Shiloh Benson Tillemann Dick has a head – a very large head – for politics, one that stands out even among the feisty politicos of the colorful family profiled in the July 10 Westword. The 18-year-old correctly predicted Obama’s church affiliations would prove problematic – last August. Shiloh took time out from his internship at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. to put the finishing touches on his breakdown of potential Democratic vice president candidates, a list he’s been sending around to friends and family members just for kicks. Here’s his take:
I’m a very political person, so when I stumble across a political figure that interests me I research them until I know everything about them, from their major in school (Obama’s political science, McCain’s was engineering) to their favorite food (Obama’s is the pizza from the Italian Fiesta Pizzeria in Hyde Park, Chicago, which declined to comment on its famous patron’s preferred variety; McCain’s is baby-back ribs). After the two nominees were all but chosen I started looking at potential running mates, balancing out the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate against the big names (and not so big names) that could wind up being our next vice president.
DEMOCRATIC VP CHOICES
Evan Bayh (Indiana). The junior senator from Indiana is a good choice for a plethora of reasons. A fiscal conservative, Bayh’s tenure as governor of Indiana was characterized by lower taxes, state surpluses and increased academic performance in Indiana’s schools. A moderate Democrat, Senator Bayh voted to authorize the current Iraq war but was one of the first to realize the mistakes that had been made and began calling for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield’s resignation in 2004.
On the 'tangibles" side, Bayh’s seats on senate banking and small business committees would help Senator Obama bolster his economic credentials. Senator Bayh’s seats on the armed services and intelligence committees are slightly less helpful, especially his seat on the intelligence committee, which could elicit some less-than-insightful "What did he know, and when did he know it?" questions about the Iraq war.
On the "intangibles" side, senator Bayh is a skilled orator as well as a prominent Clinton supporter. If Senator Obama were to choose him as his running mate, the gesture would likely be well received by Clinton supporters without overshadowing Senator Obama as an Obama-Clinton ticket might well do.
Ron Wyden (Oregon). Elected to the United States House of Representatives at the ripe old age of 30, Senator Wyden was born in Kansas and educated at the University of Oregon and Stanford University. Senator Wyden’s positions are neatly summarized as socially liberal, fiscally moderate and free-trade. He sits on the finance, intelligence, energy and budget committees, making him a primarily domestic-issues running mate, which is an area in which Senator Obama needs less support than foreign policy. But expertise in energy, economic and foreign affairs policy could make senator Wyden uniquely qualified to be VP in an Obama Whitehouse. Verdict: tossup.
Chuck Hagel (Nebraska). A strongly anti-war Republican, Senator Hagel would make John McCain and company shake in their boots. If Barack Obama were to nominate him as his running mate, he would have gone from a "partisan latte liberal" to one of the most bi-partisan figures in history. The problem is liberal democrats would probably feel disenfranchised and Senator Hagel might not even accept the nomination. A nice idea, though.
Joseph Biden (Deleware). The fifth youngest senator ever, Joseph Biden exemplifies much of the best of a career politician. Senator Biden is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a member of the Committee on the Judiciary as well as a 36-year veteran of the senate. Senator Biden brings the experience of an elder statesman to the table while still being roughly the median age of the senate. His experience and ability, as well as his carefully thought-out plans for dealing with crises all over the world, give him credentials that are unmatched by any of the other likely democratic choices for vice president. Although supposedly prone to verbal gaffes, Biden’s oratorical ability is unmatched by most of his colleagues. An Obama-Biden ticket also increases Senator Obama’s chances in Appalachia, Senator Biden’s birthplace, a region where Obama has previously done poorly.
Hilary Rodham Clinton (New York). Needing no introduction, Senator Clinton’s skills are legion and legendary. The problem with Senator Clinton is that she, as well as her wildly famous husband, are such brand-names in the current political market that the Obama campaign would stand in serious risk of being overshadowed. On another note, can you imagine your VP’s husband being Bill Clinton? A little like having an Iron Chef make you dinner. It’s good, but everyone gets so caught up in the chef they forget about the food.
Bill Nelson (Florida). The vanilla option in VP choices, Senator Nelson is inoffensive, unpretentious and uninspiring. However, he is an excellent example of the time-honored strategy of "playing the map" with running mates, a time-honored tradition that was used to by John F. Kennedy when he chose Lyndon Banes Johnson as his running mate in 1960. Though nobody seems to have done so since… hmm.
Ed Rendell (Pennsylvania) A good choice, but his lack of foreign policy and national security experience would leave those subjects almost completely to John McCain in a year when they are going to matter – not a likely possibility. On the plus side, he is a Clinton loyalist and his nomination would be a gesture the Clintons would not soon forget. However, if he had a public disagreement with Senator Obama on the campaign trail, he could become a major liability.
Bill Richardson (New Mexico). Great guy, wrong moves. If a good resume was all that was required to be president, he would have had the job years ago. Instead he ran a lackluster primary bid followed by an opportunistic endorsement of Senator Obama. Nominating Bill Richardson wouldn’t be a knife in the back of eighteen million Hillary Clinton supporters, it would be a knife in the face.
Brian Schweitzer (Montana). The wildly popular governor of Montana would be an interesting choice for a number of reasons. He is an expert in the Mid East, a businessman with stellar economic credentials and is fluent in Arabic. Along with the unusual skill set, he’d bring an image the American West is comfortable with. His only real shortcoming is a lack of governmental experience; he’s only been governor of Montana for one term. Still, his pluses vastly outweigh his minuses.
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Jack Reed (senator from Rhode Island) Bob Krueger (statesmen, diplomat and Scholar) Sam Nunn (former senator, counter-proliferation expert and activist) Max Cleland (war hero, former senator) Phil Bresden (highly popular governor of Tennessee) John Edwards (former senator and anti-poverty crusader) Tim Kaine (governor of Virginia) George Mitchell (former senator, diplomat, ruined baseball for most people I know)
My choices: Biden, Schweitzer, Bayh, Hagel
Likely picks: Biden, Nelson, Rendell, Bayh
So there you have it: virtually the entire field of possible Democratic vice presidential nominees. Okay, so I left out Mike Gravel, Jimmy Carter and Zell Miller, but I’m wiling to take that risk.