It is no secret that neither of the two major party presidential candidates has set any records in voter esteem. Since polling on this issue began they place first and second for highest negatives of any candidate ever at this point in an election cycle. It’s 57% negative for Donald and 52% for Hillary, according to the most recent CNN poll.
There’s no real point in going back over all the dumb or odious or dumb/odious things that candidate Trump has said. If War and Peace had been written by William Burroughs you wouldn’t read it. And Hillary Clinton unfortunately comes across as untrustworthy to many people, and arrogant. She represents, rightly or wrongly, part of what Peggy Noonan has been railing about in the Wall Street Journal— “the elites,” the political entitled class.
It’s just one vote, and a vote in California at that, as blue a blue state as there is, except maybe Hawaii. So you can sulk and stay home—yeah, that’ll show them. Or throw away your vote on the Green or the Libertarian candidates, which would be fun but pointless. Giving them money instead might make more sense.
There are only three really important things that a President has to do, things what really can make the difference between life and death, between economic prosperity for the nation and its citizens and wasting blood and treasure abroad, and between justice and lack of justice. Two of them cannot be done before the candidate becomes the President: 1. Declare war. 2. Nominate Supreme Court justices.
Candidates can describe how they would approach these decisions during the campaign. They can provide lists of suitable judicial candidates who they would be likely to choose among, given the chance. But that’s not a binding promise, the favored candidate could die, or go in for mental treatment, or otherwise act perversely. The President could just change his or her mind, there’s no guarantee.
The war thing is worse. The person running for supreme commander can elaborate on what he or she thinks is a sufficiently grave situation to call forth deadly force from the nation’s large and well trained armed forces. Pearl Harbor is a frequently used analogy. But the last three or was it four wars did not involve Pearl Harbor or its kin. They did not involve a clearly delineated attacking force, sponsored and acknowledged by a foreign country, an attacking force violating your homeland, wearing uniforms with patches on the sleeves, and sporting national insignia on the dive-bombing planes. This force, once thus identified, provided us the luxury of a distinct, geographical enemy against whom we could mobilize and then beat the crap out of. It doesn’t seem to be that simple any more, or perhaps Pearl Harbor and Hitler were the exceptions.
But the candidate does make a consequential decision before the election by choosing a potential vice president. This man or woman has a high likelihood of becoming President. Fourteen such persons have become President in the history of the Republic, more than half after the death of a President. That’s out of a total of 44 presidents, or a 31.8 percent hit rate. Since 1945, the numbers are even higher—5 out of eleven, or just under 50%.
This is a big number, a high probability, and it’s worth considering.
The Republicans have chosen Richard Pence, or is it Arthur Pence, I can’t remember. Oh, Michael. He seems a nice enough man for an undistinguished House member whose stand out achievement as a candidate so far is to have endorsed Paul Ryan before Donald Trump did. He also tries to stand directly behind Trump at every rally, possibly even out of sight, and who could blame him. I miss Sarah Palin, at least we knew who she was. Pence seems best known for signing a bill while briefly Governor which limited abortions in Indiana including those based on “the potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability.” One wonders what he would think of Zika and its consequences. One hopes not to find out.
The Democrats have chosen Tim Kaine, junior Senator from Virginia. I have known the Senator since he first ran for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, more than a few years ago. I have been a supporter but not because I want anything in particular from the political system. I lived in Virginia but my company had no business in the state. So I never really had an “ask.” I have been a supporter because he addresses problems on a straight forward basis, and he never made a really significant miss-step in Richmond. And Virginia politics are about as contentious as anywhere but maybe New York. It’s hard to make a misstep if you’re modest, smart and have good judgement. And that’s what he is– just a straight forward, sensible, decent guy. He sat there in Richmond and came to work every day and stayed out of trouble, balanced the budget, brought in new jobs and investment, dealt successfully and respectfully with the Republicans, and kept the place running smoothly. Although he believes in some forms of gun control greater than what we have now (i.e., larger than nothing) he did not take away anyone’s weapons in Virginia. It’s not that kind of state. He believes in abolishing the death penalty, but obeyed the law of the state of Virginia, which he had sworn to do. What a concept! The New York Times recently accused him of wearing “Dad clothes” at the Democratic convention. One presumes he didn’t get the Saks Fifth Ave shopping trip that MS. Palin got a few years ago. Good for him.
The facts about him are pretty well known, and politically positive. That he spent a year in Honduras working with the Jesuits probably wasn’t to build a political resume. That his wife was the daughter of a very popular former governor might be read incorrectly, except that his father in law was a Republican governor. Not a good way to make progress in the Democratic party. Maybe he just does things because they’re right for him.
The fact that even while in the minority in the Senate for the last four years, he has consistently reached across the aisle to find things that could get done on a bipartisan basis is not as well known. He’s diligent, he’s thoughtful, he listens, he’s not convinced he’s the smartest kid on the block. He’s not Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Corey Booker or any of a score of well qualified Hispanics. All of those would have been OK choices for VP, but not great choices. Tim is a great choice. He’s just what Hillary should have chosen, and thank goodness she did. So I am voting for her in November or whenever they send us the mail-in ballots here in California.
Besides, he can play the harmonica.
Published in Huffington Post 4 October 2016