Why Not the Best


Why Not the Best?
Washington Times, April 30, 2020
by George W. Liebmann
These suggestions regarding the selection of the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee come from what might be considered a suspicious source: a registered Republican.   To be sure, I have been unable to vote for my party’s nominee in the last four Presidential elections, in 2004, 2008 and 2012 because of perceived recklessness in foreign policy; in 2016 because I am a bookseller’s son for whom twitters and tweets are a foreign language.
But I do not stand alone in these eccentricities. A forgotten 4.4 million Americans like myself voted for Governors Johnson and Weld with the conscious and successful purpose to deny both unsatisfactory major party nominees a mandate from a popular majority. If Joseph Biden is to obtain their votes, he will need a non-frightening Vice President. Doubling down on identity politics seems inexcusable now that President Trump has shown that it is a game that any number can play.
Biden’s incautious pledge to select a woman would be more regrettable if there were an obvious male candidate. Governor Cuomo, who has taken the most extreme possible position on abortion and who vetoed a bill allowing federal judges to perform marriage ceremonies because some of them were appointed by Trump, is not the man to bind up the nation’s wounds.
The female candidates are problematic for different reasons.
 Stacy Abrams has no background in foreign policy or congressional relations, and a past campaign largely spent in whining about unsupported claims of voter suppression does not give her broad appeal.
 Senator Klobuchar appears rational and competent, but is not a leader of thought and would bring to the ticket all the excitement of the late Thomas E. Dewey.
There appears no great public hunger for eight years of the distaff side of the Clinton and Obama administrations, both distinguished for reckless liberal imperialism in foreign policy and complete nonfeasance on questions of education and labor force development, together with extraordinarily weak domestic cabinets. Their health care plans stressed demand but not supply, spending but not taxes, and regimentation and not professionalism.
Kamala Harris is affirmatively frightening. She wants ‘pre-clearance’ of state abortion legislation by federal bureaucrats and federal superintendence of major city police departments. The idea of a Supreme Court policy veto over state legislation was three times rejected by the Constitutional Convention; pre-clearance in the voting rights context was an heroic measure to enfranchise an excluded race, not a device to dis-enfranchise state legislatures and those electing them. The authors of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights wanted nothing resembling centrally-controlled law enforcement like that under Charles I in England. Her abuses of power as a prosecutor were ably exposed by Tulsi Gabbard.
Elizabeth Warren offers intelligence without integrity, personal or political. Her nomination would be a gift to President Trump. To be sure, her adventures with DNA testing might give her an invincible appeal to the White Supremacist vote. It is not every nominee, male or female, who has scientifically established that like Ivory Soap, she is 99 and 44/100th percent pure. Her initial reputation rested on a deeply flawed ‘study’ with pre-determined results of so-called ‘medical bankruptcies’ in which each case involving more than $1000 in medical debt was counted as a medical bankruptcy irrespective of the amount of other debt. Her devotion to ‘top-down’ government is shown by her attempted creation of an insulated Czar to curb credit abuses in preference to reversing by legislation the 1978 Supreme Court decision which destroyed effective state regulation of consumer credit. Although she correctly identifies the existing housing stock and restrictive zoning regulations as the sleeping giant of housing policy, her remedy is constitutionally dubious: conditioning limited federal aid on changes in local laws, a strategy unsuccessfully tried in the education context by Secretary Arne Duncan. A tax credit for second kitchens in owner-occupied homes would empower homeowners and create pressure from below for zoning reform; but it is no part of her strategy.
What is wanted is a candidate who would truly be a backstop and if need be a worthy successor to a visibly aging Biden: a general practitioner, not an opthamalogist  or dermatologist. Normally, choice of a Vice President involves a quest for a mediocrity who will not overshadow the President, who can serve as a hatchet man or woman, and who can deliver a special and shrill constituency. This process has given us, among others, such political and intellectual giants as William Miller, Spiro Agnew, Geraldine Ferraro, and Sarah Palin. This is not what a polarized country needs now.
There are at least two possible female vice presidential nominees, either of whom would make a reassuring President: former Federal Reserve Board chairperson Janet Yellen and Supreme Court Justice and former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan. Both owe their positions to personal achievement, not to family relationships or identity politics. Both are noted for collegiality, civility, and the careful measurement of words. Both are tolerant of differing views, an essential requirement for leadership in a democracy. Both have wide circles of acquaintance and would be able to organize the assembly of a competent administration. Both have unsullied personal character, unmarred by alcohol, drugs, sex or financial scandals or indiscreet twitters and tweets, which differentiates them from our last four presidents. Neither is chargeable with detention without trial or drone assassination of American citizens, or the unregulated institution of new forms of cyberwarfare or drone warfare. Justice Kagan is a liberal and a feminist of sorts, but one tolerant of conservatives and respectful of federalism since, as said by  Justice Holmes, “ some play must be allowed for the joints of the machine.” Dr. Yellen is a moderate on social issues with insights as a labor economist into the plight of constituencies that too many Democrats have recently chosen to ignore.
Dr. Yellen might be reluctant to emerge from an active retirement and Justice Kagan to renounce a court seat, although Justices Hughes, Byrnes and Goldberg did so when they thought that the national interest required it, Justice Hughes to return later. Whatever the desires of Senator Mc Connell, it is likely that the Senate as presently constituted would make the confirmation of a successor abide the result of the 2020 election. Both would be respectable and respected Presidents if the need arose. Given Mr. Biden’s age and medical history, that, and not factional politics, is the only proper criterion for choice of a vice president. If Mr. Biden is to board the train of gender-identity politics, he should at least insist on travelling first class.
The writer, a Baltimore lawyer, is the author of numerous works on law and history, most recently America’s Political Inventors: The Lost Art of Legislation (Bloomsbury, 2019)
tel 410 347 0711
700 North Charles St,6D
Baltimore, MD 21201
 Reply  Reply All  Forward

Posted in: Culture Wars, Efficiency in Government, Judiciary and Legal Issues, Miscellaneous, Society/Family/Community/Religion, State and Local Politics, The Right, Urban Affairs, Welfare and Other Social

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,