The Veepís No VIP
George Szamuely
New York Press


The release of the photograph showing a grinning Gov. Christine Todd Whitman frisking a black man was without doubt a glorious event. It served finally to end the persistent inane speculation that George W. Bush will select her as his runningmate.

Whitman is, and has always been, a bore. Though her accomplishments have been meager to say the least, she has enjoyed adulatory media coverage that at times bordered on the hysterical. Now that the hacks can no longer waste space gushing about her, they are reviving old standbys. The other day, George W. Bush’s spokesman Ari Fleischer announced that Sen. John McCain "endorsed the governor on May 8 in Pittsburgh and has had very nice things to say and, actually, the Governor and the Senator have been in frequent touch on the telephone talking about various issues, particularly saving Social Security. So we’re working shoulder to shoulder, and the Vice President, of course, is going to be featured prominently at the Republican Convention in a prime time speaking role."

The Republicans have promised to be super-conciliatory this year. But surely giving Al Gore prime time at the convention is taking niceness a little far. Perhaps Fleischer was referring to McCain as the vice president. Or perhaps that was just a slip of the tongue and he meant "runningmate." Either way, the slip – if that is what it was – created the kind of mad media frenzy that is completely forgotten by the next news cycle. Bush claims he has not yet decided on a runningmate. Only three people – Dick Cheney, Bush’s wife and Bush himself – know who is even on the shortlist. A recent wire service report claims the list includes Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Elizabeth Dole and Gov. George Pataki. George Pataki! Here is an unlikely story if there was one. A Bush-Pataki ticket is even less likely than a Bush-McCain ticket. Not only will Bush not carry New York, about the last person who would be of any help to him here is Gov. Pataki, having failed so miserably to be of any help to his friend and patron Al D’Amato in 1998.

Meanwhile, Al Gore is said to be seriously looking at House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt as runningmate. Gephardt has the unique distinction in American politics of being an even less appealing figure than Al Gore. Gephardt and Gore were both easily trounced in 1988 by that charismatic dynamo Michael Dukakis. Having Gephardt on the ticket, we are told, will help shore up Al Gore’s base, for Gephardt is a favorite of organized labor. But Gore hardly needs to worry on that score now. Though there has never in U.S. history been an administration as fanatically committed to free trade as that of Bill Clinton, the AFL-CIO could not wait to lavish its millions on Al Gore, from whom it can only expect much the same. Gore, like Bush, is a creature of the corporations who will do very little to improve the lives of working Americans. Vice President Gephardt will spend his days much as his predecessor did: shaking down corporations for cash.

Gephardt has now displaced Florida Sen. Bob Graham as frontrunner. That was not hard to do. No one outside Florida has ever heard of Graham. And Graham or no Graham, Gore has no hope of carrying Florida.

Who cares anyway? There is one thing worse than an issueless election and that is artificially stimulated excitement over nonevents. There is not a single voter in America who bases his choice of president on who the vice president is likely to be. In 1988, for reasons that have never been explained, George Bush chose Dan Quayle as runningmate. Michael Dukakis chose Lloyd Bentsen – a textbook example of an ideal choice: a conservative Southerner balancing a liberal Northerner. Bentsen knocked Quayle out in the debate. And Dukakis got a drubbing, failing even to carry Bentsen’s home state of Texas. None of this year’s prospective vice-presidential nominees will serve their respective tickets any better.

Gov. Tom Ridge? Though he is famous outside Pennsylvania chiefly for being Catholic and "pro-choice," inside Pennsylvania he is largely known for funneling taxpayer money into football and baseball stadiums. Ridge secured $300 million worth of bonds to build four new stadiums, two in Philadelphia and two in Pittsburgh. But it is the state’s taxpayers who paid for them, thereby subsidizing the corporations who eventually will rake in millions on the stadiums. Bush may still carry Pennsylvania, but no thanks to Ridge.

The time has come to pass a constitutional amendment to establish an elected vice presidency. There is no reason why a president should choose who his successor will be. For one thing, a candidate usually has no idea what he will do once he is in the White House. Secondly, he has no reason to believe that his vice president will not abandon his policies the first chance he gets. With an elected vice president the public will at least have some say as to who should succeed the incumbent. As it is, we are stuck with Gore for no other reason than Bill Clinton picked him as runningmate eight years ago.

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Archived Columns by George Szamuely from the New York Press

The Veepís No VIP

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Death of Innocents

NATO's Home Free

Poll Attacks

Israel's Powerful Friends

Defense Against What?

God Bless Rehnquist!

Long, Hillary Summer

Communicating Power

Law as Ordered

What Threat?

Peculiar Yet Brave

Closed to Debate

Arrogance of Power

Prison Love

Gore's Oil

Rough Justice

Race Race

Al the Coward

Intruder Alert

McCain's Money

Haider Seek

Out of Africa

Prosecute NATO

Villain or Victim?

Intervention, Immigration, and Internment

Home-Grown Terrorism

Who Benefits?

Laws of Return

Embassy Row

Selling Snake Oil

Chinese Puzzle

That Was No Lady, That Was the Times

The Red Tide Turning?

Pat & The Pod

United Fundamentalist States

Let Them All Have Nukes!

Liar, Liar

Gangster Nations

Puerto Rico Libre – and Good Riddance

Leave China Alone

A World Safe for Kleptocracy

Proud To Be Un-American

All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press


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