I said the other day that covering the run-up to the VP announcement reminded me of the good ol’ days of summer 2005, when we all were trying to figure out who President Bush would pick for the Supreme Court. Alito? Luttig? Wilkinson? Roberts?
The names were obscure to most Americans outside DC and their respective hometowns. The rumors were fast and furious. And you could always tell who had absolutely no idea when their lists contained names that, for whatever reason, were firmly off it (Garza, Corrigan, Jones).
Fast forward three years, and it’s the same chase for the VP (though arguably with lower stakes, since “Justice” is a better title in every way—power, job security, wardrobe—than “Vice President”).
For Obama, is it Bayh or Kaine? And what about Biden? For McCain, is Pawlenty the guy? Or Thune? Everyone talks up Romney, but isn’t he really the “Edith Brown Clement” candidate—you have his name out there to satisfy a constituency, but there’s no way he’ll be the pick? And after all this chasing and analyzing, what if there’s a dark horse---a surprise nominee who completely tanks? (Let’s call that pick the “Harriet Miers” VP candidate.)
And now, just to complete our parallels, enter Robert Novak, who reported last night that John McCain is announcing his VP pick this week, while Obama is overseas. The thinking is McCain needs to steal some thunder from the Obama’s roadshow, and what better way to do it?
Now Novak, as we all know, has great sources—and breaks lots of stories with his great sources. That’s why a Novak story commands instant attention—like his stories did back in early July 2005, when he wrote that “Court sources” told him William Rehnquist would be announcing his retirement less than a week after Justice O’Connor. It was so specific—down to the actual time—people thought it surely had to be true. And when the time for an announcement came and went, Novak wrote that Rehnquist would deliver the news when President Bush landed on American soil after his overseas trip to the G8 summit.
All this reporting ultimately led to Rehnquist’s famous quip—after reporters staking out his house asked if he would be stepping down: “That’s for me to know, and you to find out.”
Well, we soon found out the answer was “no.” Rehnquist told the world in a letter he did not plan to retire. And he didn’t. He died later in the summer.
Last night, we were getting waved off the rumor announcement pretty firmly. Apparently, McCain will have a surprise announcement in New Orleans, but it won’t be the VP—which of course seems to make sense. Why in the world—I was asked over and over last night by sources close to the campaign—would McCain do this now? He’ll need that arrow in his quiver later, they said, so he can use it to counter Obama’s own announcement or any post-Democratic convention Obama bounce.
I know, I know. What if there's a Republican VP candidate who could do both? Maybe, just maybe, there's someone so dazzling, so high in stature, so stunningly charismatic he/she would completely change the media narrative this week and, then, sustain that changed narrative throughout the month of August and all of the pomp and circumstance of the Democratic National Convention. In other words, someone other than Pawlenty, Thune, Romney, etc.
Someone truly spectacular—like a fireworks show on the Mall.
Ok. Let’s go with that for a minute. If there’s an announcement this week, that means we’ll have to scrap our carefully thought-out list of McCain’s possible VP picks. We need that spectacular, story-changing nominee. (We could probably keep that firecracker Giuliani on it, but everyone else—gone.) And that means: celebrity pick. Yep. If McCain’s announcing this week, he’s already signaling desperation, so he really should just run with it. Embrace it. A celebrity. After all, they’re “just like us!”
Granted, there aren’t a whole lot of Republican celebrities. Here's a list. There’s 90210’s Shannen Doherty, but she’s really not like us. If McCain’s aiming for the base and women, I’m thinking Everybody Loves Raymond’s Patricia Heaton. Definitely.
Then again, maybe he should go in a different direction—tap a kick-butt guy who could counter all that foreign policy coverage Obama is drumming up. Chuck Norris? Bruce Willis? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Those guys could really help keep the press in line, too, which could be kind of interesting.
Then again, maybe he should just hold off.
Though I have to say, McCain/The Rock does have a certain ring to it.