Monday, August 4, 2008

The Trophy Wife

According to William Kristol, the most important thing in picking a vice president isn’t whether or not that person can step into the office of the presidency if necessary as required by the Constitution, or even provide advice or insight (or ride shotgun, as it were) as the more recent vice presidents have done. No, the most important thing is to win the election.

John McCain apparently intends to announce his pick after the Democratic convention. There’s been thought given to announcing McCain’s selection the day after Barack Obama’s Thursday night Aug. 28 acceptance speech, to try to minimize Obama’s postconvention bounce.

But the current inclination is to wait until after Labor Day weekend, which ends with President Bush’s speech Monday, the first night of the G.O.P. convention. Then the McCain camp would hope to seize attention Tuesday with the V.P. announcement. A strong pick, followed by the V.P. nominee’s remarks Wednesday and then McCain’s speech Thursday, could provide a good launch into the last 60 days of the campaign.

He then launches into his four strategies for making the pick, and they all have to do with winning the election, not with governing: winning straight up, accentuating Obama’s inexperience, co-opting the “change” meme, or playing to the public’s disgust with politics-as-usual and choosing a “reformer.”

This opens up several unconventional V.P. possibilities. They include some who would reinforce the notion of a war presidency above politics, like Senator Joe Lieberman and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Or perhaps someone with economic or domestic policy expertise — like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, old McCain friend and FedEx C.E.O. Fred Smith or new McCain insider and former EBay C.E.O. Meg Whitman.

Most of the campaign staff strongly prefers a selection from the first two categories — do no harm or reinforce experience. McCain himself, on the other hand, is intrigued by the bolder possibilities of youth or bipartisanship.

And he could be especially intrigued by [Alaska governor] Sarah Palin and Meg Whitman. I run into plenty of moderate and conservative women who don’t consider themselves feminists but would be pleased to see a qualified woman on the ticket.

Especially if Obama picks a man, rejecting hope and change in favor of the same old patriarchy — won’t McCain be tempted to say: cherchez la femme?

In other words, the way for John McCain to win the election is to pick a woman just to show up the Democrats. That’s like picking your bride because she’ll bring a nice dowry, you’ll score a lot of cool wedding presents, and all of your buddies at the club will be envious of your new trophy wife.

That would make for a really nice wedding. But then there’s the marriage after, and that’s what really matters. But then, if the last eight years are any guide, the Republicans really don’t care that much about governing. They just want to win.