How The Press Leads Candidates to Make Silly VP Choices
In the last 20 years or so, the traditional media has reduced the VP selection process to a silly parlor game free of any substance and entirely focused on the political implications of the pick. The analysis is focused on “the ticket,” and how the two of candidates fit together. For example, much of the Palin analysis says that she’ll help McCain appeal to blue-collar, working class areas because of her life story (and by the way, I agree). And this obsession on how the pieces fit together translates from pundits to delegates to the candidates themselves. In the course of doing so, everyone, led by the press, has lost the one simple question that matters with a VP choice.
First up, the hack-tastic Bill Kristol in today’s NY Times:
And Obama supporters can’t get too indignant about Palin’s inexperience. She’s only running for the No. 2 job, after all, while their inexperienced standard-bearer is the nominee for the top position. And McCain doesn’t need a foreign policy expert as vice president to help him out.
Then, a Republican delegate talking to Nate Silver in St. Paul:
Palin is viewed very favorably in my limited survey. On the experience issue, the party line is that any governor experience, however brief, trumps all legislative experience that Obama has. And Palin will learn on the job behind McCain.
Finally, the campaign of John McCain itself:
“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,” said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s top advisers, making light of concerns about Mr. McCain’s health, which Mr. McCain’s doctors reported as excellent in May.
Ignoring the fact that the notion that “John McCain doesn’t need any national security help” is patently ridiculous, this really boils down to: “She’s only running for VP, not President, so she has time to learn, and some things she won’t need to because McCain will be there.”
The simple fallacy across all these statements? The entire point of a VP is to be President at a moment’s notice. There is no qualification to be VP, there can only be qualification to be President. It’s not about a ticket and how the two work together, it’s about whether number 2 can step in to be number 1 tomorrow if necessary. I’ll repeat:
THE ONLY QUALIFICATION THAT MATTERS FOR A VP IS A READINESS TO BE PRESIDENT IMMEDIATELY.
But when pundits, official party delegates, and the campaign itself don’t see it that way, then something fundamentally has changed in the selection process.
And this, I blame at the feet of the media. They have reduced the Veepstakes game to such a immature level, talking only about electoral implications, balancing tickets, taking the “rough edge of a candidate,” helping him or her “connect,” that it’s no wonder even the campaigns themselves believe this talk.
Don’t get me wrong, John McCain made his pick, the buck stops with him. But this is the environment these guys swim in now, and it’s toxic and bad for the country.
Luckily Barack Obama was able to ignore such ridiculousness. He picked someone using the only criteria that mattered: readiness to serve. And it’s that criteria that almost everyone in the press and their analysis has ignored.