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Obama-Kerry '08

Meet the dream ticket!

12:00 AM, Apr 3, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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BEFORE READING ON, please note the date of this article's publication. Today is April 3, not April 1. In other words, what follows is no April Fool's Day celebration.

With the Lioness of Tuzla's campaign taking on still more water and her path to victory looking all but impossible, Barack Obama has emerged as the overwhelming favorite. And you know what that means--soon everyone will be talking about who Obama should select as his running mate.

Let's first discuss what Obama requires in a running mate. Obviously, he desperately needs someone who will balance out his unprecedented lack of experience. The most important thing that needs addressing is his flimsy (i.e. non-existent) military bona fides. Chances are, the analysts will unanimously dictate that Obama needs a veteran on the ticket.

But Obama's credentials deficit runs much deeper. Obama is equally inexperienced in everything else that matters, too. For instance, there's no reason to believe that he's particularly economically literate, or that he's savvy in the ways of congressional dealings. We've learned this week that he certainly he doesn't know the way to the Senate's secret underground bowling alley.

But these are mere pragmatic concerns, and I know the Obama campaign likes to exist on a loftier plane. Therefore, I'll try to discuss things in terms that David Axelrod and perhaps even Obama himself will appreciate. After endorsing Obama, Bill Richardson explained that he did so because, "In my view, Senator Obama represents our best hope of replacing division with unity." That's swell, but one can imagine a lot of voters thinking, "Unity sounds really neat, but right now I'm really concerned about rising gas prices and the plummeting value of my house." At some point, the Obama campaign will have to find a way to tether itself to more earthly matters than the problems Obama prefers addressing. The running mate selection will be a milestone event in that process.

Some people think the aforementioned Richardson would make a good ticket-mate. Sorry--he wouldn't, even if he lost the unbecoming facial hair. In spite of the media's impressive effort to turn a guy who earned about 2 percent of the Democratic party's support in the primaries into a kingmaker when he endorsed Obama, Richardson, as evidenced by his performance in those primaries, is a second-rater. Additionally, in spite of his really nice résumé, Richardson has gravitas issues of his own. Let's not forget that Governor Richardson spent decades boasting about the Oakland A's drafting him when no such thing had occurred.

In the lefty blogosphere, Jim Webb has emerged as Obama's dream running mate. While Webb certainly has the military bona fides for the job, he's only been in the senate for 15 months. Now, please don't take what follows the wrong way--I like Jim Webb and got a lot of heat for saying nice things about him during his race with George Allen. But I don't think Jim Webb is a great politician or even a particularly good one. I don't consider a razor-thin victory over an incumbent who ran the worst campaign in memory the mark of a political titan. Webb also has little tolerance for foolishness, which suggests that he should stay as far away from presidential politics as possible.

Besides, Obama needs someone with a thicker political résumé than Webb's. Webb has strength in one area, and Obama has weaknesses in every area. What Obama really needs is an éminence grise, a senior figure who oozes seriousness on an array of issues. Unfortunately for Obama, he's a Democrat, and the Democratic party hasn't made a hospitable home for serious people this decade. For goodness sakes, the last two chairmen of the party have been Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean. As law professors like Barack Obama say, "Res ipsa locquitur."

Yet there is one man that Barack Obama can turn to who will fill all the ticket's needs. That man is John Kerry. We've already discussed how Obama needs a serious running mate, and Kerry at least looks serious. Besides, Kerry is haughty and dour, two traits which are sort of bastard cousins to seriousness. Additionally, if my memory serves correctly, Kerry spent time in the armed forces and even had a tour of duty in Vietnam. And although he's gotten nothing done in the Senate, at least he's been there forever.

Unlike the almost presumptive nominee, Kerry is a fine debater. How good was Kerry in the 2004 debates? The New York Times described his fluid performance in his first joust with George W. Bush by exclaiming, "He moved gracefully. Mr. Bush slouched and stayed coiled tight, but Mr. Kerry seemed at times to be waltzing with his partner, the lectern. Mr. Kerry moved his hands almost continuously, at one point folding them over his heart like a French mime as he explained that he felt 'nothing but respect' for Tony Blair and British soldiers serving in Iraq." A French mime? Waltzing with his lectern? Need I say more?

Kerry would also bring certain pragmatic, political advantages to the fray. Kerry has been vetted. No surprises will emerge about John Kerry. Well, maybe a few minor ones from Bob Shrum's back-stabbing memoir (like Kerry's juvenile behavior at a campaign get-together with Peter, Paul & Mary), but nothing major. And Kerry's presence on the ticket will make this election more of a referendum on the Bush administration. I know Obama prefers looking forward rather than backwards, but a little glance of this sort in the rearview mirror would help his chances considerably.

I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING: Why would I, a conservative partisan, give the Obama campaign such valuable free advice? This actually would concern me were it not for two factors: 1) I'm quite confident the Obama campaign doesn't care what I think; and 2) I'm even more confident that John Kerry is doing everything he can to further his ambitions on his own. I've been a Kerry constituent for almost 25 years. (It feels like longer.) I know he's still scheming his way to the presidency, and a spot on the Obama ticket would put him back in the game.

But I must confess an ulterior motive for my pining for an Obama/Kerry ticket. Things have gotten dull around here. Every day, we have to write about the latest development that defines Barack Obama. The little lies, the habitual evasions, the avoidance of substance--each day we get fresh evidence that Obama is a lot more like the typical politician than the country believes. It's an important story, one that has to be covered.

And I will cover it. But is it too much to ask of the Obama campaign that while it makes me slog through this drudgery, it also provides me with the endless entertainment that another national John Kerry campaign will surely provide?

Ah, the times we had! Like when John and Teresa went to a Wendy's with the Edwards to prove they were regular folks but didn't eat and had a sumptuous catered feast waiting for them at their hotel. Or when he promised his advisors he wouldn't go windsurfing and did so anyway. Or when he called a Secret Service agent a cuss word for allegedly making him stumble on the ski slopes, declaring to the media, "I don't fall."

Just the thought of fresh, anguished cries of "Swiftboating!!!!!" brings a smile to my face. Besides, doesn't the country deserve to see what kind of relationship would develop between Michelle Obama and Teresa Heinz Kerry?

Dean Barnett is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.