Tim Kaine’s debut

To repeat what I wrote about Senator Tim Kaine last night, I’m not overwhelmed but why should I have been? Before the expected death of FDR at the start of his fourth term (by the way, keeping Harry Truman in the cold remains one of the trickster’s worst mistakes in office) and the onset of Cold War exigencies, vice presidents got chosen by conventions for regional balance; the head of the State Department was the plum. With the exception of Martin Van Buren, one of the creators of the Democratic Party and a confidant of Andrew Jackson, only the obscure Garret Hobart could be said to be an “assistant president” with the charm and talent to press the Senate for legislation that the Chief Executive wanted passed. Hell, vice presidents didn’t get an office in the West Wing until Walter Mondale, one of the few Carter-era innovations that the Reagan people kept. It’s possible that younger men and women who lived through George W. Bush’s first term think the vice president is an omnipotent #2, but that’s not how American history has unfurled. Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin were the most irresponsible picks of my lifetime if you discount Cheney as a historical outlier, and Quayle had no influence on Poppy Bush.

As for Pence, I agree with Scott Lemieux

The pick is…fine. He wasn’t my first choice and still wouldn’t be, but the pick accomplishes the basic minimum of what is necessary in a vice presidential candidate, which is minimizing the downside risk. (As I will return to later, he’s far from unique in this respect, but he meets the standard.) He’s a moderate but not a Lieberman or anything. He’s not unqualified to be president, the media likes him, and Clinton seems comfortable with him.

– With all due respect, the concerns about abortion are specious. Trying to figure out what a politician REALLY THINKS is a useless mug’s game. Maybe his 100% NARAL rating is a product of shifts in the party. So what? It’s not shifting back, and Kaine would have no means to impose some kind of secret anti-abortion agenda even if he wanted to.

– I have two reservations about the pick. First, it unnecessarily puts a Senate seat at risk. It’s not a dispositive factor like it is with Sherrod Brown — there’s a Democratic governor in Virginia, and the Democrats can probably (although not certainly) retain the seat in an off-year election. But it’s a negative factor. The second problem is that it plays into the narrative that a “safe choice” means “white guy.” What risk, exactly, is involved with Tom Perez, and [sic] extremely intelligent and well-educated person who has numerous public offices without scandal or notable gaffes?

I’ll answer Lemieux’s rhetorical question. After Richard Cheney, no sentient aspirant for chief magistrate should consider risk anything more than of tertiary interest. Also, Trump. Look at Mike Pence, a vice presidential pick whose mien is as risky as a Kraft Singles Slices sandwich; he looks like a Kiwanis Club president who hated that sip of beer he took in 1985. That’s why he’s dangerous.

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