Thursday, January 17, 2008

Al Gore for...VP?

Came across this wacky post from the Times (UK) Online suggesting that Al Gore would be a great candidate...for vice president, with Obama at the top of the ticket.

Now I think Al Gore is great and all, but this seems like a profoundly dumb idea. (Okay, you can't blame this guy for coming up with the idea: see also here, here, here, and here, for starters.)

Here are the columnist's 10 reasons for the idea, along with my responses:

1. He brings experience to the ticket. Inexperience is Obama's greatest weak point.
Inexperience is, in fact, Obama's greatest strength. His advantage is that he is a fresh face, with no record to bog him down, and that he represents change. Gore's long record of accomplishment would in fact be an albatross; the entire campaign would become about attacking Gore.

2. He represented a southern state, so he would broaden the geographical base of Obama's campaign.
Gore won exactly one state south of the Mason-Dixon line: Maryland. (Well, he also won Florida, and hence the election, but that's another matter.) There's no Southern advantage here.

3. He would rouse the Democratic base, stoking their desire for revenge for 2000 and increasing the turnout on the Dem side. This would allow Obama to concentrate on swing voters.
You misunderstand the psychology of the Democratic base, which prefers to shunt its previous "losers" into oblivion. Remembering the 2000 election makes the average die-hard Democrat ill and discouraged rather than angry. Bush makes them angry.

4. He would bring lustre to the ticket, which could be important if facing John McCain. The Republican will not be able to boast a VP candidate who has won both an Oscar and a Nobel prize.
The ticket does not need "lustre." Obama is riding high precisely because he is a media darling, a superstar with far more charisma than Gore. And if Gore does bring lustre, that's a bad thing; the VP should never outshine the top of the ticket. (The idea that Americans will vote for an Oscar and a Nobel winner is laughable. Jimmy Carter won a Nobel and I don't see anyone proposing him as a candidate.)

5. He is a good debater with an excellent track record in the VP debates.
No one watches VP debates.

6. He would push climate change up the agenda during the election, exposing Republican weaknesses.
Climate change is a winner if it is *an* issue (one that shows the ignorance and intransigence of the Bush administration), but not if it is *the* issue (showing that the Democrats are really tree-huggers bent on destroying the economy). And it doesn't work if McCain is the nominee.

7. He would bring the Democratic establishment behind Obama without him having to select Hillary.
The less Obama is associated with the "Democratic establishment," the better.

8. He served in Vietnam, volunteering even though he opposed the war. This remains an issue and would certainly be one if McCain was the Republican candidate.
Obama is too young for Vietnam service to become an issue. Gore has never seemed comfortable making an issue of his own service anyway.

9. His record on terror and Iraq inside the Clinton White House was a good one. He would be able to deploy this to help Obama when foreign policy comes to the forefront.
The last thing the Democrats need is a round of finger-pointing about whether Clinton/Gore or Bush/Cheney are to blame for making the country more vulnerable to terrorism. Right now the responsibility is solely on Bush's shoulders; leave it there.

10. His re-election would be exciting for the media and another first, helping the Obama bandwagon roll. No VP has run for a third term. But there is no law against it.
Um...I don't know. Isn't electing the first black president of the United States enough for the media to chew on?

Moral of the story: British (and also, I'm afraid, Canadian) punditry on U.S. politics should be used for amusement purposes only.

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