As y’all know, I’m a huge Joe Biden fan. From the beginning, he was the one guy the country most needed to win the Democratic nomination for president, and he did it, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he does. I’ve never in my life encountered a candidate like that. There are people I think are awesome, like Joe Riley. But there have been times when I didn’t agree with the Charleston mayor, either. If you’re honest, if you really think about all the issues, perfect agreement is impossible.
I’m not going to offer a list of things where I think Joe’s wrong right now (maybe later), but I say all that to mention one that is relevant to this post: I wish he hadn’t promised several months ago that his running mate would be female.
And no, it’s not just because that mean ol’ white guy Brad hates Identity Politics, although yeah, I’d prefer that someone who would be president would always promise to choose the best candidate, period, without regard to demographics. But here’s the real reason in this case:
We just had a small army of Democrats run for president. Quick, how many was it? Wikipedia says 29 “major” candidates sought the nomination, with as many as 25 running campaigns at any one time. I paid close attention. And at no time did I see or hear anything that in any way challenged what we knew at the start: Joe Biden was far and away the one candidate best prepared and suited for the presidency. He was ready for the job. Finally, an overwhelming proportion of the electorate agreed.
So while I watched to see if anyone presented evidence or arguments that challenged that fact — and no one did — my mind ran on a second track: As long as we’re looking so closely at all these other folks, which one would make a good running mate?
At some point, I — and a lot of other people — decided that would be Amy Klobuchar. I don’t remember when I first decided that, but here’s something I wrote back in October:
Oh, and I came close to a decision last night. I think I’d like to see Amy Klobuchar as Joe’s running mate, assuming everything goes right and Democrats decide they actually want to beat Trump. It would probably be Mayor Pete if he weren’t so young and inexperienced, and if he didn’t keep reminding us of it (But that happened five minutes ago, and as I may have mentioned previously, I wasn’t born yet…). I don’t see Sen. Klobuchar as quite ready to be president yet, but she comes close, and would be a good understudy….
From that point on, I became more and more certain of that. I had a feeling that Joe Biden did, too, to the extent that he had time to think about it.
In fact, I keep telling myself that the reason Joe announced that his running mate would be a woman, he thought it would be Amy Klobuchar. Which is one reason why I didn’t go around loudly complaining when he did it. Because I couldn’t think of anyone of any gender who would be better, or as good.
But here’s the thing: That wasn’t a done deal. And as things have turned out, she’s not the one. But Joe is stuck with his promise. He can’t go, “OK, who else looked good in that process? What about Cory Booker? How about Pete Buttigieg?” Which is a shame, because looking back, perhaps those were the best options after Sen. Klobuchar.
So now we’re in kind of a fix, because his running mate is going to be someone from one of two categories:
- Unfamiliar candidates who have not been vetted enough to inspire confidence. As y’all know, I’ve written a lot over the years about the importance of experience. It’s certainly one of Joe Biden’s top strengths. But as I’ve also explained, it’s not just about how experience prepares the candidate for the job. There’s also the fact that people who are experienced in public life have been out there performing in those jobs long enough for us to assess how we think they might perform in the future in public office. So even people with great resumes could fall down if we the voters haven’t been in a position to form impressions of their performance over time.
- Candidates who have been more or less thoroughly vetted and found wanting. That would include, say, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about why I’ve written them off in this post because this post is going to be long enough without that. We can argue about their relative merits another day, if necessary. But I had enough information about Warren eight years ago, when I wrote this. Nothing I’ve seen from her since then has changed that assessment. I went into the season with an open mind on the lesser-known Harris, but was disappointed in debate after debate. And other voters seemed to agree with me, which is why she didn’t even last until the first primaries. She was vetted, and did not hold up.
This is not a good situation. The only hope is that Biden will choose someone from the first category — and that person will hold up well under the tidal wave of examination that will wash over her when the time comes. Which would be astounding, the odds seem so strongly against it happening. But the country needs it to happen.
So I’ve found myself looking hard at previously unknown (to me, at least) potential candidates whose names pop up. Some of the best I’ve seen, making me momentarily hopeful, have been:
- Val Demings — The former police chief of Orlando, and member of Congress since 2017. I like what I’ve seen, but I just haven’t seen enough. I like her 27 years of working in the vineyards of law enforcement — but hey, if the mere accident of being from Minnesota excludes Klobuchar, how well will a career cop do with the Democratic electorate in its current mood? And I really want to see more experience on the federal level.
- Tammy Duckworth — I like all sorts of things about her. Of course, there’s the fact that she’s only in her first term in the Senate, but she did serve a couple of hitches in the House before that. But I really want to see a lot more than I’ve seen. So I’ll keep watching her. Tucker Carlson seems to be an ass (I say “seems” because I’ve never watched him, but only heard about him), but handing him the George Washington thing was a political misstep that is worrisome. We don’t need someone who will hand the opposition clubs to beat Biden about the head and shoulders with. But, as I say, I continue to watch her.
Which brings me to someone I’ve heard less about, and I wish it were more.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife casually mentioned having read about a woman who sounded good. She told me it was an African-American woman about our age, and she’d heard really good things about her. But she couldn’t remember her name. My reaction? Well, the fact that you can’t remember her name is a problem. Again, the point I make so often — we’re talking about a person who could become president of the United States. It needs to be someone we’ve been watching for years.
But it won’t be, will it? So, I get interested in any lesser-known person who sounds good, because that’s the situation we’re in.
I was pleased to read George Will’s column the other day headlined, “The woman Biden should pick to lead us to calmer days.” It was about U.S. Rep. Karen Bass from California. I mentioned the piece to my wife, who said, “Yes, that’s the woman I was talking about before.” Well OK, then.
Here are some of the things I liked:
- First, that headline. “Calmer days” are exactly what this country needs. When I’m in a hyperbolic mood (which happens), I tend to think that my fondest wish for a future with Joe Biden as president would be that I would then live in a country in which I could completely ignore the White House for days and even weeks at a time, while feeling that my country was OK. I’d really like to stop thinking about the POTUS for awhile, at the same time knowing there’s someone qualified, decent and normal in charge. And a qualified, decent and normal person is in the backup position.
- Second, she’s in her fifth term. While I may not have been in a position to vet her during that time, she’s held up under the examination of her constituents, over and over. Five terms isn’t what you’d call a long time in Congress, but it beats the other candidates I’ve been looking at.
- Her elective service isn’t limited to Congress. She also cut an impressive swath on the state level: “Elected to the state assembly in 2004, in three terms Bass became majority whip, then majority leader, then speaker.” That doesn’t happen to people with sub-par leadership skills.
- She’s from a district that has probably seen as much racial unrest in the streets as any in the country — the site of the Watts riots, and the Rodney King situation that “engulfed a swath of Los Angeles, killing 63 and injuring 2,383.” She brings history and understanding to this moment.
- Our own Jim Clyburn, who helped us get to Joe Biden being the nominee, has good things to say about her, based on Will’s interview with her.
Well, I could go on and on, but there are a lot of things I liked. And I really didn’t see anything I didn’t like. Which is unusual, when you’re talking about the acerbic George Will. (Oh, and if someone jumps in with a “who cares what George Will thinks?,” I’ll address that. But once again, this piece, at more than 1,700 words, is already too long.)
That doesn’t mean I won’t find something that worries me. But hey, as long as it’s not disqualifying, that would be reassuring. As I said at the top, there’s nobody I don’t disagree with about something — especially if I know enough to consider the person as a backup president.
Maybe y’all can help get me started. I want to know a lot more about her…