Monday, September 01, 2008

Why McCain couldn't choose Lieberman


It's been widely reported in the press that McCain preferred to pick his friend Joe Lieberman as his running mate, but that his advisers (and others in the Republican Party) prevailed on him not to do so. The reason usually given is that Lieberman is pro-choice. But there is a far more compelling reason.

John McCain is 72 years old, the oldest candidate nominated to a first term as U.S. President. His health has been far from perfect. If McCain were to die during his first term in office, Lieberman would succeed him. Lieberman agrees with most Republicans on Iraq and several other foreign policy issues, but on a large number of domestic issues, he is essentially a liberal Democrat. Upon McCain's demise, the Republicans would have handed the Democrats control of the Presidency and Congress on domestic policy. There is also good reason to think that Lieberman's judicial appointments would be far more liberal than those of the standard Republican President; indeed, he might appoint a fair number of Democrats.

There is no precedent quite like this in American history. Vice-Presidents Andrew Johnson and John Tyler both assumed the Presidency with very different views than the Presidents they succeeded. But both men faced hostile Congresses, and indeed, in Johnson's case Congress impeached him. Lieberman, by contrast, would face a largely sympathetic Congress on domestic issues.

Had McCain insisted on Lieberman, the Republican Party would have revolted at the party's convention, and for good reason.


In a nutshell: McCain/Leiberman appealed only to people who relished the notion of an election where the Republicans would lose no matter which party nominally won.

It was never a realistic prospect if McCain actually wanted to win the election.

But even Joe Lieberman was thinking:

"Ach, du lieber!"

with McCain's choice of McPlain [sic].

Imagine if Obama was considering choosing Orin Hatch because he agreed on some Senate bills.

McCain / Liberman was always a non starter. Joe is perhaps the last FDR/JFK Dem who is a liberal domestically and a foreign policy hawk. While he could serve as a Sec Def in a McCain administration, Joe is not a Republican on domestic policy.

The only thing that surprises me about this is that McCain never appears to have given Giuliani any serious consideration. Like Lieberman, Giuliani is defined largely by being in favor of bombing lots and lots of brown people and as one who is perfectly willing to start world war three in a huff of pique. But unlike Lieberman and like McCain, Giuliani, whatever his nominal views on other issues are, is a fiscal Republican and a completely crazy person who doesn't really care at all about any other issues beyond the aforementioned bomb lust and aggrandizing power for himself and the Republican party. McCain could, for example, have been very confident of the wackalooniness of any Giuliani court appointments were Giuliani to succeed a hypothetical president McCain.

From McCain's and the Republican perspectives, Giuliani had all the upside of Lieberman with much less downside. Reality based people and people who simply don't want to die don't see any upside to either Giuliani or Lieberman. My guess is that McCain must really dislike Giuliani on a personal level.

If McCain had selected Giuliani, their themes could be summed up:

McCain: A noun, a verb, POW!

Giuliani: A noun, a verb, 9/11!

Not to be catty, but John and Rudy share strange laugh habits. Meow.

So perhaps Miss Congeniality was not such a bad choice.

"But unlike Lieberman and like McCain, Giuliani, whatever his nominal views on other issues are,"

I see no evidence that they're nominal. McCain needed to firm up his base, not drive them away. Nominating Giuliani would have been political suicide.

I do not think Rudy wanted the job. I recall reading that he is considering a NY race.

The comparison between Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, and Sarah Palin is striking. All were introduced by the McCain campaign. None of them are serious (to be fair, neither Hilton nor Spears asked to part of this conversation).

I'm inclined to a more charitable explanation about Giuliani, namely that even McCain realizes that Giuliani is an idiot.

You guys say that McCain had to firm up his base, but I think this is fundamentally wrong. Unlike in 2000 and 2004, the Republican base this time around isn't large enough to win an election. It has shrunk thanks to Katrina and Iraq.

The Republicans only chance is if McCain runs as a maverick who is willing to throw conservatives overboard to get things done. Instead, this week, he acted like a guy who thinks that validating conservative positions and keeping the base happy is more important than picking a qualified potential President. Time will show this to be a terrible pick.

"Bart" DePalma:

I do not think Rudy wanted the job. I recall reading that he is considering a NY race.

Well, yes, he thought about that. Even ran, I hear. Then had to drop out at the last minute when it turned out he was using state cops to ferry his mistresses to his love trysts....

And then there was that spectacular campaign he ran for the preznitcy. He augured in there even faster than did those jets on 9/11....



I think JB is missing a far simpler explanation. VPs are usually picked to strengthen a ticket in November. Her pick makes more political sense than a pick of Lieberman would because it is likely to add more votes to McCain's column than a pick of Lieberman (or anyone else).

The modern GOP (post-GWB) is divided into three camps, neocon, religious right and Wall Street Republicans. There are other components to the coalition, but these are the main ones.

McCain already has the neocons; he is the proto-neocon. To win, McCain needs to pull in as many Wall Streeters and religious righters as possible, hold on to the neocons and pick up as many independents as possible.

Lieberman does nothing to pull in the religious right or Wall Street Republicans because he agrees with them on nothing of importance to them; he just doubles down on the neocon vote. So Lieberman only works as a pick if he brings in enough independents to offset the numerous religious and Wall Street Republicans who are already wary of McCain and if Lieberman were picked, might stay home in November or even vote for Obama.

Palin, by contrast, brings in the religious right, while not driving away the neocons or Wall Streeters. She is not an isolationist or a small government conservative, so the neocons can live with her. She has a more mixed record on the economy, but is unlikely to drive away more Wall Streeters than she brings in members of the religious right. Given her unique background, she is is as least as likely to do well with independents (or at least the blue collar independents that everyone is targeting) than Lieberman.

In short, the # of (net) additional votes Palin would garner for McCain is almost certainly higher than the # of (net) additional votes that Lieberman would garner.

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