Weighing Potential VP Picks: What Experience Matters?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Yesterday, Rod Arquette had me on his show to talk about Kamala Harris, and he asked if we, as an electorate, give adequate consideration to a Vice President's qualifications. You can listen to the whole interview here or read the transcript here.

It's alarming that we knew more about Brett Kavanaugh before he was sworn in than we did Kamala Harris, who was out in the open for three months before she was elected. Why is it harder to survive a Supreme Court nomination vetting than it is to become the second in command of the United States?

Before anyone says "Lifetime appointment!" let me ask you this: If our country were a ship, the captain and first mate would be the executive branch, with navigators serving as the judiciary and deckhands as legislators. If the captain fails, do you want a weatherman or cook piloting the ship? No, you want a captain. Lifetime appointments to discern the constitutionality of an issue I understand, but we're going to let the President's closest advisor and success get by because, what? The party said they're good?

Whether it's the DNC or GOP, the party is only interested in fundraising and winning. Voting blocs grow when you can check boxes, just like Kamala does: black, Asian American, young, immigrant roots, alleged victim of racial discrimination, liberal, and a woman. Diversity checkboxes don't care about substance, but leadership and success do. The presidency is not a yes-or-no position like the Supreme Court. 

Wars, treaties, foreign relations, economic stability, crisis management, threat mitigation — Kamala can't navigate a coherent sentence, yet she was pre-approved to take over for Joe Biden because she didn't look like Mike Pence. We don't need to go full Hunger Games to evaluate a running mate (that's what the presidential primary is for, after all), but there should be a public and political process that gives voters a say in a candidate's worthiness. Perhaps, in addition to a debate, put each candidate in a Senate chamber of opposing party senators and let them swim in the metaphorical shark tank for two or three days? Just a suggestion...

Let's take a look at the following names (in no particular order) floated for the GOP ticket's Vice President position and ask ourselves, if Donald Trump were to be unable to continue his term, how would that person deal with Hamas? 

When Tim Scott was still in high school, he was mentored by a Chick-fil-A franchise owner, so we know he understands work ethic, service, quality, and efficiency. He went on to become an insurance agent and financial advisor before entering politics in 1995. As a Charleston, S.C., City Council member, he encountered the Department of Justice, which charged the city with violating the Voting Rights Act in its at-large City Council elections. Other than that, the media has been Scott's biggest opponent. I've interviewed Tim, and he's a good man but not someone who would make Taliban leaders soil their pants.

Kristi Noem, however, was willing to shoot a puppy so she'd probably be willing to go toe-to-toe with terrorists. She's also easily caught in ridiculous lies about tyrants, so take from that what you will.

I'll admit I totally forgot that Doug Burgum was on the debate stage last fall, but it's understandable why President Trump would consider him as a running mate: his business acumen is sharp. Clearly, Burgum is a hard worker; he has two advanced degrees, grew a software company that sold for $1.1 billion to Microsoft, and has served as North Dakota's governor since 2016. But did I mention I forgot the guy was on the stage? He let everyone else speak, and the melee grew until he was rendered irrelevant. Would I trust him to negotiate the release of the American hostages in Gaza? No.

At only 39 years old, Elise Stefanik entered the Washington political machine after graduating from Harvard in 2006 because, like me, 9/11 changed the trajectory of her life; we were seniors in high school when terrorists attacked America. In 2015, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, making her biggest adversary thus far the Democratic Party of New York and all of their antics. Because of that, Stefanik is automatically tougher than a lot of men in my book.  

Also affected by 9/11, J.D. Vance enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after high school and served a four-year tour. He states in his memoir that he was "lucky to escape any real fighting," but I'd challenge anyone who sugar-coats a combat tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Anyone who grew up under a Drill Instructor knows what the fear of God feels like and has some semblance of how to replicate it, but the title of United States Marine may be enough to deter our enemies.

Marco Rubio can easily side-step the 12th Amendment by moving to Las Vegas, where he spent some formative years during his youth. His parents certainly know crisis and adversity having fled Batista's Cuba, but that was his parents' struggle, not his. Rubio served as a political intern and was elected in Florida only two years after graduating from law school. Much like Tim Scott, the media has been Marco Rubio's toughest battle, especially with the Gang of Eight. Can I picture Rubio in the Situation Room? Sure, but I worry that Sunday morning talk shows would be harder for him.

Byron Donalds is something of an anomaly because he's new to the political game, entering around the same time as Elise Stefanik, and has a career in banking and insurance similar to Tim Scott but the big difference is the timeline. Donalds was well-established in finance during the Great Recession. The 12th Amendment is an issue for Donalds as well.

Some folks insist on keeping Tulsi Gabbard in the mix, and I get it: she is a woman (obviously) who can appeal to the middle and bring new ideas to the table, but I don't trust her to adhere to the GOP agenda if she had to take over the Oval Office. Tulsi is tough as nails and someone I would want in a foxhole with me any day (mortar, media, or zombie apocalypse), so the terrorist question here isn't important, but the social agenda is.

I'll stop with the long list of possibilities to address the candidate I think is, hands-down, the most logical choice: Greg Abbott. Abbott has told President Trump he can better serve him (Trump) and the nation better as Texas governor, but I don't think that's the actual reason he declined. 

When it comes to overcoming obstacles, Greg Abbott takes the cake. He was paralyzed at the age of 26 and pushed himself up and down parking garages to increase his strength and abilities using a wheelchair. Gov. Abbott has navigated hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes, droughts, and floods while simultaneously shepherding the eighth-largest economy in the world. Every day, he confronts Biden's border crisis. Is he perfect? No, because no one is. Is he a strong leader with the chops to carry on Trump's work? Without a doubt.

If we can't have Greg Abbott, I hope we'll at least get someone who can inspire a new facet of confidence in our neighbors and allies. 

Outside of elections, what do you think is the most important quality in a Vice President?


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