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Aug 25, 2008

1 President + 1 Vice President = 1 President

The Vice President Doesn't Matter Much

John Nance Garner IV nicknamed "Cactus Jack" was the 44th Speaker of the US House of Representatives (1931-33) and the 32nd Vice President of the United States (1933-41). He served as Representative from Texas between 1902 and 1933. He was an experienced and successful politician.

He is famous for his evaluation of the Vice Presidency as "not worth a bucket of warm piss."

US Senator Barack Obama has chosen US Senator Joseph Biden to run for election as his Vice President. There is much discussion about how this will help or hurt Obama's chances for election.

The theme is that Biden brings much needed experience in Senate politics and in foreign policy. Sen. Biden has served in the Senate and on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees since 1973, has been chairman of both committees at times, and is the current Chairman of the Foreign Relations committee.

The VP should be able to be President in his own right, and a person who we would trust. We should care about the political positions and character of the VP because the choice reflects Obama's judgment. It doesn't matter a bit what experience he brings to the Obama presidency.

The President doesn't need the VP to agree with him, and usually doesn't ask, for fear that he will seem weak, ignorant, or indecisive. The President has access to the best intelligence and advice in the country, anyone he wants. The VP does not provide a special resource. The VP serves in the President's cabinet only to the extent that the President directs or allows him.

The VP seems to matter because the public thinks that he matters. The public likes the idea of a "team" running the country. It is natural to consider two people in agreement as more stable than one person. In fact, the President jealously runs the show.

The VP is most useful during the election because he gets more publicity than other supporting politicians. He can attack the opposition without making his candidate President look mean. He can advertise the President's policy after election.

A VP can build support for his own run for President, and he can give his supporters more influence.

Albert Gore was VP for eight years under President Bill Clinton. He has acquired $100 million by being chief lobbyist for green causes while in office, and an investor and partner in green companies enabled by public policy and legislation that he influenced.

The VP does not add to the skills of the President or provide balance in governing. He becomes President in Waiting, Lobbyist in Chief, gives aid to his factional political supporters, and can use his influence to become rich.

The VP is a distraction from the central question of the election, which is what worldview and judgment does the candidate for President bring to the job?

08/31/08 - Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin is McCain's choice for Vice President.

This supports Palin's political career by pleasing Palin's political supporters, and some people will support or oppose McCain because he has picked her. She has the political identity of a strong, independent, religious, pro-life, woman and mother.

There is debate about her political experience. Weak because she was mayor of a small town, and is governor of a small state. Strong because she has been a successful reformer, removing corruption and negotiating for lower taxes and efficient government.

McCain reveals his judgment by choosing her as a person who could be president. Actuarial tables tell us that McCain's chance of dying within 4 years is 16%, 1 in 6. Obama's chance of dying within four years is 2%, 1 in 50.

From the Social Security Period Life Table, Expectations for life as of 2004. Of 67,016 males age 72 in 2004, 57,395 are expected to be alive 4 years later. That is a 14.4% expectation of death. I simplify that to 1 chance in 6 that Palin will need to serve as President, including some chance that McCain could be disabled.
The question remains. Is McCain or Obama the better choice for President as an individual, regardless of VP? How is the judgment of McCain or Obama revealed by his choice of person he believes would be a good President in his place?

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