Jewish World Review June 21, 2004 / 2 Tamuz, 5764
Debra J. Saunders
President Bush should ask Sen. John McCain to be his running mate.
Dick Cheney has done a fair enough job as vice president. But he's not going to bring any new voters to a ticket that is fighting for its very survival, and it doesn't help that many voters think of him as R-Halliburton.
The veep's ticker isn't in the pink of health; he can bow out of the race gracefully, saying he's doing so for health reasons, then spend his golden years as a venerable GOP icon who sacrificed his privileged position for the good of the party.
McCain would draw voters to the GOP ticket. The Arizona senator has a reputation as a maverick who nonetheless can work with pols on both sides of the aisle; he appeals to voters outside the traditional Republican base. Democrats like McCain. Independents like McCain. OK, some Republicans don't like McCain, but they like Bush and that should be enough.
Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford and the Hoover Institution, is working on a book that argues that American voters aren't as polarized as polls suggest; he believes the real polarization prevails among political elites, and the immoderate candidates parties nominate. While many political scientists see the country as hopelessly polarized, Fiorina believes that centrist candidates can break the gridlock and win elections.
To Fiorina, there's no question that McCain would help either ticket.
Democrat John Kerry reportedly asked McCain to be his running mate, but McCain said no.
McCain was right to do so. Feminists would have hounded McCain until he renounced his anti-abortion position. If he did so, McCain wouldn't be McCain, revered for putting principle first. If he didn't, he would drive lefty votes to Ralph Nader.
But McCain could run with Bush and be true to his own politics. Fiorina liked the idea of a Bush/McCain ticket because McCain has a reputation as a problem solver whereas Bush is seen to many as ''stubborn'' and ''ideologically rigid.''
The best part is: admitting McCain into the Bush inner circle would signal a needed change in the Bush White House and the Bushies wouldn't even have to admit it.
What is Dubya's biggest shortcoming? His demand for extreme loyalty has isolated him, so that Bush is surrounded by people who think the same thoughts and see it as their duty to keep the inner circle orthodox. Secretary of State Colin Powell provides the exception to the rule, but he is the exception. (He would be a good veep nominee, too.) As Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" makes clear, there has been insufficient debate within this administration, when the president might have benefited from hearing different voices.
Bush, of all people, should realize how hyper-loyalty can hurt a candidate. In 1992, advisers to Bush pere were intent on locking other people out of their exclusive club. But politicians don't win by being exclusive. They win by welcoming other viewpoints and constituents into the fold. Alas, the Bushies were so successful in keeping rivals out that they kept good people from getting in.
Lucky for Bill Clinton.
The two biggest obstacles to my proposal are of course Bush and McCain, who don't particularly like each other even if their frosty relations have thawed to the point that has McCain stumping for Bush this weekend.
McCain already has declared he won't be a vice president. But if Bush promises to give McCain a role in setting defense policy, McCain might see a chance to do good, improve conditions for America's fighting forces while achieving America's political and military goals in Iraq and be the lead GOP presidential choice in 2008.
As for Bush, he should know that humility is good for the soul. Appealing to McCain's better nature also would allow Bush to expand a skill set charm that he too long has reserved for Democrats only. It would show the country a Bush willing to think outside the box in which he has been sheltered for too long.
Fiorina sees the real dividing line in America as a schism between politicians who want to solve problems and politicians who don't.
McCain clearly belongs in that first class. He has worked with Democratic senators, and he has bucked his party when he believed it was in the nation's interest.
I believe Bush sees himself in that first class as well. But many voters don't see that man. They instead see a man who can't break away from his advisers and who puts personal friendships and loyalties ahead of the national interest.
President Bush needs their votes to win re-election.
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate