Category Archives: Vice President

Richard Ben Cramer, Rest in Peace

Just heard the very sad news this morning that Richard Ben Cramer has passed away. He was the author of one of the best books about politics, What It Takes: The Way to the White House. I don’t really know the particulars of his life. The news said he had lung cancer. As a writer, I suspect he would prefer we focus on his writing, his legacy.

His legacy is that he wrote a masterpiece on American politics. Really. In a world where superlatives are tossed around like confetti, this work is in fact a masterpiece. It also could be a doorstop, with over 1000 pages in the hardcover, which I acquired shortly after it was published.  When you combine exhaustive research and beautiful writing, you may have a good book.
But Richard Ben Cramer got each of his subjects. Some of them come off better than others, but you never have a sense that he was playing favorites, or that he was unfair.It is so easy to slide into insults and sarcastic comments when referring to politicians. Not that we shouldn’t, but we know, surely, that there is more to it. Not many books focus on this subject without trivializing the subject and the subjects. He was able to plumb their public persona and reach the person–the Human that we know must be inside all politicians.

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Latest from Jack: Guard the Sand Castles: Here come the Democrats!

Just got an email from Jack Abbott*, who can’t resist offering a few thoughts on the news of the day:

“On my way to Tampa to meet Bob. Can’t wait to get there to watch the fray. Question is, will the Democrats be able to stomp all over the sand castle of momentum the GOP is building in Tampa?

The carefully planned week of GOP rock stars is dominating the news. Even with a hurricane in the Gulf, barring unforeseen circumstances, devastating gaffes or tragedies, the Romney campaign should be able to pile up some support this week.

You already know the Obama campaign isn’t standing aside. They planned to send Biden down to kick up some sand earlier in the week, although that gambit was scuttled by Isaac.

But they still aren’t  on the sidelines watching, waiting for the castle turrets to be formed: The muscle men of the Democratic party are heading to Tampa right now to wedge themselves into the GOP convention news with a press conference on Bain Capital:  Los  Angeles Mayor AntonioVillaraigosa  and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will join Robert Gibbs for a presser today, and the Obama campaign is setting up a “war room” a few blocks away from the convention according to Politico.  I think we know the answer to the question of whether their press conference will be covered. But,  how will it look to step on the big night for Ann Romney?

The Democratic Convention is only a few days away. Mitt Romney’s speech Thursday night becomes that much more important as he tries to make a connection with voters that can’t be washed away by the Democratic tide when it comes in next week. So many voters focus on the election for the first time during the conventions. If he can make the right impression it might carry him through the effort by the Obama Campaign to drive up his negatives.

When the Democrats convene in Charlotte, they’ll want to build their own momentum, of course. You have to assume, even if they don’t use those columns this time, they will probably get some kind of bump, too.

So is the Romney campaign all over this? Do they have a killer week planned, with events to upstage the Democrats in Charlotte? Or are they going to play nice, follow the precedents of the past? I’ll see what I can find out.

There are no lifeguards on this beach. Swim at your own risk and watch out for bullies.

I’ll let you know when I find Bob.”

*Jack and Bob are characters from my novel Spin Doctor, a fast-paced, original political thriller you might enjoy if you like politics.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Biden, campaign tactics, Spin Doctor, Vice President, White House

More from Jack and Bob: “Obama Campaign Fails Physics”

Jack and Bob have surfaced at the bar atop the Washington Hotel. Normally, they would lean on the bar, but tonight there is a  storm rolling in from the west, and the sky behind the White House is dark gray. The wind had picked up, and most of the tourists have gone for shelter. So it is quiet and we should be able to eavesdrop from the next table:

 Jack:   “I can’t believe  you predicted Romney’s VP choice three days before he released it. Did you have inside info or were you just kidding around?”

Bob took a sip and frowned.  “I always have inside info. That’s why you’re friends with me, isn’t it?  But didn’t you read what I said? It was obvious.”

Jack:  “Really. Then what happens next? Please predict the final election results.”

Bob: “Funny. Give me a few more days, okay?”

Jack: “What did you think of the VP pick?”

Bob: “Not bad, I’d say.”
Jack: “Not bad? Ten million dollars since the announcement.”

Bob: “That’s what I mean. What did you think? You’re the spin doctor. How was the spin? How did they do?”

Jack:  “As I said in my earlier memo–which, by the way, was spot on–nice of you to mention–It isn’t about the person, you know. That’s not the story.”

Bob: (shrugs, shakes head, refuses to ask, “so what is the story, Jack?”)
Jack: “The Obama campaign failed the physics exam.”
Bob: “Physics?”
Jack: “Yeah. You know, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. VP announcement then  major arms treaty, visit the troops. New Free trade zone. Where’s the news? I read on Monday that a big  chunk of money would go to the drought in the Midwest.  That’s a start. But then, nothing.”

Bob: “Come on. There’s no news this time of year. Dog days of August.”
Jack: “Okay. Pay attention. Even I could figure out roughly when the VP announcement would be. I said it would be Monday or Tuesday. But they were smarter because they jumped it to Saturday. They knew it would reverberate all weekend and possibly take the Obama campaign by surprise.”

As Bob picked up his glass a gust of wind blew his napkin off the table. He made a grab for it and hit the railing: “Was that thunder?”

Jack went on: “But then I thought surely the Obama campaign would be ready for the announcement. They would  flood the week with news and steal the moment. Bury them on Monday and the rest of the week with news, events, creativity.  Take the momentum away from Romney and make news that only an incumbent can make.”

Bob: “No kidding?  When did they do all that? I’ve been out of town.”

Jack: “Exactly. It makes you wonder. Somebody dropped the ball. I wonder if they ‘re hiring Have you heard anything?”

Another gust of wind scattered the bar napkins and swizzle sticks across the floor of the bar. A lightning flash streaked the sky and sheets of rain splattered the edge of the table. Bob drained his glass.

Jack: “I’ll get the check.”

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Filed under 2012 Election, Biden, Spin Doctor, Vice President, White House

Secret White House Meetings? Has Anybody Seen Joe?

Seems like a good time to reprise a post from a few weeks ago, which has apparently aged like fine wine:
You may have heard the rumors over the past few weeks—the suggestions that Obama might replace Biden on the ticket, perhaps with Hillary Clinton. The recent gay marriage announcement seemed to put more distance between the President and Biden. Just before, the NYT ran a lengthy piece about Sunday night strategy sessions in the Obama campaign, sans Biden. Ominous signs for Biden.

If the President were 75 years old with a heart condition, the choice of Vice President would certainly be more of a consideration. Since Obama is relatively young and apparently healthy does anyone really care who his Vice President is?

The old pols will tell you that the choice of Vice President is seldom a consideration for most voters. Voters react to the choice for President.

Yes, but what if the election is really close?

And, if Obama’s slide in the polls continues, changing VPs could be a Hail Mary pass.

What if Biden makes a really big, unforgivable gaff?

Or, another new embarrassing revelation?

Let’s face it, there have been lots of Biden gaffs. You might have trouble remembering why he was chosen in the first place.

Let me refresh your memory:

Biden was elected back in 1972. Shortly after the election, his wife and daughter were killed in a horrible automobile accident. His two sons were critically injured. Biden was devastated and considered quitting the Senate before he was sworn in. He ultimately did take the oath and perhaps as a reward  was given a seat on the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committee. Both were considered plum assignments.  Prior to his election, Biden had served one term as county councilman, so it wasn’t like they needed his input. One of the youngest senators ever elected, he gained seniority over time and  became chairman of Foreign Relations. Ultimately, he was recognized as a kind of foreign policy expert. When Obama chose his running mate, it was crucial to find someone who could strengthen his foreign policy/commander in chief credentials.  Plus, in person, Biden is a charmer. He ingratiated himself to the young Senator from Illinois and Mrs. Obama, rumor has it.

There is speculation that Biden might run for president in 2016, when he will turn 74. Is that an inducement for Obama to keep him on the ticket or does that undermine the idea that he will have singular loyalty and continue to be the hatchet man?

Biden is a complex character. He can relate to “joe sixpack” to recall another phrase that got him in trouble earlier in his career.  He has people skills, but shoots from the hip. There have been plagiarism allegations and major health issues. You can read more about him in one of the best books on American politics, What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer.
Bill Kristol makes the argument that Obama is already paving the way to elevate Hillary as a way to get a lock on the women vote plus energize the base. But don’t forget that Hillary has baggage, too. Revelations from Edward Klein’s The Amateur  drive a further wedge between the Clintons and the Obamas. Kristol throws out a few other names, Mark Warner, Ken Salazar.  Here’s something I haven’t heard—that team Obama is vetting replacements. Could they do that and keep it quiet?

Bottom line, I think Obama will keep him unless it looks like he has no choice or needs to create some news. To dump him would be a sign of weakness. Dump Biden and bring in Hillary to save the bacon? Pretty hard to stomach unless you are really going under.

What do you think? Will Obama dump Biden? Please let me know by voting in my poll or leave me a comment

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Filed under 2012 Election, Biden, Uncategorized, Vice President, White House

Bob Carson Reluctantly Explains a Few Things about VP Timing

Since I discovered his memo two weeks ago, Jack has been unusually quiet. Fictional characters are extremely unreliable and his motivations are questionable.  He may be working on something for the Obama campaign, since he claims he is neutral. I was able, in his absence, to put a couple of FAQ from readers to his close friend, Bob Carson, who is also entirely fictional. Please pardon Bob’s sarcasm. It’s just the way he is.  This is all I could get from him.

Q. Why doesn’t Romney make up his mind about the VP and just tell us? Everyone wants to know and we are sick of waiting. Can’t he make a decision or what?

A. Stop before you further embarrass yourself. Do you eat the icing on the cake first? Do you eat the pie filling and not the crust? Do you skip dinner altogether and go to the dessert? I was going to ask about foreplay, but let’s stick with food analogies.
Seriously, and I use that word loosely, you have to try to step back and notice what is actually happening here. Although the campaign appears to be slavishly following my memo (see below. I’m not sure they can get Merkel to meet with them but I’m going to make a few calls), I don’t have any actual information. But, did you notice how one day the story was Mitt’s taxes and Bain Capital and the next day, you were wondering if he really was going to choose Condi? Then it was Portman, Pawlenty, Rubio, Jindal, and Ayotte. The main drama and one of the few things they can control right now is the VP choice and timing. Teasing us with the choice is actually a sign they are on the ball.

Q. But that seems so mean to the contenders. Isn’t it unfair to keep them dangling?

A. On the contrary. They are the anointed ones.  The cream of the crop of the nation’s leaders. The moment a choice is made, they will go back to their humdrum lives–but they may never be the same. They will have been elevated to the elite just because they made the list.  Remember, in Washington, the illusion of power and actual power can be hard  to differentiate. Certainly not for amateurs–some who have tried have been blinded.

MCL: Do you have questions for Jack –or Bob– or anyone else in Spin Doctor? I’m not sure his information is reliable, but I will be glad to attempt to get  a civil answer from him. In the meantime, while there is still time, please take a moment and vote in the VP poll. It will help relieve the stress.

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Filed under 2012 Election, campaign tactics, Spin Doctor, Vice President, White House

Biden’s Hail Mary Pass

Last week I blogged about whether Obama would replace Biden on the ticket.

I’m not going to repeat the reasons this was a possibility.

But with his 45 % unfavorable rating higher than his 42% favorable–and  higher than Obama’s negatives– clearly he was/is  in jeopardy.

I don’t know what happened next, exactly. The great thing about writing fiction is that you can connect the dots, even when there may not be actual dots or they may not be connected.

In this case, there are dots.

We know, or think we know that Biden is not in the Obama campaign strategy sessions. That’s because he’s not there to give strategy advice.  He doesn’t need to hear the latest polls or focus group results. He has a job. He knows what to do.  He is a heat seeking missile.

Target?

The disillusioned white voters who, according to the Post, have deserted Obama by a huge margin.

So Obama goes after his base with anti-rich rhetoric.  Michele raises her profile with young blacks, with such harmless, innocent moves as attending a Beyonce concert. And Joe will connect with white, Reagan democrats.

As with most politicians who reach a high level, Biden is actually not stupid. Whether someone wound him up, or whether he figured it out himself, he had to do something about those negatives.

So he’s been out there, giving the populist performance of his life, going back to his roots, talking about his parents and their dreams.

And then yesterday, he pulled out the stops. He went personally nuclear: he talked about the accident in which he tragically lost a wife and child. I don’t know whether he has brought up this extremely sad and moving story over the past  40 years. What I do know is that it made the front page of the Washington Post, and probably went out on AP all over the country (I first noticed it in an UneditedPolitics.com tweet).

I am reminded of the 1988 campaign, in which then Vice President Bush had an image problem. He was regarded by some as a “wimp.” This was incongruous of course with the facts and with his war record, for example, in which he had not just served, but been a hero. His campaign advisors wanted to get the story out, but it was delicate. The candidate was uncomfortable with raising it. Ultimately, they figured out a way to get their spin out, and the press stopped pushing the wimp issue.

You cannot objectively listen to Biden talk about his personal tragedy without being moved by it, or without seeing how it connected with the military families that have experienced loss. It would be easy to be cynical about Biden and his horrific personal experience. But I suggest we dig deeper and look at this man who has worked almost all of his adult life, to be at the pinnacle of American politics—and now, to be mocked, laughed at, reviled—to be one press conference away from standing bravely and applauding enthusiastically  “it’s time to pick a woman.”

What would you do?

You would pull out all the stops and use everything you have, because the one thing you do know is that you are likeable. And if you can get out there enough, you can turn this thing around. You will not be a drag on the ticket. You may not get Obama elected, but you are by God not wind up a laughingstock.

He already pushed the gay pride button. He is very at home with big labor.   So prepare yourself for the performance of a lifetime.

Oh, and if you are a gambler, Intrade now has Biden’s spot as VP  at 92.8%. Any takers?

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Filed under 2012 Election, Biden, Vice President, White House

Plot Twist? Will Obama dump Biden?

You may have heard the rumors over the past few weeks—the suggestions that Obama might replace Biden on the ticket, perhaps with Hillary Clinton. The recent gay marriage announcement seemed to put more distance between the President and Biden. Just before, the NYT ran a lengthy piece about Sunday night strategy sessions in the Obama campaign, sans Biden. Ominous signs for Biden.

If the President were 75 years old with a heart condition, the choice of Vice President would certainly be more of a consideration. Since Obama is relatively young and apparently healthy does anyone really care who his Vice President is?

The old pols will tell you that the choice of Vice President is seldom a consideration for most voters. Voters react to the choice for President.

Yes, but what if the election is really close?

And, if Obama’s slide in the polls continues, changing VPs could be a Hail Mary pass.

What if Biden makes a really big, unforgivable gaff?

Or, another new embarrassing revelation?

Let’s face it, there have been lots of Biden gaffs. You might have trouble remembering why he was chosen in the first place.

Let me refresh your memory:

Biden was elected back in 1972. Shortly after the election, his wife and daughter were killed in a horrible automobile accident. His two sons were critically injured. Biden was devastated and considered quitting the Senate before he was sworn in. He ultimately did take the oath and perhaps as a reward  was given a seat on the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committee. Both were considered plum assignments.  Prior to his election, Biden had served one term as county councilman, so it wasn’t like they needed his input. One of the youngest senators ever elected, he gained seniority over time and  became chairman of Foreign Relations. Ultimately, he was recognized as a kind of foreign policy expert. When Obama chose his running mate, it was crucial to find someone who could strengthen his foreign policy/commander in chief credentials.  Plus, in person, Biden is a charmer. He ingratiated himself to the young Senator from Illinois and Mrs. Obama, rumor has it.

There is speculation that Biden might run for president in 2016, when he will turn 74. Is that an inducement for Obama to keep him on the ticket or does that undermine the idea that he will have singular loyalty and continue to be the hatchet man?

Biden is a complex character. He can relate to “joe sixpack” to recall another phrase that got him in trouble earlier in his career.  He has people skills, but shoots from the hip. There have been plagiarism allegations and major health issues. You can read more about him in one of the best books on American politics, What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer.
Bill Kristol makes the argument that Obama is already paving the way to elevate Hillary as a way to get a lock on the women vote plus energize the base. But don’t forget that Hillary has baggage, too. Revelations from Edward Klein’s The Amateur  drive a further wedge between the Clintons and the Obamas. Kristol throws out a few other names, Mark Warner, Ken Salazar.  Here’s something I haven’t heard—that team Obama is vetting replacements. Could they do that and keep it quiet?

Bottom line, I think Obama will keep him unless it looks like he has no choice or needs to create some news. To dump him would be a sign of weakness. Dump Biden and bring in Hillary to save the bacon? Pretty hard to stomach unless you are really going under.

What do you think? Will Obama dump Biden? Please let me know by voting in my poll or leave me a comment:

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Filed under 2012 Election, Biden, Uncategorized, Vice President, White House

Timing is Everything

The tension is building….

How will the Romney campaign handle the pacing in this story?

We are waiting for him to pick a VP. So come on, make up your mind, right?

Not right. Timing is everything. It isn’t just about who he chooses, but how they play the announcement. And the lead up to the announcement. And the leaks.  Can they keep control of the news story?Let’s face it, the Republican Convention is going to be scripted. There are some unknowns, such as

–        The VP choice

–        Whether Santorum, Gingrich and Paul get to speak—and if they do, will they be given a time slot opposite Ellen or Jimmy Fallon, i.e. too early or too late?

–        Will they say something nasty/memorable/gracious?

More about the convention in a later post. The drama at hand is the VP choice.How will they try to maximize the impact of the decision? What’s the best way to do it?
Obviously, keep it under wraps until just before the convention.
Wait a sec–This is May. How are we going to wait until the end of August?
The campaign spin doctors will tease us with speculation about various choices. Maybe even some trial balloons. As the short listers are interviewed, scrutinized, Romney will get a better idea of how they will handle pressure and the limelight.

So enjoy the highly evolved coquetry of the candidates as they bat their political eyelashes while denying any real chance of being chosen. And strain to look like they are having the time of their lives.

Along the way, we may have a plot twist. Between now and the convention, some bad genie may escape the bottle. A problematic press report that just won’t go away. If that happens, they might reach into their quiver of arrows and pull out the big one. To get the focus on something positive, they could trot out the new VP. They will say they planned all along to do it that way. Of course.

Or, the media bloodhounds will smoke out the truth earlier than planned. If they find a smoking gun connection, an unexplained meeting with the candidate, a candidate who “disappears” from even their own staff for a number of hours (as Palin did in ’08),–then what will the Romney campaign do?

Will they handle it?or fumble?

So much tension… What will happen next?

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Filed under 2012 Election, Vice President, White House