Hendrik Hertzberg serves up some McCain VP talk in the New Yorker. Hertzberg blasts the usual short-listers (Pawlenty, Sanford, Crist, Romney) for being the height of banality, a string of unimaginative choices that add very little to the ticket other than the promise that they won’t rock the boat. Hertzberg goes on, however, to pick an equally unimaginative candidate: Condoleezza Rice.
Putting aside the very obvious fact that Rice has already declared she has absolutely no interest in the job, Hertzberg’s choice is fraught with a number of glaring miscalculations. “Her nomination to a constitutional executive office would cost McCain the votes of his party’s hardened racists and incorrigible misogynists,” he writes “[t]hey are surely fewer in number, though, than the people who would like to participate in breaking the glass ceiling of race or gender…..” I find such an assertion difficult to believe given that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism was seen as one of obstacles that denied him the nomination. Are we to accept that issuses of race take a backseat to religious preference? It is certainly a quaint notion, but highly unlikely.
The article goes onto say that by choosing Rice McCain shackles himself to the Iraq War, as if this were a positive thing. President Bush’s approval ratings have been hovering around 30%. If the GOP primary has proved anything it’s that the candidates are trying to run away from the current administration as quickly as possible. Witness the general dodging here (around the 3:30 mark). Voters, for the most part, still psychically associate McCain with the image of a maverick, of someone who was initially opposed Bush in 2000 and still fought pitched battle with him up until 2007. If he ties himself too closely to what is quickly becoming an administration associated with complete and total failure then his own failure in the general election is not far off.
Hertzberg apparently has settled too deeply into this fairyland fantasy world he has come to call home when he postulates that Rice’s feel good story will trump her failures. A splendid idea, but unfortunately one that does not operate in our reality. Thomas Eagleton obviously springs to mind, as does the soon to be former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer. The media, fueled by the Democratic candidate, will sink their teeth into Rice and certainly find things that will make her an unworthy candidate in the eyes of many people. It’s the stuff of politics.
The final point that needs to be made is the obvious one- McCain is old. If he loses the general election he will not be in a position to seek the nomination again in 2012, that responsibility will fall to whomever is given the number 2 position. McCain has to think long and hard about choosing a standard bearer, someone who will shape the party for years to come.I agree with Hertzberg on the point that the list of usual suspects rings of vanilla, but I believe that a truly imaginative choice lies in the future, not in the past.