Choosing a Vice President: No Simple Task

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Now that the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations have been clinched, NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr talks about the complicated calculations that go into choosing a running mate.

DANIEL SCHORR: Senators Obama and McCain are no doubt agonizing about their choice of running mates.


NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: It's a matter of weighing assets, as well as personal compatibility for a position that has grown tremendously in power since FDR's vice president, John Nance Garner, likened it to a bucket of warm spit. President Eisenhower had personal reservations about Richard Nixon, but thought he would buttress the administration's position with the right wing. Nixon thought so little of Spiro Agnew that he considered dumping him from the 1972 reelection ticket. Kennedy's chilly relations with Lyndon Johnson were well known. But Johnson provided an opening to Texas and to other Southern voters. In 1980, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tried to broker the designation of ex-President Ford to the Reagan ticket, but Reagan decided that this would give too much power to Kissinger and chose George Bush instead.

The junior Bush, on the other hand, appears content to farm out a major part of a policy making to Dick Cheney, with whom he apparently enjoys a warm, collegial relationship. Today, Senator McCain's problem is reasonably uncomplicated. He will probably select someone who has had no ties to the Bush administration and who can compensate for McCain's avowed weakness in economic matters.

Senator Obama faces a more difficult problem. It isn't hard to imagine the mix of assets and potential liabilities that Senator Clinton would represent to Senator Obama. She could bring the ticket a significant number of votes. She has a solid grounding in many of the issues that an Obama administration would face. She could fly the new administration's banner of human rights and women's' rights to the world.

On the other hand, it isn't likely that she could be easily managed, and she could end up in conflict with other White House figures and perhaps with the president himself. Then, there is the Bill Clinton factor. Is he part of this deal? If not, how is he to be sidelined?

Obama-Clinton may sound like a dream ticket for the Democrats, but historically, presidents have tended not to choose those with a streak of independence. Obama has to weigh Clinton's manifest talents against his comfort, or the dream ticket could end up as his nightmare. This is Daniel Schorr.

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