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WHAT'S WITH these vice-presidential picks?
There was a time when presidential candidates picked strong running mates, men with a deep background of leadership, men who inspired confidence.
Suddenly, probably starting with Dan Quayle, that all changed. Now the VP candidate is often someone who looks about as stately as Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.
Case in point: Paul Ryan. Now Ryan seems an OK guy, but even the staunchest Republican has to admit that this long, tall drink of water acts a little goofy at times.
So far, like most recent vice-presidential candidates, he has stuck his foot in his mouth several times and made it seem that he really doesn't know what he is doing.
That's reassuring! All we need is a second-in-command who doesn't know what he is doing. But then, the guy at the top hasn't had a clue for the past decade, either.
Part of this is because presidential candidates wait until the last possible second to pick a running mate. Keep everybody guessing. Play "Fool the Press."
Suddenly, a guy like Ryan gets a call and is asked to be on the GOP ticket. He is probably involved in half a dozen other ventures and hasn't had time to adequately prepare for a national political campaign.
After all, a person can't just drop everything on the off-chance that he might be offered the VP nomination.
So, until he gets up to speed on what's going on (Joe Biden still hasn't), he acts like a goofball who just dropped out of a flying saucer.
Sarah Palin was a great example. She allowed that she was an expert on foreign policy because she lived in Alaska, where she could look out her window and see Russia.
But then, Palin was not on John McCain's ticket because she was a brain surgeon. She was there because she had nice legs and a pretty face and because the GOP felt that having a woman on the ticket would offset having a black man as the Democratic presidential hopeful.
About the best thing that can be said about recent vice-presidential candidates is that they provide comic relief, sort of like the old TV B Westerns where the handsome hero had a Gabby Hayes or Pat Buttram sidekick.
Vice presidents and vice-presidential candidates make great joke fodder for late-night TV show hosts like Jay Leno and David Letterman. Veep bites are often reality TV at its best.
Ryan, of course, was not chosen because he has great leadership qualities. He is on the ballot to attract youthful voters who may not want to pull the lever down for the older Mitt Romney.
But does anyone ever consider that the vice president just might inherit the top job? Who wants a goofy guy in the White House when a world crisis erupts?
Oops! I forgot about George W. Bush!
Anyhow, I'd much rather have a Harry Truman take over as president than a Biden or a Paul Ryan or a Sarah Palin. Give me a person who at least acts old enough take responsibility, a person with at least a few gray hairs.
But that's not going to happen unless the presidential candidate looks like a kid himself (John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson). That's the way the political world works.
And prep the person who is going to be your running mate. Ask him three months in advance to be on the ticket. Don't give him the news on Friday and ask him to act vice presidential (whatever that is) on Monday.
Better still, allow Leno or Letterman to pick each party's vice-presidential candidate. After all, they are the guys who seem to benefit most from the choice.