11 June 2008

A Female Veep--But Not Hillary?

It was reported last week in the national media that Hillary Clinton would simply not accept another woman on the ticket as Barack Obama’s running mate. If she wasn’t the choice, then Obama would have to select a man.

I am not sure of the accuracy of this report, but the political dilemma is worth discussing. If Senator Clinton still dreams of being the first female president of the United States, it would not be in her interest to have a competitor. And even if Obama loses in November, his running mate would become, along with Senator Clinton, a strong contender for the 2012 election. That would set up a pleasant situation—two women heading the list of possible Democratic presidential candidates. Nothing wrong with that.

If (or should I say when) Obama wins in November we will have a different situation. The nation's first female vice-president would immediately become the heir apparent to President Obama--although 2016 is a long way off. Clearly however, Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming president would decline precipitously.

But what will the Clinton supporters think of a different women being named Obama’s running mate? In my opinion, they would be unable to criticize this choice even if disappointed. Would they deny another female a spot on the ticket? Even if Clinton is not the choice, wouldn’t it still be remarkable to have an African-American/female team? Much of Clinton’s campaign would be validated to a great degree and her supporters would have to feel some amount of satisfaction.

Finally, could Clinton stop Obama from selecting a female? I suppose she could put enough pressure to do just that. But what if the word got out? It would simply reinforce an image of Hillary Clinton as a selfish and ruthless politician who cared only about her own self-interest—not the party, and not the feminist movement. No, she simply cannot make this demand. If discovered, her future role as a party leader would be diminished severely. Even her chances of running for president in the future would be damaged.

The fact is, this is the perfect time to select a female running mate. Hillary Clinton has opened the door for a woman to be selected immediately. Obama needs to take advantage of that opening. Yes, it would probably end Clinton’s presidential hopes—but her chances are slim anyway. The Clinton 18-million would have to be supportive. And finally, it would give an opportunity for a number of Democratic women (and Republican women also) to run for president in the next few election cycles.

History will give Hillary Clinton credit for making this situation possible now. This might not be what she had in mind--but it isn't a bad legacy. Now Barack Obama must make the next move.

McCain Means Anti-Choice

As a yellow-dog Democrat myself (that’s a party loyalist who would even vote for a yellow dog if it were running on the Democratic ticket), I sincerely hope that the Hillary Clinton supporters will ultimately decide that a vote for Barack Obama is their best choice in November. While I understand that emotions are running high, it still comes down to policies in the end. Will we be better off with Obama or McCain?

I anticipate arguments being made to Clinton supporters trying to convince them that Obama is a much better option--and I would like to do my small part in this post.

We need to all remember that the next president will probably appoint several Supreme Court justices. Who do we want making those critical selections? I made this same argument to Obama supporters back in February when it looked like Clinton might be the nominee. Even then, I believed all Democrats had to support the eventual nominee to advance our policy initiatives (even though both candidates were squishy centrists), and to take back the Supreme Court. At that time, some belligerent Obama supporters were threatening to leave the party if Clinton was the nominee—so our current problems might have been the same no matter who won the nomination.

So let’s look at a few articles regarding McCain’s views on abortion and a woman’s right to chose. This first selection is from McCain’s own website. It’s difficult to misinterpret these words. The bold highlights are mine.

Overturning Roe v. Wade
John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned
, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat. However, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion. Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby. The pro-life movement has done tremendous work in building and reinforcing the infrastructure of civil society by strengthening faith-based, community, and neighborhood organizations that provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need. This work must continue and government must find new ways to empower and strengthen these armies of compassion. These important groups can help build the consensus necessary to end abortion at the state level. As John McCain has publicly noted, "At its core, abortion is a human tragedy. To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level."

This next short selection is a response to a Clinton supporter who plans to vote for McCain in November. Froma Harrop claims that McCain is really a moderate on the choice issue--buying into the maverick label that McCain is still attempting to utilize. Kevin Drum in the Washington Monthly utilizes a Steve Beren column and they both take Harrop to task.
McCAIN ON ABORTION....One of the inexplicable side effects of John McCain's maverick reputation is the number of people who believe — or, perhaps, desperately want to believe — that he's basically pretty moderate on abortion rights. Columnist Froma Harrop is one of them.

First, Harrop is willing to gamble, but pro-choice Democrats have to know better....[Harrop] concludes that McCain's voting record of complete and total opposition to reproductive rights for nearly a quarter century is insincere, and once in the White House, he'll suddenly transform into a moderate. This is sheer fantasy.

Second, McCain is going to great lengths to prove how completely wrong Harrop really is. Indeed, McCain is telling anyone who will listen that he'd be even further to the right than Bush on this issue, subtly criticizing Griswold, and by extension, the very notion of a right to privacy.

And third, it's utterly foolish to narrowly focus the inquiry to the Supreme Court. McCain is practically desperate to stack the court with more far-right justices — his active support for Bork wasn't an accident — but if we take a more general look at McCain and women's issues, we see that McCain will maintain the global gag order, supports the court's ruling on Ledbetter, has expressed no interest in civil rights protections for women, and has voted against everything from requiring health care plans to cover birth control to international family planning funding to public education for emergency contraception.

McCain tends to use soothing, nonconfrontational language when he talks about social issues, but his actual record on abortion is about as hardline conservative as you can get. A lot of moderates who like McCain seem to be averting their gaze from this and trying to persuade themselves that it's all just politics and the real McCain is a lot like them: not a big fan of abortion, maybe, but not really extreme about it either. Unfortunately, it ain't so. If McCain gets into office, his record is pretty clear: he'll do everything he can to reduce or eliminate access to abortion, starting with poor women and working his way up.

Finally, the Christian Science Monitor chimed in a few months ago on McCain’s possible judicial nominees. It is clear what kinds of judges McCain will appoint.

A particularly sore point has involved McCain's alleged liberal perspective on selecting federal judges, especially for the Supreme Court. But on this score, conservative fear is misplaced. A careful reading of his statements and his Senate record shows that McCain's "maverick" approach bodes quite well for those who cherish a conservative judiciary.

The senator has carefully repeated the conservative Republican Party mantras regarding federal judicial appointments demanded of all viable GOP candidates. For instance, McCain has praised President Bush for selecting justices "who strictly interpret the Constitution." And he observed that "one of our greatest problems in America today is justices that legislate from the bench."

He has pledged to appoint jurists who construe the Constitution and legislation, rather than make social policy or assume the role of judicial "activists." Indeed, one critical line of McCain's Super Tuesday speech was a clear, direct appeal to the GOP base: "I am a Republican because I believe the judges we appoint to the federal bench must understand that enforcing our laws, not making them, is their only responsibility."

McCain has also made the standard promise to name Supreme Court justices who share the perspectives of Chief Justice John Roberts as well as those of Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

When some conservatives attacked McCain for remarking that he was reportedly troubled because Justice Alito "wore his conservatism on his sleeve," he set the record straight: "I will try to find clones of Alito and Roberts."

McCain may be less ideological than certain conservative Republicans would like. Nevertheless, his record suggests that they should not be concerned. In fact, McCain might rectify or temper the accusations, recriminations, divisive partisanship, and paybacks that have plagued the selection process by cooperating with Democrats, who may enhance their Senate majority in November.