Opinion: Obama’s VP search sounds strangely like George Bush’s in 2000


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On many levels the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama and President George W. Bush have nothing in common.

But on a couple they do. Eight years ago, then-Texas Gov. Bush had locked up the Republican presidential nomination, vowing to ‘change the tone in Washington’ with a new brand of bipartisan politics.

Americans have a perennial dissatisfaction with the particularly partisan practice of politics in that city appropriately built on a former swamp.


Which is a major reason that Maryland was originally so willing to donate the worthless morass to the new nation as the federal District of Columbia.

Bush, who would arrive at the White House as an outsider despite his father’s long service in that city and for that government, was looking for a vice presidential running mate who would help erase or ease concerns about his foreign affairs and national security inexperience. And this was even before 9/11.

He enlisted Dick Cheney, a former representative, a former White House chief of staff and a former Defense secretary to conduct the search and ended up picking the extremely experienced searcher instead of any of the searchees. It lent the 2000 GOP ticket what was then called ‘gravitas.’

Obama’s been in Washington three years now as a legislator, not an executive, although about half that time he’s been out of town running for president. But he’s still trying to portray himself as an outsider, an agent of change and bipartisanship in a place that’s proved resistant to both.

Obama needs to find a running mate who won’t hurt him with any unexpected disclosures, won’t overshadow his fresh glow but will enhance his credentials as an executive and bring some foreign and national security experience.

But those with that kind of experience, say, Sen. Joe Biden, could be seen as part of the problem; Biden’s been a senator in that swamp since Obama was 11 years old. And those from outside Washington have the same lack of experience except, say, former Sen. Sam Nunn, who like Cheney has been out of town some years.

Our blogging colleague Johanna Neuman over at Countdown to Crawford has an interesting examination of some recent Obama remarks on what he is -- and is not -- looking for in a ticket partner. Hint: He’s not looking for a cousin Cheney, he says.

-- Andrew Malcolm