A Different Kind of Republican Shortlist
03-10-2008
In today’s New York Times, Bill Kristol writes about the various political tasks now facing John McCain, as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.  While the piece traverses familiar terrain about the challenges on Iraq and the economy that McCain will face in selling a third Republican term to voters, what caught my attention was the list of potential vice presidential picks that Kristol floats at the end of the article. Kristol presses the need for a bold choice, like Senator Joe Lieberman, Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for the number two slot on the Republican ticket. While any of these gentlemen would be an audacious (l’audace) pick by McCain, certainly outside the norm of the conservative governors usually suggested, the names also raise some intriguing questions.
 
Were Joe Lieberman to join the Republican ticket, it would complete his transformation from sweetheart Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, to persona non grata in the party. Lieberman’s strong support of the Iraq War (what Kristol means by principled), and his willingness to run as an independent in Connecticut, after losing to Ned Lamont in the 2006 Democratic primary there, have put him at odds with his party. Still, Lieberman officially identifies himself as an Independent Democrat (ID-CT), and continues to caucus with Democrats in the Senate, so it is not clear how enthusiastic already skeptical conservatives would be with such a choice. Also, since Lieberman has been a highly visible candidate for various national offices for most of the past eight years, it remains to be seen whether he could seriously reinvigorate his somewhat tired campaign persona, in order to regain the Joementum.
 
The choice of either Gen. David Petraeus or Gen. Raymond Odierno would raise a different set of issues for voters to consider in November. While generals have previously run national campaigns for elected office (Dwight Eisenhower and Wesley Clark, to name two), they have typically experienced at least some minimal break between their active duty service and their political campaigns. It would be fascinating to see how either of these two active duty generals, both so heavily involved with Iraq, would step out of their uniforms and immediately into a presidential campaign.
 
Finally, Clarence Thomas presents perhaps the most unlikely choice of the four. Joining the ticket would require Thomas to give up a prized lifetime gig on the Supreme Court for the political uncertainty of electoral politics. Given Thomas’ record on the Supreme Court, the choice might help McCain with the most socially conservative of Republican voters, but it would likely hurt him with virtually everyone else. Also, the exact nature of Thomas’ political skills is a big question mark. Thomas is legendary for his silence on the bench, and since campaigning requires near constant talking for 16-18 hours a day, it is anyone’s guess as to what political persona he would bring to the stump.


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