ISO VP ASAP
It's hard to find the right running mate. And
it's especially hard for a Democrat right now: George W. Bush has a Palm
Pilot filled with intriguing candidates---from Colin Powell to congressional
standouts like Chuck Hagel and big state governors like Tom Ridge. By contrast,
the Democrats' little black book looks awfully thin. Some of the party's
brightest stars were killed off in the purge of '94. And Gore's political
papa, Bill Clinton, is such a scene stealer that the next generation has
hardly had a chance to get noticed.
We'd like to see Al Gore happily married,
so enough already with the excuses: Al can't run unless he makes a match
and, despite all the handwringing, we can think of a number of very attractive
possibilities. To help him get excited about popping the question, we asked
a few friends of the Monthly to describe some of the most promising possibilities
who are just a bit off the beaten track. We like them all---and, most important,
we think that any one of them could make Al a very happy man.
|Gore & ZELL
|| BY JAMES CARVILLE
AND PAUL BEGALA
By choosing former Georgia governor Zell Miller as his running
mate, Al Gore could add intellectual brainpower, rhetorical firepower,
and lots of plain old populist piss-and-vinegar to this staid election.
Miller is widely and rightly acclaimed as the best governor in
Georgia history. He created the HOPE scholarship---dedicating the proceeds
from the Georgia lottery to college scholarships. Rather than a something-for-nothing
giveaway, Miller insisted only students with a B average could get the
college aid. That single accomplishment has transformed his state.
Ninety-seven percent of incoming freshmen at the University of Georgia
and Georgia Tech are HOPE scholars, and the promise of a free education
has kept the best and the brightest from fleeing to the Ivy League. Minority
enrollment jumped from 18 percent of the total student population to 21
percent. And across the state, educators are reporting that parents are
more engaged than ever in their children's education, because Junior's
B average means they save thousands of dollars in college costs.
And for students who cannot keep a B average or decide not to
go to college, HOPE will pay for community college or technical school.
The goal is to assure every young person a shot at the American Dream.
But HOPE is only the beginning. As Governor, Miller championed
a tough on crime "Two Strikes and You're Out" law to lock up repeat violent
felons. He reformed welfare and made Georgia one of the top two in state-funded
research and development.
Miller's substantive record of accomplishment as governor would
stand in stark contrast to the Pablum record of Gov. George W. Bush. Other
than laughing about executing women and giving sanctimonious sermons, Bush
has spent his time as governor raising money and running for president.
Like Bush, Miller is a rabid baseball fan. But while Bush has been the
Mario Mendoza of governors, Miller has been the Hank Aaron.
Lest you think this New Democrat is nothing more than an old Republican,
you should know that Zell Miller devoted a year of his governorship to
the battle to remove the racist symbol of segregation from the Georgia
state flag. His courage nearly cost him re-election. But the former history
teacher knew full well what Faulkner said of his beloved South: There the
past is not dead; it's not even past.
Here again, the contrast would be terrific. Juxtapose the footage
of Bush sucking up to the racists in South Carolina, bowing and scraping
at Bob Jones University, with images of Miller standing strong against
Miller would bring to the ticket a compelling personal story.
In an election in which the final four candidates were the sons of a bank
president, an admiral, a senator, and a president, Zell Miller was the
son of a teacher---a teacher who died when Miller was just two weeks old.
Raised by his mother in Appalachia, in a rock house she built herself,
Miller found his focus in the United States Marine Corps, and his unabashed
patriotism, combined with his down-home populism, makes him an American
Zell Miller is also a world-class campaigner and orator. His keynote
address to the 1992 Democratic convention ranks with Barbara Jordan's and
Mario Cuomo's as one of the finest examples of powerful rhetoric and partisan
At a time when politics seems moribund, Zell would bring energy.
When people are looking for heroes, Zell's the real thing. And when Democrats
need someone who's not afraid to open up a can of whup-ass on the radical
right, they need look no further than Zell Miller.
James Carville, a pamphleteer and a provocateur, and Paul Begala, a professor at Georgetown and a pundit, were previously;
political consultants for Bill Clinton and Zell Miller.
|Gore & Christine Todd Whitman
||BY JONATHAN ALTER
Talk about implausible. My fellow TV blowhards look at me with
pity when I suggest that New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman would be
the best candidate. And they're right that there's almost zero chance Gore
would ask her; it would piss off the Democrats too much.
But if he really wants to win, he should choose her. The country
is moving into a post-partisan period, even if the politicians aren't.
In one swoop, picking Whitman would make Gore much more appealing to independents
(he trails Bush among them) and make sure that the gender gap stayed open.
Whitman on the Democratic ticket would be a loud message to the voters
that the Republican Party is irredeemably right-wing and hopeless on a
woman's right to choose. In New Jersey, she has governed six years essentially
as a New Democrat, closer ideologically to Gore than to Bush.
Whitman is unacceptable on the GOP ticket because she supports
so-called partial birth abortion---a total deal-breaker for Bush because
it would cause a walkout at the convention. She might turn Gore down---she
has already endorsed Bush---but having decided she's not running for Senate,
what else is she going to do with her life? The argument that she has no
future in Republican politics if she did this makes no sense, because she
has no future in that party anyway. When it comes down to it, few politicians
refuse the chance when asked. Come on, Al. Be really bold.
Jonathan Alter, a columnist at Newsweek, is a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly.
Gore & JOHN
|BY MARK MAZZETTI
Political devolution has brought stardom to many Republicans at
the state and local level. Regional officials with national marquee value
include Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Goldsmith, Tommy Thompson, and the Brothers
Bush. But what many people don't know is that John Norquist, the Democratic
Mayor of Milwaukee, has a record that beats all of these guys. Recently
elected to his fourth term, Norquist is in the top tier of a class of New
Democrats who got a big political boost when Clinton was elected in 1992.
That year, Clinton chose a running mate who would reinforce his own image:
smart, wonky, moderate. Gore should follow the same strategy and put John
Norquist on the ticket.
Norquist is most admired for his successes in educational reform.
Milwaukee became a prime testing ground for school choice when Norquist
pushed through a plan that permits public funds to pay for private and
religious schools. There's already evidence that the plan is working. Since
the reforms, Milwaukee kids are doing better on standardized tests---with
minority groups showing particular improvement. And while reform remains
a contentious issue, Norquist continues to rack up impressive victories.
When Milwaukee held school board elections last April, the Mayor's favorite
candidates swept all of the teachers' union's candidates and gave the reformers
a majority on the board.
He also knows how to run a government. In his time at Milwaukee's
helm, Norquist streamlined the city bureaucracy, made the delivery of social
services like snow plowing and garbage collection more efficient, and turned
deficits into surpluses. At the same time, he has managed to cut taxes
almost every year that he's been in office in an effort to halt middle-class
flight to the suburbs. This has been successful, as more middle-class families
are now moving into Milwaukee's reinvigorated downtown. And he has done
this while preaching the gospel of urban independence from Washington and
decrying the mentality of "tin cup federalism." (To his credit, Norquist
is equally tough on businesses and has been highly critical of companies
that try to stick their snouts in the government trough by demanding municipal
subsidies). This is just the kind of track record that could help Al Gore
neutralize George W. Bush's claim to be a "reformer with results." As University
of Wisconsin political scientist Donald Kettl points out: "Norquist is
a reformer with results, with more results to show."
To be sure, Norquist comes with political baggage. For one thing,
the Gore camp is bound to be uneasy about Norquist's frosty relationship
with the teachers' unions. Those unions are 3.5 million strong, claim one
seventh of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, and have
been stalwart Gore supporters throughout his campaign. Both Norquist's
policies and his attacks on the "public school monopoly" have done little
to ingratiate him with the Our Miss Brooks set. In addition, some Milwaukee
minority leaders argue that in his efforts to boost the middle class and
business presence downtown, he has paid little attention to trying to increase
investment in the city's poorer areas. This has angered some of Milwaukee's
black community, and Norquist's electoral support among minorities has
decreased since he was first elected in 1988.
But the key political fact about Norquist is that he's something
of a maverick. According to David Meissner of the Milwaukee-based Public
Policy Forum, "John has challenged the stereotypical philosophies of the
party. He is a cage rattler." And this may well be the most compelling
reason for Gore to choose him as his running mate. Putting John Norquist
on the ticket would send a strong signal that the Gore administration will
be open to smart people and new ideas---even when they may be out of step
with the party rank and file. Consider it the ultimate Sister Souljah move.
Mark Mazzetti is a correspondent for The Economist.
|Gore & ROBERT
|| by MATTHEW MILLER
He's smart and he's rich. He knows Wall Street and Washington. He helped
build the longest economic boom on record. Even Republicans revere him.
Yet the real reason Al Gore should pick Bob Rubin to be his vice president
goes beyond the obvious: He's the one man in America who can make the world
safe again for liberalism.
Why? Start with Rubin's temperament. Sure, he's cagey, or he couldn't
have run Goldman Sachs or wowed them up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet
the man carries himself humbly. When I worked for Clinton in the early
years, staffers loved to imitate the soft-spoken preface Rubin invariably
offered in economic policy meetings. "Well, it's just one man's opinion,"
he would stammer, or, "I'm hardly an expert on this, but ... " From a man
of his stature, this brand of modesty, even if an act, set a tone that
made it easier for high-powered egos to share credit and get things done.
And if Rubin was sincere, why, so much the better: That's just the kind
of mind you want near the helm in a fast-changing world.
Then there's Rubin's hyperrational, "probabilistic" approach to decision-making,
best detailed in Jacob Weisberg's helpful 1998 profile in the New York
Times Magazine. This isn't Robert McNamara's fatal belief in the ability
of Reason to solve all human problems. It's more nearly the opposite: the
trader's instinct for coping rationally with a crazed, unknowable world.
Rubin's determination to coolly assess options and the likelihood of various
outcomes sounds pretty elementary. But this sang-froid is rare and indispensable
in crises (like the Asian meltdown) when the stakes are high and those
around you are losing their heads. It's a quality he plainly thinks about:
Rubin is the only former official I know who makes the process of governmental
decisionmaking a central theme of his speeches. He urges citizens to judge
officials not on the outcomes of their decisions, which often turn on unknowable
intervening events, but on whether they wisely evaluated the information
available at the time a decision had to be made. To judge otherwise, he
argues, makes leaders too cautious too often.
This modest rationality is not what you ordinarily associate with utopian
liberal schemers. Which is what makes Rubin's secret appeal so promising:
he'd pull Gore, and the country, to the left. Here's why. The main thing
standing between America's current bounty and a sane run at LBJ's unfinished
agenda is the Republican drive to use today's huge surpluses for a massive
tax cut for the rich. Blocking that tax cut has been the chief aim of Clintonian
maneuvering since 1997. George W. Bush has made that tax cut (a far bigger
version, in fact, than Newt Gingrich dared offer) the centerpiece of his
candidacy. The issue, as they say, has been joined.
If Gore picks Evan Bayh or Bob Graham or some other plain old
pol, Bush will look credible arguing the merits of his plan. After all,
what do these political lifers know about the real world? Now imagine a
race in which, every day, Bob Rubin---the Democrat's super-meritocrat and
economic trump card---quietly hammers George "It-was-all-handed-to-me-on-a-platter"
Bush for having no understanding of what makes an economy work, while explaining
that rich people like Bush and himself don't need a big tax cut when 44
million Americans are uninsured and urban schools are crumbling. When undecided
voters take Rubin's side, they'll not only sweep the Dems into the White
House, they'll vanquish the big-tax-cut crowd for good.
This rout will free Rubin to whisper to Gore that it's time (and
safe) to think big. And he'll be ready: Rubin was the only treasury secretary
in history, after all, with his own antipoverty agenda. He's a dreaded
"limousine liberal," we're told by media heavies, who smirk when intoning
the phrase, as if the awfulness of such a state were self-evident. But
what's so bad about limousine liberals? Is the alternative---rich people
(or pundits) who couldn't care less about poor people---really more "authentic"
or attractive? It may not take a village to raise a child, but only a pro-business
Democrat with a hundred million to spare is sufficiently bulletproof to
persuade folks that its time to do more for those left behind.
Who else would approach Rubin's credibility when they argued,
as he does, that the talent he served with in government matches or exceeds
the talent he saw during decades at Goldman Sachs? That message, delivered
from the veep's bully pulpit, would do more than a thousand handwringing
think tank seminars to lure the best and brightest from dot-coms to public
Best of all, of course, Rubin is filthy rich, and thus free (under
five justices' view of our Constitution) to spend as much as he likes on
a Gore-Rubin ticket. With Bush opting out of federal election funding and
its associated spending limits to plunder the GOP cash machine, Rubin's
ability to plunk down $50 million could be decisive.
What else can you say? If Gore died Rubin would be a steady hand
at the rudder. If markets wobbled he'd be the calmest voice in the storm.
And the awkward financial man poses no threat to Gore's charisma gap. Rubin's
sane enough to mean it when he says he's not suited to, and doesn't want,
elected office. But a party can hope, can't it?
Matthew Miller is a syndicated columnist and a contributing editor
of The Washington Monthly. You can email him by clicking here
|Gore & JOSEPH
||by DAVID BROOKS
The Lord rested on the Sabbath, but it's impossible to imagine
Al Gore doing so. The man is a political Clydesdale, his eyes straight
ahead, pushing his way forward. As his handlers have discovered, his manner
makes him effective on the attack---he is a bludgeoning machine---but it
also makes him a little creepy. Why does he seem so intent even when he's
supposed to be loose? This is why he needs Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his
running mate. Sen. Lieberman does rest on the Sabbath, every Sabbath, because
the Torah tells him to. He obviously has a life outside of politics. And
it shows in his gentle demeanor and his reflective nature. Sen. Lieberman
doesn't bring many electoral votes to the ticket, but he brings sensibility
and balance. People actually like the more authentic Joe Lieberman. He
seems like he'd be enjoyable company.
There are three things a presidential candidate needs from a vice
presidential nominee. First, he needs him to energize the convention. Sen.
Lieberman would do that. Democratic delegates would love the idea of putting
a Jew a heartbeat away from the presidency. It's so Jackie Robinson! They'd
be reminded that theirs is the party of civil rights and breaking down
ethnic barriers. The press would love it too. There would be so much to
write and talk about: the place of religion in society (a circulation builder),
the ins and outs of orthodox Jewry, his wife, Hadassah, herself a dynamic
personality. There would be endless ruminations on whether America is ready
for a Jewish vice-president. I suspect we'd find it is. Remember, while
Catholics and Protestants do not form cohesive voting blocks any more,
highly religious people do. If you attend services weekly, whether Catholic,
Protestant or Jewish, you are more likely to vote Republican. Lieberman
would appeal to the highly religious of all faiths, and help the Democrats
shake off their secularist tinge.
Second, the vice-president has to be effective in the televised
debate. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for the Republican vice-presidential
candidate to launch a vicious attack on the Democratic ticket with Joe
Lieberman standing at the other podium? The man exudes civility and makes
anybody who goes on the attack look like a rabid dog by comparison. How
would the Republican raise the issue of the Clinton sleaze? Lieberman was
one of the chief Democratic critics of Clinton sleaze. By joining the Gore
ticket he'd be a step toward putting the party beyond all that. Of course,
Lieberman wouldn't be much good at attacking the Republican ticket. But
with Al Gore at the top of the ticket, the Democrats don't need another
Third, if a Gore/Lieberman ticket were elected, the vice-president
would raise the tone of the White House. These days, administrations seem
to be staffed by more and more ruthless political players. Once Democratic
operatives decided they were going to be as hardball as Lee Atwater, they
adopted bare-knuckle tactics with the fervor of converts. The Clinton scandals
were all magnified because the Clintonistas lied so blatantly and ruthlessly
assaulted their accusers. The counterattack was often more revolting than
the crime. Lieberman would at least serve as a hall monitor for all those
thrusting 27-year-olds who now seem to run White Houses.
Gore doesn't have a lot of great choices when it comes to vice-presidential
picks. There aren't a lot of Democratic governors anymore, or even a lot
of promising Democratic senators. But there is one outstanding pick---the
guy in the yarmulke.
David Brooks is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.
|GORE & ED
||by PETER NICHOLAS
At one of his final news conferences as mayor of Philadelphia,
Ed Rendell was asked if he might like to be vice president of the United
A few seconds passed. His eyes glistened. Maybe he was thinking back
to a time when the idea would have been ludicrous---that point in the mid-1980s
when he had lost successive campaigns for governor and mayor and his once
promising political career appeared to have collapsed. But a lot had changed
since then. Philadelphia had recovered and so had Rendell.
After two terms as the hugely popular mayor of a city that at one time
couldn't pay its bills, Rendell's career possibilities seemed limitless:
governor, cabinet secretary, and beyond. And why not? Al Gore himself had
given Rendell the ultimate tribute, dubbing him, "America's Mayor." "Do
I want to be vice president?" Rendell asked softly in a City Hall reception
room decorated with formal portraits of mayors past. Damn right he does.
The Rendell story sells. A gutsy, plain-spoken mayor in the New
Democratic mold takes office in the early 1990s. Philadelphia is near bankruptcy.
Its bonds have sunk to junk status. Even more worrisome, the city's self-image
is suffering and its national profile isn't much better. It wasn't so long
ago that police dropped a bomb on an anarchic cult called MOVE, incinerating
a rowhouse neighborhood under the watch of former mayor W. Wilson Goode.
Rendell wastes no time. He gets down on his hands and knees and scours
a toilet in dingy City Hall.
He announces that the city is broke. Determined to cut spending,
he wrings wage concessions from a municipal workforce that, he says, hasn't
had "a bad day for 30 years." He balances the budget; ratchets down an
oppressive wage tax; promotes Philadelphia tirelessly, luring hotels and
restaurants and reinventing the city as a tourist destination, a center
of culture and arts and sports and entertainment. The mayor's optimism
proves infectious. Philadelphians begin to believe.
Through it all, Rendell has the time of his life. He opens a municipal
swimming pool by stripping down to his trunks and leaping in---hairy back
and all. When he leaves office in January 2000, his approval rating is
through the roof. He moves to his next assignment, general chairman of
the Democratic National Committee, where he becomes one of his party's
chief fund-raisers and spokesmen.
"Here's a guy who said it's the cities' responsibility to right
their ship rather than expect the rest of America to pull them along,''
said Randall Miller, a history professor at St. Joseph's University in
Philadelphia. "He was America's Mayor, and he didn't have the hard edge
that Giuliani had in doing that. He could sell the idea of the city. He
could sell Philadelphia and he could do it with enormous good cheer.''
It's a story with a few holes. The city continued to hemorrhage
population under Rendell. Thousands of middle-class families left for the
suburbs, unwilling to enroll their children in a foundering public school
system that never got the mayor's full attention. After eight years of
America's Mayor, Philadelphia's thriving core was ringed by abandoned cars,
vacant lots, and crumbling houses. Still, for a public fed up with Washington
insiders, with government paralyzed by infighting, Rendell could be packaged
as a fresh-faced antidote.
"Al Gore needs someone who is not Washington,'' said David L.
Cohen, Rendell's close friend, former campaign manager, and chief of staff.
"Al Gore is quintessential Washington, and I don't think he wants to choose
another senator or congressman. It would be better for him to have someone
from outside of Washington, and that means you look at governors and mayors.
And if you look at successful governors or mayors, Ed Rendell has to be
at the top of your list.''
Don't discount geography. Pennsylvania is a vital swing state
in the general election, its cache of 23 electoral votes coveted by both
Gore and George W. Bush. California will probably go Democrat; Texas, Republican.
But Pennsylvania is in play. If there is any doubt about the state's importance,
look how seriously the Bush camp is considering Pennsylvania's GOP governor,
Tom Ridge. Rendell is a behemoth in the populous eastern part of the state.
He won re-election in 1995 with 77 percent of the vote. As a bonus, Rendell
is well-known in parts of New Jersey (15 electoral votes) and in Delaware
(3), where he has appeared often on TV.
"The battleground states are going to be states in the Northeast
and Midwest that have traditional big-city constituencies,'' said Thomas
Leonard, a Philadelphia attorney and fund-raiser for the Democratic Party.
"A lot of ethnics; a lot of city-oriented voters.'' He added: "Rendell
therefore becomes attractive as a successful big-city mayor who gets along
with organized labor but was tough enough to stand up to them and turn
a city around financially.''
As a campaigner, Rendell would nicely complement Gore. Where Gore
is stiff, Rendell is natural. Where Gore looks scripted, Rendell is spontaneous.
The ex-mayor avoids jargon and has a gift for connecting with his audience.
A lawyer by training, a politician by instinct, Rendell's speeches are
an amalgam of logic and passion. He isn't afraid to cry in public, especially
when the subject turns to parent and child. Rendell was 14 when his own
father, a middleman in New York's garment district, died of a heart attack.
None of this is to say Gore-Rendell is the dream ticket. Though
his administration was largely free of scandal, Rendell can expect renewed
attention to his private life should he be nominated for the vice presidency.
Rendell, who is married to a federal judge, can be flirtatious with women.
He has been dogged by rumors of extra-marital affairs. Is the country ready
for that after Bill Clinton? Cohen sees a difference. First, he said he
doesn't believe Rendell has been unfaithful. The best efforts of enterprising
reporters have come up empty, and Clinton's troubles are of a different
Then there's religion. Rendell is Jewish. Gore has a chance to
shatter the religion barrier by picking Rendell. But is the country ready
for a Jewish vice president? Ancient prejudice may be the one obstacle
this most nimble of politicians can't surmount.
Peter Nicholas is a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer.