Presidential Timber

Among all the political qualities needed for a Vice-Presidential nominee (does he balance the ticket? carry a key state? have no skeletons?), one thing that gets mentioned insufficiently often is whether the candidate has the qualities that might make a good President. Veeps frequently end up either stepping in for the boss, or running on their own, so it matters to the country that they be of Presidential caliber.

History is littered with examples of candidates, and elected Veeps, who conspicuously lacked this quality: Sipro Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle Quail would surely be consensus choices. Many might argue Cheney belongs in this group, albeit for very different reasons.

Ex ante prediction about who will be a good President is a very imperfect science. On the day he was elected Vice-President there would have been something of a consensus that Truman lacked the necessary qualities (“to err is Truman” went the slogan), and yet Truman, flawed as he was, looks better and better in hindsight.

What I like best about John Edwards is that I think he has the making of a great President. He's a little green, especially about foreign policy, and a little too protectionist on trade, but a good eight years as veep could season him to perfection.

In picking Edwards, Kerry has put statesmanship over personal friendship (with Gephardt). He's also shown an ability to manage the media (whipping them into a frenzy for weeks), and to keep a secret. That looks Presidential right now.

Update: This New York Post 'Exclusive' is pretty funny.

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6 Responses to Presidential Timber

  1. Pingback: the Greater Nomadic Council

  2. Steve says:

    It’s Spiro and Quayle.

  3. says:

    The GOP attack machine is already in motion. The talking point of the day is experience. Like dufus the liar had experience before becoming the Presidential nominee? Governor of Texas is not a major office, under the Texas constitution the Lt. Governor bizarely has more power. A six year senator can fairly claim to have equal or better experience than a six year governor of Texas.

    A veep really does not need the same level of experience as a president. Even if he was to take over in the first few days after the inaugural a Veep is taking over a more or less fully functioning administration with a cabinet already selected. Sure most veeps have made significant changes when they take office, but nothing like appointing a full administration. Ford made some big changes, but mainly because the Nixon appointees were heading for indictments.

    The really sad thing is that Bush does not seem to have gained much from his foreign policy ‘experience’. He seems just as ignorant and stupid as when he took office. Even the fact that his policy of bluster and threatening formerly close allies has been a dismal failure does not seem to have made any impression on him. Every foreign policy position is determined by short term domestic policy calculations – even when that is certain to result in a serious problem.

    I really don’t think that anyone could do worse at foreign policy than Bush – Al Sharpton, Dan Quayle, you name them! Bush decided to abandon the hunt for Bin Laden to go settle old familly feuds at US taxpayer expense.

    Fortunately the pundits are wrong, none of the people who really care about foreign policy are going to vote for Bush anyway.

  4. MP says:

    GOP attack machine? How quickly we forget:

    Kerry Attacked Edwards’ Maturity And Experience; ‘When I Came Back From Vietnam…I Don’t Know If John Edwards Was Out Of Diapers Then.’ “‘In the Senate four years – and that is the full extent of public life – no international experience, no military experience, you can imagine what the advertising is going to be next year,’ Mr. Kerry said. With a grin, he added: ‘When I came back from Vietnam in 1969 I don’t know if John Edwards was out of diapers then. Well, I’m sure he was out of diapers.’” (Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, “With Hopes Up And Elbows Out, Democrats Give Iowa Their All,” The New York Times, 1/19/04)

    Kerry Attacked Edwards’ Experience. “‘I think the American people want an experienced hand at the helm of state,’ said Kerry, who has spent 19 years in the Senate compared with Edwards’ five. ‘This is not the time for on-the-job training in the White House on national security issues.’” (Mark Z. Barabak, “Diverse States May Reshape The Democratic Race Today,” Los Angeles Times, 2/3/04)

    Kerry Blasted Edwards’ ‘Lack Of Military And Foreign Policy Experience.’ “Kerry took aim at Edwards’s lack of military and foreign policy experience while responding to Edwards’s comment that both candidates shared similar plans to rebuild Iraq. ‘Well, I think he would like it to be that way,’ said Kerry, a decorated veteran, ‘but I think I have 35 years of experience in international security, foreign policy, and military affairs, and I think that makes an enormous difference here. I think that the world is looking for leadership that is tested and sure.’” (Raja Mishra, “Edwards And Kerry Emphasize Contrasts,” The Boston Globe, 2/23/04)

    Kerry Mocked Edwards’ “Ambitious” Nature After Only One Term In Elective Office. “The veteran senator also questioned the former trial lawyer’s pursuit of the presidency after less than one term in elective office. ‘And people call me ambitious?’ a Globe reporter once overheard Kerry asking an aide.” (Glen Johnson, “Once a Rival, Edwards Staying Close to Kerry,” The Boston Globe, 6/10/04)

    Kerry’s Stepson Voiced Concern Over Edwards’ Foreign Policy Credentials. “Kerry is likely to name a running mate within two weeks, [Chris] Heinz said, offering no inside information. ‘I was very pro-[North Carolina Sen. John] Edwards in the spring,’ he said. ‘But now I think we may need someone with stronger credentials on foreign policy.’” (Jack Kelly, “Chris Heinz On The Stump In City For Stepdad,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/17/04)


  5. fibo says:

    No flip-flop. Just because Kerry thought Edwards wasn’t experienced enough for the Presidency doesn’t disqualify him for the _Vice_ Presidency, in Kerry’s mind or in anyone else’s. If everything goes well, Edwards will have eight years of experience in that post before he makes his own run for the White House. And if Republicans want to complain that the VP needs to be ready for the Presidency in his own right, I’ve got two words for them: Dan and Quayle.

    Why don’t you pull up the quote from Edwards saying he wouldn’t accept the VP position if Kerry offered it? There’s a flip-flop for you.

  6. MP says:

    But Bush Sr. didn’t tear Quayle a new one and then ask him to become VP. The point is that Edwards is a choice based on his southern accent, not on any qualifications that the democratic presidential candidate is able to identify in him.

    Nobody denies that a VP choice is made in part to garner more votes for the ticket, but its quite flip-floppish to talk about a grown man in diapers one month, then say he’s the best man for the job the next.

    Whether or not Quayle or Edwards have/had the qualifications to replace the President in an emergency is a separate, and fair, question.


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