This John-McCain-might-like-to-be-Kerry's-veep meme is running around the internet. (E.g. The Blogging of the President: 2004). It's a nice spring fling of a concept but would be a Really Stupid choice.
Kerry's veep needs to have all of the following characteristics.
(Don't read anything into the order—they're all important.)
- Someone Kerry trusts—since at least the Carter administration, the modern Veep, even in pre Cheney-as-eminence-grise days, is much more than a spare part.
- Someone who won't have to swallow too many previous statements to toe the Kerry line.
- Not a Democratic Senator from a state with a Republican governor. With Colorado in play, there's actually a tiny chance of reclaiming the Senate, or at least getting a 50-50 tie. Not worth the risk of jeopardizing it. And the thinner the Republican margin, the harder to keep party discipline anyway. This is why Senator Nelson (D-Fl) would be a bad choice. Why let Jeb Bush appoint a Senator?
- Someone both Kerry and voters (and the press!) can trust to be President. This is the reason why McCain would not be a good choice. The man is a loose cannon. People who know him from close up, and many of the reporters who have covered him, think he's fundamentally flaky. Not in a brainwashed in Vietnam sort of a way. Just in an ordinary, can't quite rely on him to act reasonably sort of a way. In a Senator that's not a big problem; there's safety in numbers. In a President, that lack of steadiness is a potential disaster. For better or worse, the press decided Gary Hart wasn't steady and reliable, and look what happened to him.
- Someone not too identified with the Clintons (why feed the freepers too much red meat). This, and age (almost 70), eliminate Vernon Jordan (plus he resides in DC, which has no electoral value).
Then there are characteristics which are desirable rather than being essential.
- Someone who brings at least one state to the ticket. Certainly lets out Dean (so would other things). Probably lets out Edwards too. And also lets out Robert Rubin and Andrew Cuomo.
- All other things being equal, a fresh face is good. And a tired face, aka Richard Gephardt or even Sen. Graham, is very very bad.
- Executive branch experience is nice, rather than a ticket built of two legislators.
- A good war record, or other national security experience would be a plus (this obviously is part of what fuels the McCain balloonlet).
Who does this add up to? More Bill Richardson than Max Cleland, I think. Richardson may not have a military record, but he's been a Cabinet official, was US Ambassador to the UN, and is a successful Governor of a Western state. I'd add Jennifer Granholm but for the fact that having been born in Canada she's not eligible (this is why all good Democrats should support Senator Hatch's proposed constitutional amendment to allow the foreign-born to run for President; he thinks it will help Schwarzenegger, but it will actually help Granholm).
That said, Richardson is not without his negatives. But surely there must be other names out there better than McCain?