin, I think we’ve covered that one already.
Doug Wilder is dissing Governor McD for being just the same ol’ same ol’ boring, usual suspect for VP. LBJ was just another in a long line of Southerners. But he proved a big help in 1960. Walter Mondale, another boring guy, proved a big help to Carter. George HW Bush was the usual for Reagan and of course, you have Dick Cheney, Washington insider, who had served a few terms in Congress. And yes, let’s not forget Al Gore, another of the usual suspects.
They all proved good choices. Why is Condi not boring again? Wilder didn’t exactly say. She is an academic who admits to being not the most user-friendly person.
The last VP with no elective experience, I believe, was Henry Wallace, the running mate for FDR in 1940. Wallace had been a faithful Cabinet member for a popular President seeking re-election and wanting a loyal person on the ticket who was seen as part of that success.
Compare that to the role of Ms. Rice in the Bush War policies, which I might add Doug Wilder strongly opposed. That’s right: Wilder was anti-Bush in that regard before it was cool. Now, Wilder wants one of the architects of that failed policy to be put on the GOP ticket? For what reason? Indeed, one of the reasons Wilder didn’t think Senator Clinton would win the nomination involved her support for the Iraq War Resolution. Technically, Senator Clinton only voted to authorize force in Iraq, she didn’t vote for a declaration of war.
So, let me get this straight: voting to give Bush the option to go to war in Iraq made Clinton unelectable, but it is jake if you advised, urged, defended, helped create the myth of the WMD’s that led to the Iraq War? Surely former, Wilder doesn’t expect us to believe that logic. He is too smart for that.
What is there about Hillary which made her someone Wilder wouldn’t support, but elevates Rice to be his choice for VP for Romney? Meanwhile, the former Governor is one of those urging the President to dump Biden for Hillary now. True enough. Go figure.
Now, you could say: Come on Paul, the former Governor is merely making a judgment about how the GOP would see things. After all, it is the Bushes’ party and in that regard, Mr. Romney supported the Bush policy. So in that sense, Condi’s record is all good in their eyes. My response: what, they don’t have any pollsters on staff?
I ask you, when was the last time anyone who was so closely associated with an unpopular war, and with no political base, become the go-to person for VP on a ticket that is going to run against Washington? Never in American history.
Why not? Simple politics. The idea is to win votes. not to lose them, with your VP choice. Given that, why would Romney or anyone in the GOP want to have a Bush War architect on his ticket as a matter of smart electoral vote strategy? What’s the upside for Romney to double down on a record the American people rejected overwhelmingly four years ago? If they did that, heck, why not put Bush himself on the ticket? Under the Constitution, Bush is still eligible to run for VP. If Condi’s role in advocating for Bush is good, then why not just go straight to the top?
In addition, my old boss has absolutely no idea what Rice’s positions are on the issues. So how can anyone know whether she is a good choice?
To be sure, there have been VPS with really thin records. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for VP in 1920 and had only been a State Senator, although he did lose a primary for the U.S. Senate. He was chosen because he had used his name to get a decent post with the War Department, backed Wilson’s policies, and like I say, had the same the same name as his Uncle Teddy. It is also true that no else wanted to run on a sure losing ticket.
In 1924, Charles Bryan got the Democratic VP nod because he was the brother of William Jennings Bryan. He was Governor of Nebraska, not your usual VP state. So, VPs have been chosen due to a famous name. Both lost, like Shriver.
Mondale threw the “hail Mary” pass by taking Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. The American people aren’t idiots: they asked themselves the last time a junior member of the House of Representatives had ever been nominated for Vice President. The answer: Never. They quickly realized she had been chosen on the basis of gender, not merit. She proved a poor choice by election day.
Bottom line: It is true that Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joints of Staff, and former National Security Advisor Colin Powell seemed the popular choice for President in the 1990’s. He could have been the VP candidate on either the Democratic or GOP tickets had he wanted to be. But the General realized running for national office is a different line of work.
Former Governor Wilder seems to be impressed by Condi Rice’s tenure as one of the President’s top foreign policy and military advisors. Or perhaps, he was merely stating the case as a Republican would make it, not his personal point of view. You can read the article for yourself and decide. But even from a Republican’s point of view, Rice would be a disaster politically as a candidate for Vice President.
Mr. Wilder dismisses Governor McDonnell as a traditional choice, He sees Ms. Rice as different.
That’s true: McDonnell has proven his ability to get elected in a swing state, he is head of the Republican Governor’s Association, and has actual military experience. What he lacks is having to defend being the brains behind the most unpopular foreign policy since….Lyndon Johnson.
Let me ask you; Did Jimmy Carter put LBJ’s secretary of state and National Security Advisor on his ticket? Did he just forget to ask?
Governor Wilder has criticized Joe Biden, suggested he be dumped, and now he is telling Mitt Romney to dump McDonnell for Condi Rice. I respectfully disagree. Personally, my money is still on Bob McDonnell to make the VP short list, with Mike Huckabee as the sleeper, assuming Romney is the nominee.