Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's the Vice President, Stupid!

The office of Vice President is a kind of strange animal in the United States. Many Vice Presidents have been forgettable and inconsequential. After all, it's the President who is “The Decider”. But every once in a while a president dies in office and the Vice President becomes the President. That is how Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry Truman became Presidents. And as the case with George Bush, the Elder and many others, the office of Vice President can serve as a springboard in a new Presidential election.

In the last twenty years the choice of Vice President has had a huge impact. Bill Clinton picked Al Gore to be his running mate in 1992. Gore lost the 2000 Presidential election to George Bush, the Younger – a ridiculously close election that was decided by the Elder Bush's buddies in the U. S. Supreme court. Gore went on to become a far more influential and respected leader than the sitting President,Bush, by tirelessly raising public awareness about global warming – winning a Nobel Prize in the process.

Bush the Younger, had Dick Cheney, a cabinet member in several previous Republican administrations and the former CEO of Haliberton, choose himself as his running mate. As a Vice President, Cheney has made his mark in U.S. history by promoting torture, taking away the rights of prisoners of war, deceiving the American people about the existence of nuclear weapons in Iraq and merging official U.S. economic and military policy with that of American oil companies.

Cheney is famous for saying that he had no intentions of running for President after Bush's term ended. We now know he didn't have to because he was pulling the strings behind George W. Bush, “The Decider” all along.

The choice of a Vice Presidential running mate says a lot about the person running for President. Bush the Elder chose an intellectual light weight named Dan Quayle, who's most famous for misspelling “potato” and criticizing a TV sitcom because it's main character had a baby out of wedlock. Richard Nixon, chose Spiro Agnew, A nasty person with an attitude who ended up getting indicted for corruption charges.

As we all know, John McCain's choice for Vice President is Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. The most interesting thing about her is how McCain's choosing her has energized his campaign. Before he picked her he was trailing Obama in the polls. After he picked her he pulled out ahead.

Compared to Obama, McCain is not a very inspiring speaker and it was difficult for him to attract large crowds. Now with Palin by his side, the crowds and the excitement have intensified. But what does that say about John McCain, that his pick for Vice President outshines his own star?

Before he picked her, Palin, who had been Governor for two years, was a virtual unknown outside of Alaska. Now,Many of us know that she is a hockey mom, she is able to shoot and field dress a moose, she is a Christian Fundamentalist, and, like Dick Cheney, she has no qualms about stepping on people to get what she wants.

She delights the Republican base, but the McCain team has kept her cocooned, away from too many prying reporters. She apparently has no experience, knowledge, or interest in international affairs. This doesn't bother the party faithful, but it should bother everyone else. Unlike John McCain, she doubts that global warming is caused by humans. She believes that Iraq was behind 9/11 and was not aware of the “Bush Doctrine” of preemptive war. Like McCain she seems eager for a war with Russia or Iran.

When McCain ran against Bush the Younger in the 2000 Republican primaries, he called Fundamentalists Jerry Falwell, and Pat Buchanan, “agents of intolerance”. Fundamentalist Leaders, James Dobson and Richard Land, who were previously lacklustre in their support of McCain, are now vowing to help get out the vote for the McCain/Palin ticket. Just before the 2008 Republican convention McCain who wanted senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, was told by party bosses to pick another choice because Lieberman was too liberal for the Fundamentalist Republican Base. He then picked Palin and launched a campaign as the team of “mavericks” out to reform Washington. As New York Times columnist Frank Rich said in last sunday's paper, it's amazing that Palin,“...a candidate who embodies fear of change can be sold as a “maverick”...”

Since picking Palin, McCain has become more hardline about abortion and backed off from any firm position on dealing with global warming – both positions that sit well with Fundamentalists. As Frank Rich points out, McCain's choice of Palin, against his own preference for Lieberman, and his recent policy shifts toward the fundamentalist base call into question “who has the power in this relationship and who is in charge.”

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