Running With Obama

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!!!!!
Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!!!!!

Since the race for the Democratic nomination has drawn to the end, many pundits have begun to ask how the choice of a vice president might help to repair the damage inflicted on the party as a result of the long contest. The Clinton camp has promoted the idea of an Obama/Clinton ticket that can unify the party. But what are the other possibilities? Because we are part of the political team on The Root,we thought we would revisit this conversation we had in March about possible hot tickets. Now that Obama's campaign has lost one of the three members of his vice-presidential search committee, we figure he can use all the help he can get.


Hillary Clinton — Dream team?

MELISSA: I can't imagine that anyone in the Obama camp thinks that this is a good idea. Hillary does not bring Barack a single vote that he can't already get for himself in the general election. She is polarizing, and Obama is unifying. Barack is a clean slate while she brings more baggage than Paris Hilton on a weekend trip to the country. This ticket does more to unify the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Given HRC's current impersonation of Lady Macbeth, I have to advise brother Obama not to choose her as a running mate.

MARC: A few months ago, I would've said that Americans wouldn't support a black man and a white woman on the same ticket. Now, I'm convinced that an Obama/Clinton ticket is the only thing that can unify an increasingly separated Democratic Party. Unfortunately, like Kennedy/Carter in 1980, too much blood has been spilled in the primary for anyone to believe that these two respect, much less like, one another. This one won't happen.

Jim Webb — Senator from Virginia

MARC: Well Melissa, if nothing else, Jim Webb deserves consideration for exposing and defeating George "Macaca" Allen, who otherwise might be the Republican nominee right now. Also, Webb's experience as Secretary of the Navy and Assistant Secretary of Defense (under Reagan) would help Obama improve his street cred among the warmonger crowd. Still, this is one of the scariest options on the table. With Obama drifting further toward the center, the last thing he needs is a running mate who has only been a registered Democrat for a few years. Also, with less than six years of Senate tenure between the two of them, this duo would rank as one of the most inexperienced presidential tickets in history. Unfortunately, he's probably on Barack's short list.

MELISSA: Marc, I truly hate this ticket, too. Democrats are so foolish when they think about how to win the South. Maybe it is because Howard Dean is the DNC chairman, but someone has got to tell these people that you can't just slap an up-South senator on the ticket and assume he will deliver his state. Hello…does anyone remember Kerry/Edwards? Barack does not need a Southerner to beat McCain. McCain needs a Southerner to beat Barack!

Joe Biden — Senator from Delaware

MELISSA: I like Biden for Machiavellian reasons. He brings additional height to the ticket, and everyone knows that tall guys are more likely to win. He can play "crazy Joe" to Barack's serious tone. It makes Obama look even more presidential if all the nutty outbursts can be outsourced to Biden. And you just know that the media will remind us of Biden's "articulate" comments. Biden kicked off his own presidential bid last year by remarking that Obama was unlike other black leaders because he was "articulate," "fresh" and "clean." By publicly forgiving and embracing Biden, Obama will soothe the collective conscience of well-meaning white Americans who often say things that they "hope won't offend you." What better way to build a winning multiracial coalition?


MARC: I agree. The fact that Obama can look beyond Biden's racist "articulate" remark will further endear him to whites who are waiting for a post-racial moment more eagerly than the second coming. Also, given Barack's lack of foreign policy experience, Biden's know-how will make them a formidable duo. If I were laying odds, this would be my 2 to 1 favorite.

Colin Powell — Former Secretary of State

MELISSA: I love this ticket, Marc. The bipartisan piece is emblematic of Obama's campaign. Powell brings gravitas, foreign policy experience and the enduring respect of millions of Americans. Powell oversaw the first ground war in Iraq under Daddy Bush and then made the case to the international community for the invasion of Iraq under W. Powell desperately needs redemption for his role in dragging us into the war in Iraq. Who better to get us out than the reluctant general who got us in? But the best part of this pairing is that they are both black. Having a black VP will instantly end the assassination fears that continue to haunt Barack. It is the same strategy that worked with Miss America. The first runner-up to Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America, was also black. When they came after Vanessa, we still had Suzette Charles!


MARC: First of all, can you please stop with the assassination talk? No one is killing Barack or Colin Powell. Presidents only get killed if they are a threat to something. Besides, if they were both killed, Nancy Pelosi would be president. That's better protection than having a full Secret Service detail!

Bill Richardson — New Mexico governor

MELISSA: Well, this guy is qualified as both a party insider and an experienced international negotiator. I love the way that he stood bravely with Obama in the midst of the Rev. Wright storm. But I think that after snubbing Bill Clinton's best moves to get him on HRC's side he may no longer be well positioned to broker a peace accord among the battered Dems. Really Marc, I cannot imagine why anyone would think this is a good idea. Maybe he could deliver a few Latino voters who might not turn-out for Obama, but Bill couldn't even sit still on TV. During the New Hampshire debate he swiveled in his office chair like a little kid. That said, I am all for Bill Richardson for secretary of state!


MARC: I think we can strike this from the list, Melissa. The only people eager to see a Negro and a Mexican on the same ticket are the folks at BET Comic View. That said, Bill Richardson is the most qualified of the bunch. He has so many of the things Barack lacks: executive experience, Washington experience, foreign policy experience and a natural connection to Hispanic voters. It's too bad Americans aren't ready for a black-brown ticket.

Nancy Pelosi — Speaker of the House

MARC: Nancy Pelosi has been the poster child for everything that is wrong with the Democratic Congress. Since her time as Speaker, we have not impeached Bush or Cheney, ended the war, or passed any significant progressive legislation. In many ways, she foreshadows what Obama's presidential tenure will look like. Sign her up!


MELISSA: She was supposed to impeach Bush? Uh, OK, back in the real world Marc, she is not a terrible choice. If the second-wave feminists must have a middle-aged white woman; let them have Nancy, at least she brings California.

Al Gore —Nobel Prize Laureate

MELISSA: Have we forgotten that this guy is ridiculously unappealing without a power point presentation to distract us from his wooden demeanor?


MARC: There you go focusing on those pesky facts again, Melissa. The reality is that most Americans have forgotten that Al Gore was the guy who was beaten by Jesse Jackson in 1988 and failed to win his own state in 2000. At the current moment, Al Gore is an international rock star whose appeal is only matched by, well, Barack Obama. With Obama/Gore on the same ticket, you could start booking Earth, Wind and Fire for the inaugural ball. The only problem is that Gore is still shell shocked from his last electoral beatdown at the hands of Bush and his gang of five. If he weren't, he would have sought (and won) the nomination himself.

John Edwards — Former North Carolina Senator

MELISSA: This one is a sentimental favorite for me. An Obama/Edwards ticket is my dream team. I thought Edwards should have been at the top of the 2004 ticket. His populism is genuine. He had the most comprehensive health care plan in the primaries this year. He fundamentally cares about the fate of New Orleans. He is quite good at talking about race. But I don't think he does the ticket any good. Barack does not need anyone to help him get the South. Most of the Democrats left in the South are African Americans, and Obama is going to have no problem getting those votes on his own. Come to think of it, Elizabeth Edwards might be the better pick. She is a spunky fighter who can probably attract every woman voter in the country. I would like to see Edwards as the Attorney General in the Obama administration.


MARC: Other than the fact that it would be the prettiest presidential ticket ever, this one is a certified stinker. First of all, John Edwards hasn't won an election in a very long time. Americans hate losers. More importantly, Edwards' pro-populist platform would undermine Obama's successful attempts to please everyone, especially economic conservatives. Also, it would be really awkward to see Edwards snicker every time Obama refers to his corporatized health care plan as "universal."

Shirley Tilghman — President of Princeton

MELISSA: This is just a hometown favorite pick for me. Shirley Tilghman is the visionary woman president of Princeton University. A single-mom of two, she earned tenure in the biological sciences and then ascended to the presidency of the ultimate boys club university. She revolutionized family leave policies, established a world class Center for African-American Studies, initiated an expansive foreign study program for undergraduates and changed both the complexion and culture of a rigid, pre-colonial institution. Imagine what she could do for the country!


MARC: Umm, Melissa, are you smoking those Ivy leaves again? If any university administrator should be on the ticket, it's Arjun Appadurai, the legendary anthropologist and Provost at the New School. Maybe he can school Barack on globalization.

Tavis Smiley — What to Say?

MARC:Okay then, Melissa, I get a dream pick, too. Just in case Obama hasn't fully evinced his African- American bona fides, Brother Tavis would help him seal the deal. Maybe then Barack wouldn't be scared to show up to the State of the Black Union events!


MELISSA: Marc, you don't even want to know what I think about this idea.

Oprah Winfrey — No introduction needed.

Other than having no political experience of any kind, Oprah is perfect: a smart, popular, internationally respected woman. She certainly solves the conflict about whether to take public financing. She can personally bankroll the campaign. Now that's campaign finance reform.


Melissa Harris-Lacewell is an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Marc Lamont Hill is assistant professor of urban education and American Studies at Temple University.