With the presidential primary marathon at a merciful end, news and political junkies can now turn their attention to speculation on who will be the vice presidential choices of John McCain and Barack Obama.
Charlie Crist was one of three Republican governors who spent Memorial Day weekend at McCain's Arizona ranch as part of a vice presidential cattle show. I will be surprised if Florida's charismatic governor winds up on the Republican ticket, but with a maverick like McCain, you never know. McCain's political instincts are not that sharp, and he could decide that putting Crist on the ticket could tip Florida his way in November.
Since state law doesn't require it, it's unlikely Crist would resign as governor if he were to get the nod from McCain, and that raises an interesting question: How would Crist balance his responsibilities as governor with campaigning for vice president, especially if several hurricanes battered Florida this fall? He could wind up spending more time dealing with storm devastation back home than on the campaign trail. Just something they might want to think about.
Even if McCain passes on Crist, Obama might want to consider a Floridian as his running mate. Bob Graham would be an obvious choice. An Obama-Graham ticket could give Democrats a bounce, maybe even an advantage, in the nation's largest battleground state, where Obama and party leaders have some fence-mending to do. It could go a long way toward healing and uniting Florida Democrats, a majority of whom voted for Hillary Clinton in the state's outlaw primary.
Graham also could help Obama with his elitist image by introducing him to swamp cabbage (it doesn't have a "bitter'' taste) and Florida Crackers (not the eating kind but those natives who love guns and God and dogs, though not necessarily in that order).
Unlike Sen. Bill Nelson, who threw himself into the role of Hillary Clinton's braying jackass in demanding that party leaders ignore the rules and give her the same Florida delegates she once rejected, Graham so far has not endorsed a presidential favorite, although some state Democrats have sensed that he has been smiling on Obama. He also has kept a low profile in the political brawl over whether and how to count Florida's delegates.
Graham would add age and experience to the ticket. Obama is 46 and is still in his first term as a senator. Graham is 71 (about McCain's age) and served two terms as governor and three terms in the U.S. Senate. In his long career in public service, Graham's integrity was never questioned, his reputation never tarnished by scandal or ethical lapses. His moderate politics and pragmatism are exactly what a liberal Democrat should be looking for in a running mate.
Obama, as a state senator in Illinois, spoke out against going to war in Iraq. Graham, as a U.S. senator, voted against the war. Unlike Clinton and many of his other Senate colleagues, Graham took the trouble to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. He was unconvinced and warned his colleagues against a rush to war they would come to regret. That should make him acceptable to antiwar bloggers and activists.
I have no idea whether Graham would be interested in the vice presidency or any other job in an Obama administration. Since he retired from the Senate, Graham has been teaching and writing and enjoying life. If not the vice presidency, maybe he would consider being CIA director. He served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and knows the workings and failings of the intelligence community better than most lawmakers.
It would be a shame for Obama to waste the experience and national security credentials of a man like Bob Graham, whose own 2004 presidential bid had to be aborted when he underwent heart surgery.
The only other Southerner I could see as Obama's vice president, or as secretary of defense, is former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia. In the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats looked to Nunn, who will be 70 in September, for leadership on national security issues. Like Graham, he is a workhorse, not a show horse. It doesn't matter if they are known as lackluster campaigners; Obama has more than enough charisma for the ticket.
If elected president, maybe Obama will find a place for both Graham and Nunn in his administration. Their non-ideological approach to government, their integrity and sharp minds, and their combined experience would serve him and the nation well.
Philip Gailey's e-mail address is [email protected]