ADULT IN THE ROOM

Posted in Quick Hits on July 12th, 2016 by Ed

Obviously leaked rumors indicate that Hillary Clinton is considering former NATO Supreme Commander Admiral James Satvridis as a running mate. There's a lot to unpack here.

First, if I had to bet my life savings I'd call Vegas and put all $53.14 on this being a longshot. It's more likely a pre-screening of a guy who's at the top of the list to be Secretary of State or Defense in the future.

Second, as one of the commenters on Facebook put it, "bringing on a decorated military figure as a running mate should totally assuage fears of hillary being an unhinged hawk who will start four wars a year." I'm not inside the Clinton campaign, obviously, but I think it's pretty clear that they're adopting the attitude that with Sanders out of the picture, most people on the far left are going to vote for her simply because she isn't Trump so she doesn't have to worry too much about pissing them off. It's deeply cynical and pretty hard to disagree with.

Third, people I know in the foreign policy world speak very, very highly of this guy. Bear in mind I don't socialize with a lot of war hawks. He succeeded in getting NATO to stop acting like it's 1980 and the Soviets are about to come crashing through the Fulda Gap. And he does have a few interesting, albeit occasionally veering into corny, things to say about the nature of security today.

Fourth, the Grand Strategy for the Clinton campaign, of which the choice of a VP is only a small part, is strategically brilliant and highly likely to piss off a lot of people searching for excuses to talk themselves into voting for her. We all know how the media and older, more conservative types fawn all over military men. We know that Stavridis fits (just watch him speak for 30 seconds in that link) the stock description of a Very Serious Person to a tee. He could have no idea at all what he's talking about, but he looks and sounds like he does. So Clinton is going all in on a strategy of building a campaign of people who will make Trump look like the immature, half-assed bar drunk shouting at Fox News that he is. There is no way for any Democratic candidate to reach the people who love Trump, but older people (and older Republicans in particular) who are embarrassed at the thought of voting for Trump but also dislike Clinton might be convinced if they see just how stupid Trump looks and sounds next to a Very Serious Person. Trump will make his campaign a circus and fill it with people who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground; we're talking about a guy who wants Mike Ditka to speak at the GOP Convention. I guess Clinton is just going to play it safe and assume that when the small percentage of voters who are both rational and on the fence will break her way when they compare the idiots campaigning for Trump with her group of actual adults who sound like they've read a book at some point.

Remember above all else that VP picks tend to have little to no significant effect on vote choices in November. The expectation that they can "save" a shitty campaign is a fantasy, so in recent years the candidates who don't need Saving have been picking whoever they feel most comfortable around regardless of any perceived electoral benefits. Right or wrong, I think Clinton thinks she is going to win, so there's no need to pick a running mate she isn't 100% comfortable with in order to satisfy some bloc of voters or regional interests. That may be how running mates were chosen in the 19th Century, but those days are long gone.