iOS app Android app More

Steve Ralls

Steve Ralls

Posted: June 20, 2008 03:57 PM

A VP Pick We Can All Believe In


In the midst of rumors about the unacceptable (Nunn), the uninterested (Gore), and the uninspiring-to-some (Edwards) has emerged a quiet speculation about a truly exceptional possibility for Barack Obama's vice presidential pick.

Unlike former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, who invented and long-propped up the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, it is a name that should be more than welcome in the LGBT community. And unlike former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, it is a name that would have little problem bringing along Hillary's core group of supporters -- especially white women -- to the Obama campaign.

Retired Army General Claudia Kennedy, who has now been mentioned several times as a possibility for Senator Obama's short list, would also bring enormous military and national security credibility to the ticket ... along with those working class, female and southern voters who strongly supported Clinton's White House bid but have been lukewarm, at best, to the Obama quest for the Oval Office.

Kennedy, who was the first woman in Army history to achieve the rank of Lieutenant General, has long been deemed "poised for greatness" in the Democratic Party. In 2002, she was recruited (but declined) to run for Virginia Senator John Warner's seat, and in 2004, she was widely considered a top choice for Secretary of Defense in a possible Kerry administration. She has served as Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and has spent most of her military career in the fields of intelligence and cryptology ... two areas where the current foreign policy climate demands expertise.

Kennedy also comes to the field of VP possibilities with far less baggage than many of the other rumored contenders. Unlike Nunn, who would be strongly opposed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, General Kennedy has strongly denounced "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," on several occasions, and remains one of the highest-ranking military veterans to call for its end. And unlike Edwards, who would find it challenging to rally the enthusiasm of Clinton's converts, Kennedy has close ties to the Clintons - so much so that, when she endorsed Hillary's White House run, it warranted a stand-alone press statement from the New York Senator. She's also far more skilled in foreign policy than Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and would prevent the "One Term Times Two" label that an Obama-Webb ticket would elicit from the GOP.

General Kennedy's strongest appeal, however, has to be her ability to convince many of Clinton's white, female, working class supporters to punch their ballots for Obama in November. Kennedy made a splash, and became a heroine to countless American women of Clinton's generation, when, in 1999, she accused General Larry Smith of sexually harassing her three years earlier, when she was a Major General and he a Brigadier General in the Army. Kennedy spoke out about the harassment after Smith, a la Clarence Thomas, was nominated for a prestigious promotion. She successfully derailed his career, and Smith's appointment was withdrawn. Following the eruption of anger among many women over the treatment of Anita Hill during the Thomas hearings, Kennedy's success in stopping another promotion for a man accused of harassment made her an overnight cause célèbre in the feminist community.

There's little doubt, in fact, that Kennedy would be among those most able to carry Clinton's mantle in the general election. And, she wouldn't be anyone's "symbolic" or "token" choice for number two ... she has the credibility and credentials to be a truly deserving Obama VP pick. (And, like any good American who wants to make a run for high office, Kennedy has even penned an autobiography, Generally Speaking, about her history-making time in the Army.)

"Army values are taught to soldiers from their earliest days in the Army," Kennedy said at a 2006 event in Washington. "Those values are loyalty, duty, mutual respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage." And those same values would be invaluable to Obama's campaign between now and November ... and for the next four or eight years.

Lieutenant General Kennedy would be a VP -- and an historic change -- we could all believe in.