A Kerry-McCain Ticket?
Jude Wanniski
March 30, 2004


Memo To: Senator John Kerry
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Running Mate

Yes, I know you and Senator John McCain are pals, having bonded across party lines because of your Vietnam experiences. You might even have him on your list for consideration as your vice-presidential running mate, and the fact that he is the most popular Republican among Democrats would probably make him acceptable to your party’s leaders. I was a bit surprised to see him touted for your ticket in a recent New Yorker “Talk of the Town” piece by Hendrik Hertzberg, among the most thoughtful liberal journalists I know. But I was really astonished to see a Kerry-McCain ticket promoted so vigorously in Sunday’s New York Times by Thomas L. Friedman, ”Awakening From a Dream”, who called it his fondest dream of several he lists in the political realm. Here’s how he put it: “Most of all, I want to wake up and read that John Kerry just asked John McCain to be his vice president, because if Mr. Kerry wins he intends not to waste his four years avoiding America's hardest problems — health care, deficits, energy, education — but to tackle them, and that can only be done with a bipartisan spirit and bipartisan team.”

My suspicion, though, is that the idea did not originate with liberal journalists, but came from the fertile imaginations of the neo-con “Vulcans,” who count John McCain as one of their own. Chief among them would be William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, with Richard Perle no doubt seconding the motion. For some reason it has yet to be noted by McCain’s liberal promoters – who adore him because he promotes limits on campaign spending, deplores the Bush tax cuts, and wants the government to shut down the economy to prevent global warming – that he is also the leading “bomber” in the Republican Senate. No matter how many bombs President Clinton or President Bush had been willing to drop on Iraq over the years, they have never been big enough or numerous enough to keep John happy. When President Clinton kicked off his 1996 re-election campaign in September of that year with an Iraqi bombing campaign just to demonstrate he wasn’t a wimp, McCain blasted him for limiting the campaign to “pin pricks.” No kidding, your Vietnam-Vet buddy is a no-holds-barred pre-emptive warrior.

In case you didn’t know, this is why The Weekly Standard endorsed McCain over George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries. It is not hard to imagine Bill Kristol and Richard Perle deciding to hedge their bets in that election, just to make sure they would control the presidency. Perle’s “Vulcans” had picked Mr. Bush as their first choice for the Presidency, so much so they got Condoleezza Rice into his campaign, where she could then introduce the unwitting Texas governor to Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Perle himself. The impresario was former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who has sat at Perle’s elbow on the Defense Policy Board for much of the last 17 years (until Perle had to resign under fire earlier this month for some extracurricular activities). You see what I mean, Senator? They didn’t know how good a candidate Mr. Bush would be and in fact he got off to a slow start. So they had to place their bets with both George W. Bush and John McCain.

Part of the campaign, you may have noticed, is to have it broadly pointed out that it really doesn’t matter who you pick for Veep because the electorate doesn’t really pay that much attention to the No. 2 spot. In all of history, it is said, only Lyndon Johnson clearly helped pick up votes in the Electoral College by bringing in Texas for John F. Kennedy in 1960. The neo-cons who are promoting McCain as your running mate are not interested in him bringing in votes, though. What they want out of him is access to you in the West Wing, on the chance that you will win the election in November. I don’t mean so he can have lunch with you once a week to suggest new bombing targets. I mean so he can serve as the “gangplank” for the neo-con boarding party. They want to be sure that they have someone at his level in a position to recommend appointments of their people.

You would not even notice until you had been surrounded, because the neo-cons have long, long lists of comrades in both political parties, so they would not have to have McCain pushing only Republicans into key spots. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, one of the first mistakes he made was to appoint a fellow named Jim Woolsey as the Director of Central Intelligence. A good Democrat like Richard Perle, Woolsey got the job because Perle masterminded the appointment through his neo-con network, just as he had masterminded all of Woolsey’s appointments from their days as staffers to Democratic Senators in the Cold War days, Perle for Henry Jackson of Washington, Woolsey for John Stennis of Mississippi. From Day One at CIA, Woolsey was engaged in planning for the eventual invasion of Iraq, and that was 1993!!

His first task was to persuade President Clinton that Saddam Hussein had tried to assassinate former President Bush when Bush senior was visiting Kuwait in early 1993. He succeeded, of course, and how could he not? He was the Big Cheese at the Central Intelligence Agency!! The ink wasn’t dry on the report he gave the President before the hornswoggled President had ordered the bombing of Iraq. That was the end of any diplomatic talk about Iraq. Seymour Hersh covered this story in the November 1, 1993 issue of the New Yorker in ”A Case Note Closed. President Bush still believes Saddam was guilty because the neo-cons persuaded him that Seymour Hersh out-and-out “lied” in his report.

None of this means you shouldn’t pick John McCain if you really think he would be an asset. I’m just trying to explain to you how this works. Even if you don’t have a running mate acceptable to the Vulcans and still win the in November, they will have several contingency plans on how to keep you under control.


Jude Wanniski