November 28, 2003
The Dean/Clark Question
Quite the intriguing ticket. The combination has almost a dramatic potency. Dean, whichever way you slice it, has a record of actually accomplishing his prioritized goals against political odds, rare in recent Democratic observance. And of course his campaign itself is a phenomenon. Clark is, quite simply, an übermensch. Every time I hear his list of honors, achievements, and accolades, I think, “Good Lord, is this a real person?”
It’s just kind of exciting. The intellectual capacity to generate big ideas (Clark) combined with the executive tenacity necessary to achieve them (Dean). A doctor’s healing paired with a general’s might. North and South. Change. Insurgency. Revolution.
Even Andrew Sullivan gets a bit turned on by the idea.
What are the chances? What are the permutations? What are the drawbacks? (Assorted randomness follows.)
First and biggest drawback: No Washington experience. Ordinarily, I tend to pooh-pooh conventional wisdom about presidential elections. It all seems so … astrological or something: “Since 1768, every Democrat to win the general election had walked at least three times before the age of 36 down Pennsylvania Avenue with the light of a waning harvest moon at his back and a clove of wolfsbane hanging from his neck!” It just seems like you could select any incidental or arbitrary data points to establish a pattern as to who becomes president. But Laertes, a commenter over at CalPundit (you’ll have to scroll down a little ways), points out that every single general election ticket since 1948 has featured a current or former Congressperson. That’s some pretty hefty CW to talk back to.
Second drawback: It’s kind of nice to picture the two as a superhero duo, fighting side by side in the battle for a better America, but reality intrudes on that little fantasy. Although the pairing might do well in the general election, neither candidate would be most effective in the VP slot. Cheney may be the most powerful VP in history but his influence is still a lurking, behind-the-scenes sort of thing, which neither Dean nor Clark’s leadership styles seem suited for.
Dean’s effectiveness seems limited to the presidency or Congress. Possibly he’d make a good director of Health and Human Services. Clark would be a wonderful Secretary of State or possibly Secretary of Defense, by all accounts.
Other permutations? Laertes suggested that if Dean won the nomination, he might choose Graham as the nominee, which might be a smart move, as a Southern strategy and as a means of getting solid Washington experience on the ticket. Edwards as a VP for either candidate is compelling for a number of reasons — helps out with the Southern strategy; no one’s got anything against him; he’s one of the only candidates who could probably run for the top slot in 2008 or even 2012 if they do a good job in office — but doesn’t particularly tackle the Washington experience problem (five years in Congress does not a veteran make). Given that everybody seems to be searching for a soldier for some reason in 2004, Clark/Kerry might inspire fear in the Republican ranks.
It’s kind of fun to imagine hypothetical cabinet positions and executive offices for all the Democratic contenders — John Edwards, Attorney General; Dick Gephardt, Secretary of Labor; Al Sharpton, Press Secretary; Dennis Kucinich, Secretary of CRAAAAAAZY…
Chances? I really don’t know what the strongest likelihood is at this point. The VP choice for Dean or Clark might be drawn from a completely different pool of Congressfolks, former Congressfolks, former VPs (what? this is an option…), and what-have-you.
Still, though. Dean/Clark. Dean … and Clark. Dean Cain, Clark Kent. Howard University, Wesleyan University. What?