Jim Webb as VP: The Definitive Word
James Fallows gets the “Jim Webb for vice president” boomlet exactly right:
– Until 7pm November 4, 2008, Webb might well be a very strong addition to the ticket.
– On November 5, the troubles — for Webb — would begin.
Fallows likes and admires Webb and thinks he’d be both an asset on the campaign trail and a very, very bad vice president.
Jim Webb has arranged his life so as to maximize his intellectual and personal independence, and minimize the things he “has” to do and the bosses he must answer to. Novelist, essayist, journalist, movie-maker — through the two decades before his Senate race he’s been his own boss as much as possible, and has clearly relished saying exactly what he believes. The federal government office that most nicely matches his previous life is the one he now holds: as a U.S. Senator. Especially a Senator of the model Webb has described as his ideal: Daniel Patrick Moynihan. There are still lots of things Webb “has” to do — fundraising, constituent service, party efforts — to maintain this role. But in the big scheme of things, not that many.
The federal government office that least matches Webb’s lifetime path is the vice presidency. Some wonderful people have held the job, plus some terrible ones. The ones who are happiest are those who can bide their time, bite their tongue, fly to foreign-dignitary funerals, and stick absolutely to the company line.
There’s no law, of course, saying that the VP has to be a silent partner. The last several, in fact, have had significant policy duties and quite a few critics think Dick Cheney is more influential than George W. Bush. But the president has to at least appear to be in charge and the VP has to at least appear to defer to the Big Guy. Webb wasn’t very good at that as a 42-year-old Navy Secretary; I can’t imagine he’d be better at it as a 62-year-old.