Now that the two tickets are set — Obama and Biden, McCain and Palin — I thought I’d give my perspective on what the choices for VP tell at least me about the two campaigns.
First, it is interesting that each campaign chose a person that personifies the very essence of the other campaign that they were attacking: Biden is the Washington insider, no symbol of change, and Palin is about as inexperienced as you could imagine.
Biden, Obama’s pick, is a well-known commodity. He has been in the Senate for many years, longer than even McCain. Why did Obama pick him? To me, it seems that Obama was trying to address some of his own short-comings, namely his lack of foreign affairs experience and insider knowledge of how Washington works; even though Obama is also a Senator, his experience is, admittedly, limited. So, it seems that Obama chose Biden to shore up his weaknesses, to make his ticket stronger and to better able to perform the job they hope to be elected to. He picked Biden in spite of his baggage, including his tendency to go off message and be a hot head, as well as the plagarism charges that are likely to at least be rehashed in this election.
Of course, that isn’t the only reason. Biden is expected to be an attack dog, to be able to bring more heat against McCain during the election. So, there is a pragmatic reason for his choice as well. But, it seems that the primary reason is to make the potential Democratic administration that much more effective.
Palin, on the other hand, it seems to me, was chosen solely for what she can bring to the election, not what she would actually bring to a McCain administration. She was chosen to appeal to the conservative Evangelical base as well as the disaffected Hillary supporters. The hope, it seems, is to attract them to McCain, or make McCain seem more palatable to those constituencies. She doesn’t bring much of anything to a Republican adminstration in terms of experience or abilities. She is known as being tough on corruption, and being fiscally conservative, but it isn’t at all clear how that helps a Presidential administration.
Obama’s choice of Biden tells me that Obama knows his weaknesses and is willing to put people who are much more knowledgeable in those areas around him, to help advise him. He is willing to surround himself with people who can advise him, who will challenge his views and opinions, resulting in better decisions. McCain’s choice of Palin, on the other hand, tells me the opposite. Palin herself denies the role of humans in global warming, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists who actually study global warming are convinced the evidence points to humans having played a significant role. She also supports the teaching of Creationism in schools. She is a person who believes what she believes, who is dogmatic, and has no place for opinions that differ from hers, even when those opinions come from experts. We have already had 8 years of this, of science being thrown to the wayside because it is inconvenient, because it disagrees with the assumptions of the administration. We don’t need any more. McCain’s choice of Palin tells me what I already suspected: he doesn’t need advisors, because he already “knows” the answers. He demonstrated this earlier with is dismissal of economists’ insistence that a gas tax holiday was a bad idea, and he has further demonstrated with his choice of Palin.
The choice of a VP serves two principle purposes: to help the ticket win and to help make the administration more complete. That Obama picked a VP that seems to serve the second purpose more than the first is a good sign to me. That McCain picked a VP that primarily serves the first purpose and is likely irrelevant in the administration itself is, to me, the worst possible reason to pick a person. These choices reinforce, for me, Obama as the better candidate for president in this election. I am impressed with Obama’s choice, but I am disappointed with McCain’s.