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Does Obama Need A Running Mate With War Clout?

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The media keep telling us that the polls place John McCain ahead of Barack Obama when it comes to national security. People just somehow believe that a Republican can keep us safer. Ironic, considering that we've had Republicans in the White House since pre-9/11, and they neither prevented the attack nor captured or killed Osama bin Laden. But that's a whole other rant.

The fact is that too many people mistakenly believe that McCain can keep them safer. So I've been wondering if it might help if Obama were to select a running mate with some war clout.

I had been thinking about General Wesley Clark, but the media's twisting of Clark's recent remarks, in which he said that McCain's military service does not automatically qualify him to be commander in chief, was probably enough to take him out of the running. This is no fault of Clark's, in my opinion, since there are a lot of former POWs and other military veterans who aren't necessarily good presidential material. But such is the world of politics and media spin.

I had also been thinking about Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who happens to be a Vietnam vet. But, on July 7, Webb proactively issued a statement indicating that "[u]nder no circumstances" does he want to be considered for the VP slot. While he promised to work hard to help Obama get elected, Webb believes that he can do more good by staying in the Senate right now. I am hugely disappointed. But, of course, it's Webb's prerogative.

Now there seems to be a lot of speculation about the possibility of an Obama-Hagel ticket, especially in light of the fact that (Republican) Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet, plans to accompany Obama on an upcoming trip to Iraq. The prospect of an Obama-Hagel ticket is fascinating and somewhat appealing, but unlikely.

Like many others, I believe that Hillary Clinton would be a strong addition to the ticket. Of course, she doesn't have any war clout, just lots of baggage. But she's tough, and that could be a big plus when it comes to military issues.

Is there another VP choice out there who could help Obama close up the war/security gap? Does he really even need to? For both questions, I think the answer is that it depends -- on so many factors.

It depends on whether we see an October surprise, be it an attack on Iran by Bush or by Israel, a terrorist attack on U.S. interests, or even just another bin Laden tape.

It depends on whether Obama and his running mate can adequately dispel the myth that the Republicans can keep us safer.

And, perhaps most importantly, it depends on whether the voters place more importance on health care, the economy, our constitutional rights, and the need to move away from the toxic neocon agenda.

Heaven help us if they don't.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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