JOHN KRAHNERT: Unsought Advice on Picking Running Mates
Just when you thought this presidential campaign couldn't get any more painful, it's time for the "Veepstakes" to begin.
Now that Sen. Barack Obama has finally locked up the Democratic nomination, both he and Sen. John McCain will start the long and tedious vetting process to find the person to be the second name on their respective bumper stickers. This is a notoriously slow endeavor that normally takes weeks.
If you read my column from last winter, then you know I'm all about offering unsolicited advice to the candidates, so I'll offer my recommendations on who the senators should pick in their vice-presidential selection process.
Let's start with who I think would be the best fit on each ticket.
First, for McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.
I saw his speech the night Obama clinched the nomination, and it was pretty tough to watch. While no one can challenge McCain's experience, he has a really hard time looking natural while giving a speech. Moreover, while Obama's rallies resemble a Springsteen concert, McCain's seem more like a funeral. He looks awkward reading off the prompters, his jokes fall flat, and there's no excitement from the crowd.
The Straight Talk Express could use a little infusion of youthful exuberance. I think Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would be the perfect fit for the Republican ticket.
The first Indian-American governor in the United States, the 36-year-old Jindal is the GOP's answer to Obama. He's smooth and charismatic. What's even better about Jindal is that he can energize the conservative base of the party, something McCain has been unable to do. He has 100 percent pro-life voting record and has already been anointed by Rush Limbaugh as "the next Ronald Reagan." What's not to like?
A lot of the pundits say that Jindal is too inexperienced to be president if something happens to the aging McCain. Some go so far as to compare him to the inexperienced Dan Quayle -- who, as VP, caught a lot of flack for sometimes appearing completely clueless. To me, that's an unfair comparison. Unlike Quayle, Jindal has accomplished a lot in a short political career and has real executive experience.
Plus, it doesn't appear that Jindal has ever had any problems spelling "potato."
Now on to Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Obama has been attracting record crowds on the campaign trail. "Change We Can Believe In" has become part of the lexicon of average Americans across the country. He's brought in new voters and has resuscitated the American political process.
This is all fine and good, but Obama has been getting heckled by McCain for an apparent lack of foreign policy experience. He needs someone who can make this criticism moot -- someone like Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia.
A military man and former Secretary of the Navy, Webb has an undeniable amount of the foreign policy experience that Obama lacks. Furthermore, Webb is a more conservative Democrat, making the ticket more appealing to some of the groups of the party with which Obama has been unable to connect. In a short two years, he's become a very popular addition to Capitol Hill and was even asked to deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union speech in 2007.
One knock against Webb is that he sometimes has a tendency to be brutally honest and shoot off his mouth. He's sort of the Democrats' "maverick." However, I think having a completely different personality as your VP gives a ticket balance.
Now let me briefly name a couple of names that should be avoided.
McCain should stay away from Mitt Romney at all costs. Even though "the Mittster" came out and endorsed the "Mac Attack," there has to be some bad blood between the two. Don't forget, putting him on the ticket reopens the Mormon and pro-choice controversies that grabbed headlines for months. Most importantly, this pick does nothing to galvanize the religious right.
In Obama's case, picking Hillary Clinton to create the "Dream Ticket" would be an unmitigated disaster. Hillary is still saying she's the best choice to be president, even though she's lost the race. As president, the last thing you want is a former president like Bill Clinton breathing down your neck. If there's one thing that President Jed Bartlet and "The West Wing" taught us, you never want a vice president with his or her own agenda.
Stay tuned to see what happens. I know I will.
John Krahnert is a newsroom intern. Contact him at 693-2478.
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