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Andy Ostroy Headshot

Why Obama's VP Needs to be a 4-Star General

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It's an obvious problem facing Sen. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party as both head to the November presidential election. While a majority of Americans are against the Iraq war and believe the Bush administration took its eye off terror organizations like al Qaeda, they see Sen. John McCain, the GOP's presumptive nominee, as being stronger on foreign affairs and national security. Despite this clear disadvantage, the odds-on favorites to be selected as Obama's vice presidential running mate are little known state Governors -- Evan Bayh (Ind) and Tim Kaine (VA) -- who have no real foreign policy or national security experience. We are a nation at war, targeted by Islamic terrorists, and now back in a potential Cold War with a militaristically invigorated Russia, which has just invaded the Republic of Georgia.

So, why are two neophytes on the world stage, Bayh and Kaine, at the top of the list when Obama himself has zero foreign policy or national security chops? With McCain perceived by voters as the more capable commander-in-chief, leading in the polls by about 25 points on this issue, Obama's gonna need more than Bayh or Kaine if he expects to occupy the White House in January. Which is why he and the party must put the offensive block on the GOP by choosing a retired 4-star general as his running mate. Someone like Colin Powell, Eric Shinseki, Anthony Zinni or Wesley Clark. A move like this would totally disarm the McCain campaign and take away one of it's biggest attack points: that an Obama presidency would be woefully ill-equipped to defend America. Who better than to be at Obama's side helping to protect the United States than his 4-star general vice-president? In an age where, thanks to Dick Cheney, VP's are viewed as having much more influence and power than ever, this could prove to be a critical strategic maneuver on the part of Democrats. It would allow Obama to point to Iraq, Russia, Iran and the battle against terrorism and project strength, experience and resolve ... giving voters a sense of confidence that his administration, contrary to the relentless GOP talking points, is highly capable, more capable that McCain, of defending America both at home and abroad. Think of the image of Obama standing beside a uniformed 4-star general. Think of what that image projects to these voters, many of whom are independents still on the fence.

Conventional wisdom argues that one's choice of VP means little or nothing come November. There's no real guarantee they'll "deliver" their home states and, virtually everyone simply votes for the top of the ticket anyway, no matter how bad the VP choices appear to be. Case in point Dan Quayle and Spiro Agnew. These clowns didn't stop Richard Nixon or Pappi Bush from winning. But, given the global stage these days, and the edge McCain has on foreign affairs, coupled with how the GOP has successfully defined Democrats as weak on national security, the selection of a 4-star general could very well, against 2008's treacherous international landscape, have major impact on the outcome of this election in particular.

Some notable choices for Obama would be retired Army generals Clark, Shinseki and Powell, along with the Marine Corps' Zinni. Clark's a Democrat who's already tried his hand at the presidency in 2004, and failed. But he'd make for a terrific Veep. Given the crisis in Georgia, with his track-record in Bosnia, he'd be a great running mate, as would the others, all of whom have a bone to pick with the Busheviks. Shinseki was fired after arguing that at least 300,000 post-invasion troops would be necessary in Iraq to properly stabilize the country. We now know he was dead-right. Zinni, former chief of the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East, knows more about what's needed in Iraq than perhaps anyone, and he's been at odds with President Bush over this handling of the war. And Powell, for obvious bi-partisan and celebrity-cache reasons, would be a coup.

No matter how you slice it, this is the image Obama must project for his administration. As with 2004, what will award the White House to Republicans is fear, plain and simple; Americans' desire to feel safe and secure and protected here at home. On this front, McCain wins hands down. Unfortunately, guys like Bayh and Kaine, or any other generally unexciting, inexperienced, relatively unknown potential running mate, doesn't even make a dent. It's time Democrats once and for all trump the GOP on matters of national security.