PAUL DUNN: Jim Webb: Perfect As Obama Veep
Thanks partly to North Carolina Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama will probably be the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.
Sen. John McCain, the GOP choice, will have a tactical advantage when it comes to picking his running mate. That's because the Democrats convene in Denver Aug. 25-28 and the Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul, a week later. Those days will give McCain time to decide carefully who'll add the greatest strength to the ticket.
A self-assured John McCain will pick his own running mate, unlike George W. Bush, who allowed Dick Cheney to designate himself. Because of his advanced age, he'll favor younger prospects for ticket balance.
McCain told reporters he has a list of 20 potentials, with two women believed included: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Unlike George H.W. Bush, McCain won't opt for a younger lightweight like Dan Quayle. He gets much of his political advice from war hawk Joe Lieberman, Al Gore's lackluster running mate, and now turncoat senator.
One senses that Obama has seen enough of the Clintons to last a lifetime, and that her prospects of being on the ticket are close to nil. But politics do make for strange bedfellows. Many point to the Kennedy-Johnson Faustian bargain of 1960 as precedent for an Obama-Clinton union.
JFK, against the advice of key backers, held out the olive branch to LBJ, assuming the Texan would add more to the ticket than any other national leader. He did, and it led to Nixon's defeat. That very Democratic convention history should vividly remind voters that when JFK was assassinated three years later, the man many in the Democratic Party abhorred became president.
Many Hillary Clinton supporters want her to be offered the No. 2 spot. However, she doesn't mesh well with him from either a personality or issues standpoint. On the most contentious and vital issue, the Iraq war, they've been poles apart.
Were Hillary put on the ticket, Obama would get Bill in the bargain. Would anyone want Bill and Hillary second-guessing his decisions? I doubt it. Would he need the distraction of another Bill Clinton sex scandal? Hardly.
And wouldn't a veep who's long-enjoyed first lady perks and senatorial privileges find the limited second-banana role a big step down? Playing second fiddle is not part of her nature. And most important, though many Democratic women may admire her, she remains highly detested by people of all political persuasions.
If Obama wants to position himself as a genuine force for change, persistent reminders of dysfunctional Clinton White House antics are hardly going to endear him to independent-minded voters seeking legitimate change.
Obama has wisely given no clues as to who his running mate may be. I'd like to see him select someone who'll provide impeccable national defense credentials, since McCain will rightly be emphasizing his proud and distinguished naval career.
The person who can do him the most good is perhaps Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia. Elected in 2006, he's been, unlike Hillary, solidly against the unpopular Iraq war, which John McCain has embraced as strongly as Bush and Cheney.
Webb has a naval career equal to that of McCain. An Annapolis graduate, '68, he's a much-decorated Marine who served heroically in Vietnam. He was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
No Republican would dare attempt to swift-boat Jim Webb. A former Republican, Webb was Reagan's secretary of the Navy, resigning in protest when Reagan cut the size of the fleet. And unlike almost all the chicken hawks in the Bush administration, Webb's son, like McCain's, has served in the Iraq war.
Jim Webb is married to a Vietnamese woman, Hong Le Webb, and stands as a recent reminder to the GOP that if it raises racial issues against Obama, it could prove disastrous. Webb defeated Sen. George Allen in a close Virginia race when Allen's racist remarks were shown repeatedly on YouTube, costing him his political career.
McCain won't accept race-baiting either. The McCains adopted a child of color from a Bangladeshi orphanage run by Mother Teresa. George W. Bush's forces used race successfully against him in 2000 in the South Carolina presidential primary. McCain was ahead there by 19 points when nasty push-pollers telephoned voters asking if the fact that McCain had fathered "an illegitimate black child" would affect their vote. Race-baiting cost McCain that election and hurt his family deeply. He's never forgotten.
Historian-author Dumas Malone wrote of the 1796 relationship between newly elected President John Adams and Vice President Jefferson, "There were no grave political differences between them, and few public men ever set higher store on personal friendship or tried harder to keep it above the strife."
Let's hope that whichever senator wins the presidency in November starts off on such a fine footing with his vice-presidential choice.
Paul R. Dunn, who lives in Pinehurst, attended the '68 GOP Convention in Miami and the '76 Democratic Convention in Manhattan.
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