Finding perfect running mate lands candidates in tough spot

Some of the more renowned talking heads chose to waltz with the 2008 presidential campaign at Wednesday’s Schieffer Symposium. The discussion drifted to and fro with insight, wit and humor and got especially lively when the panelists discussed potential candidates for vice president. Let’s take their cue and continue the “veepstakes” speculation a bit.

Will what was once called “The Dream Ticket” of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton become a reality? You tell me. How would Obama reconcile a message of “hope” and “change” with a former first lady and New York senator, who, regardless of her clever image refashioning, promotes progress by offering a return to the 1990s? Can Clinton justify selecting Obama as vice president after repeatedly claiming him to be unfit as a future commander in chief?

Here are a couple of political hypotheses: Should Clinton make like Bonnie and Clyde by swiping the nomination from Obama at the convention, she’ll be obligated to offer him the other half of the ticket. She’ll grit her teeth and mutter under her breath, but it’s the only way she can slow a mass exodus of Obama voters in November. He’ll reply by turning the other electoral cheek and declining her offer, paving the way for another candidacy in 2012.

Should Obama secure the nomination, it would appear that he has a few more options. Clinton’s innate incompatibility with Obama’s message will preclude any real vice presidency offer. Clinton voters will be sore for a while, but come November, rest assured they won’t go kamikaze for McCain. Obama will ultimately complement his ticket by selecting a less divisive figure with strong national security credentials.

The 1960 Democratic nomination fight between John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson was comparable to the current sparring between Obama and Clinton. They were eventually able to set aside their animosity and team up for the sake of party unity. For that reason, I won’t absolutely rule out a joint ticket. I’m only finding it difficult to visualize Obama’s 21st-century Camelot with Billary at the round table.

Seventy-one years of age have John McCain swimming through the political fountain of youth in search of a candidate for vice president. At first glance, McCain’s options seem less complicated than either Clinton’s or Obama’s. Yet with the economy in the tank and McCain’s self-professed economic ignorance taking center stage, crafty conservative economic gurus will have the upper hand in the Republican “veepstakes.”

McCain’s vice president selection must also serve as an olive branch to the Republican evangelical community that has yet to jump for joy about his candidacy. Appeasing fiscal and social conservatives simultaneously is a real high-wire act, unlikely to be perfectly performed by the maverick McCain.

Vice President John Nance Garner, second-in-command during the FDR Administration, once said the vice presidency wasn’t worth a “warm bucket of spit.” However, Vice President Dick Cheney, or Darth Vader as he’s popularly known, has wielded considerable influence in the Bush Administration – a warm pail of saliva indeed.

Regardless of who carries the day in November, we can all look forward to the departure of Cheney, whose infamous arrogance was best on display recently when, after being told two-thirds of Americans don’t support the war in Iraq, he replied tersely, ‘So?’ Cheney’s reckless lack of compassion would make his Star Wars namesake proud.

So one can only hope that our next president will employ Yoda-like wisdom and select a Luke Skywalker as vice president; both will be needed after eight years of the dark side. With this hope in mind, may the vice-presidential discussions continue in earnest.

Brian Young is a senior political science major from Friendswood.