There’s a lot of chatter about who Mitt Romney might pick as his running mate. Why not? It’s a boring time in the political cycle, the economic data and the news from Europe are relentlessly, soul-crushingly bad, and today the President laid an egg with a turgid speech about the economy that offered no new ideas or magic bullets. So why not spend a lot of time yakking about who might be Romney’s veep, rather than facing the painful truth about our current predicament?
It’s fun to speculate about such things. Wouldn’t blunt, plain-spoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie be a riot to watch in a vice presidential debate with Joe Biden? And speaking of governors, how about Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal or South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, just to show that the GOP isn’t just a bunch of white guys with ’50s haircuts? Or Senator Marco Rubio, who brings some dash and flash and can deliver a killer speech? And for every interesting candidate, of course, there’s a dull, safe choice, like Ohio’s junior Senator, Rob Portman, who has lots of experience with budgets but not much pizzazz.
Only Romney and his advisors know for sure who they are considering, and what kinds of factors will enter into the mix. For now, it’s worth mentioning that the selection of the vice president really doesn’t make much difference. Consider Joe Biden. He was a windbag and a gaffe-making machine as a long-serving Senator from Delaware, and he hasn’t changed as vice president. Does it make any difference? Does anybody really believe that Joe Biden has much influence on policy, or is entrusted with anything significant? I sure hope he isn’t; I’m quite comfortable with his role as U.S. representative at high-level foreign funerals and inaugurations and one of the President’s chief errand boys and message-deliverers.
In my lifetime, most of the vice presidents have been either non-entities (Humphrey, Mondale, Ford) or embarrassments (Rockefeller, Biden), and sometimes both (Agnew, Quayle). The country has somehow survived them all. Even when the vice presidents seemed to be something more than the standard officeholder (George H.W. Bush, Gore) it’s not entirely clear whether they did much of substance in developing policy or advising the President. The only veep who really seemed to have a significant role, at least for a time, was Dick Cheney — and I think his prominence made some people uncomfortable.
So let the speculation continue. It can’t hurt, and it might distract us from the drumbeat of bad news. Just don’t expect me to care much about who Romney picks, because it doesn’t really matter — even if Romney ends up winning.