August 30, 2012
By David K. Shipler
Only once since Ronald Reagan chose George H. W. Bush as his running mate in 1980 have Republicans picked a vice presidential candidate who was qualified to step into the Oval Office if necessary. He was Jack Kemp, former Housing Secretary, who ran with Bob Dole in 1996, a smart and solid man who could have been a decent president.
With all the rest, the Republicans have exposed the country to a high-stakes gamble with very bad odds. In 1988, Bush selected Dan Quayle, an inexperienced senator whose perpetual deer-caught-in-the-headlights look made him seem less than intellectually capable. He was a lightweight vice president who only recently, in cogent criticism of his party’s swing to the hard right, has shown the good sense he would have needed as president.
Dick Cheney, Vice President under George W. Bush, displayed such contempt for the Constitution’s protections of individual rights after 9/11 that, as a president unrestrained, he would have damaged the country’s structure of liberty even more extensively than Bush allowed him to do. (One Cheney gambit, which Bush rejected, was to knock down a pillar of American freedom by sending the Army in pursuit of a hapless so-called “sleeper cell” of wannabe terrorists in upstate New York. They were duly prosecuted by the civilian system.) Much of Cheney’s legacy has persisted under Obama.