Chris Rock for Vice President
Once upon a time, the presidential nominating conventions were just what they sound like—conventions where the nominees for president were officially selected. These days, primaries are so crowded toward the beginning of the year that the major nominees are apparent even before Super Tuesday. As a result, the only excitement at the Democratic and Republican national conventions will be the announcements of the running mates: those men and/or women who will compete for the title of Vice President.
I ask the reader to remember what the official duties of the Vice President are. Besides serving as the Senate President, the Vice President is expected to take over if the President is ever unable to finish his or her term. Obviously, this means that the Vice Presidential nominees must be eligible for the Presidency, but it also means that they should be good candidates on their own. They may lack the charisma and fame of the true nominees, but they ought to be people who we would trust with the future of our country should they ever be put in charge.
With that in mind, could someone please tell me what is going on in Al Gore’s head? As a current Vice President, he should know better than anyone the gravity of a decision like choosing a running mate. Yet, I still hear names being whispered that defy logic, mainly Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor Gray Davis (both Feinstein and Davis are from California), and Representative Richard Gephardt (of Missouri). First of all, these three extremists have no business going anywhere near the White House, but from a purely political standpoint, what is Al Gore thinking?
Perhaps Vice President Gore is trying to make up for his fatal lack of charisma by choosing a high-profile running mate like Feinstein or Gephardt (Davis may be high profile, but he is even more bland than Gore—the first name ‘Gray’ says it all). Or perhaps he just wants California badly enough to risk alienating more moderate democrats. Or maybe he heard the rumor that Missouri always picks the winner, and he misunderstood (they don’t actually PICK the winner, Mr. Gore, they just tend to be a microcosm of the rest of the country). Whatever his reasons, he had better rethink his strategy, and quickly, because the convention is only a couple of weeks away.
If it is popularity that Gore wants, maybe he should look to the people who Americans actually pay attention to--celebrities. Anyone who chooses Leno over Letterman knows how few everyday folk recognize even the Vice President himself. Warren Beatty expressed interest in the Presidency earlier this year, and he is just as arch-liberal as Gephardt, Feinstein, and Davis On a call-in radio talk show earlier this week, a listener presented Jerry Springer as an option. Springer actually has political experience—he was once the mayor of Cincinnati. For the ultimate in charisma, how about Chris Rock? Even Republicans like him, and if there’s anything this race needs, it’s a little humor. There are many extreme left-wing personalities in Hollywood, and they have both better name recognition and more money than their more experienced counterparts in Washington.
Okay, so maybe celebrity running mates aren’t such a terrific idea. I don’t want Chris Rock to be second in line for the big red button any more than the rest of you do. However, there must be a better option than the ones Gore has suggested. In fact, I’d almost rather have Chris Rock’s finger on the button than Dianne Feinstein’s.
I don’t excuse the Republicans from my criticism in the running mate selection game. For Governor George Bush, the whole process seems to be exactly that—a game. Somehow, though, the short list on the Republican side is just a lot more appealing. The choices are less extreme, more stable, and best of all, any of them would make decent Presidents should the unthinkable happen. The best of Bush’s short list has to be J.C. Watts, the young representative from Oklahoma. The most perplexing is John McCain, who viciously attacked Bush throughout the primaries and tends to say inappropriate things at inopportune times. I can only gather that Bush is playing Gore’s game here, trying to pick a charismatic, media-friendly running mate to overcome the boredom associated with this year’s Presidential race.
The most disheartening thing about Bush’s Vice Presidential short list is the apparent removal of Michigan Governor John Engler. Pundits have said that Engler was eighty-sixed for failing to deliver Michigan in the primaries. Engler would have been a good choice for a running mate, though, and his seeming dismissal from the list goes back to the issue at the heart of the matter—is a running mate a potential Vice President of the United States of America? Or is she or he just a campaign tool, with no more substance than a rented dog in the candidate’s family portrait?
While watching the spectacles that will be the conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, keep in mind that these new additions to the campaign trail are more than just cheerleaders for the varsity. They are politicians, who have agendas of their own and big shoes to fill if anything happens to the new President. Pay attention, and be careful who you don’t vote for, because he or she just may someday be in charge.