With our nation literally and figuratively aflame, we are obviously at a terribly precarious point in our history. Since even before our recent upheavals, I’ve been preoccupied with – TLOML might suggest that I’ve been obsessing on – the larger issues facing us, the subject of this note seems painfully myopic: whom former Vice President Joe Biden should choose as his running mate. Even so, Mr. Biden’s choice is vital, given its potential impact on the course of our nation.
In an earlier unpublished draft of this post, I declared that the terrible tragedy of George Floyd’s death, taken together with the consequent outrage and demonstrations (completely justified) and rioting (never justifiable, and wildly counterproductive for those seeking to rectify this country’s racial injustice), have now presented Mr. Biden with a dilemma regarding his choice of a running mate requiring “not only the sagacity of a Franklin Roosevelt but the wisdom of King Solomon.” I noted that Mr. Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota police – and the systemic racism in the Minneapolis police department it has brought to national attention – has seemingly dimmed if not destroyed the chances of U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Reviewing alternatives, I first repeated my posted reservations about U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Then, turning to the most widely-touted African American female prospects, after reciting my oft-stated misgivings about former GA Rep. Stacy Abrams and U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris, I alluded to the latest media favorite, U.S. FL Rep. Val Demings. I observed that although Rep. Demings (whom I haven’t researched in any depth, and have never heard speak) appears an impressive person, she would need to be introduced to the American people and, in only her second term in Congress and third year in Washington, like Mses. Abrams and Harris arguably lacks the requisite experience for the presidency. I concluded with the comment that although Mr. Biden has faced inordinate personal hardship in his life, and has sat next to a President of the United States as that President had to make excruciatingly difficult decisions, Mr. Biden’s selection of a running mate is perhaps the first time, at least within the public realm, that he faces a decision of presidential weight.
The draft was misguided in two vital particulars. While the former Vice President’s selection of a running mate is indeed a decision of presidential weight, what Mr. Biden needs in addition to King Solomon’s wisdom is not Franklin Roosevelt’s sagacity but Abraham Lincoln’s strength and perseverance. The note was also too tactically focused. Given Mr. Biden’s age, the good of the country demands that he choose the successor that he considers most qualified to assume the presidency on “Day 1.” If he believes as I do that is Ms. Klobuchar, he should pick Ms. Klobuchar. If he believes that another female alternative is the most qualified to assume the presidency, that’s the woman he should pick. There is no candidate whose record will not contain some vulnerabilities that will have to be explained. He might as well do his explaining on behalf of the running mate that he considers best equipped to serve all American people and their interests.
Over the last 20 years, through incompetence, greed, hubris, naiveté, and malevolence, we’ve frittered away much of the reservoir of international good will and overwhelming objective global advantage we enjoyed at the dawn of – remember it? – Y2K. While picking the running mate most qualified to assume the presidency is good politics for Mr. Biden because it would be consistent with his “brand” – a thoughtful, good guy trying to do the right thing — the most important reason to do so is this: our future and perhaps that of the world depends upon us having the most able leaders with the strength and integrity to make the hard decisions without regard to self-interest that they believe are in the best interest of our nation, its people, and the peoples of the world. Given our dithering during the last score of years culminating with the destruction wrought by President Trump, if we can’t do what is best now, what was it all worth?