Politics

Citizen Kaine

"What will make Tim such an outstanding DNC chairman is not just his ability to win campaigns by bringing people together or his recognition that we need new, more pragmatic approaches to meet the challenges of our time.

It’s his belief that politics is about something more than what all too often it’s become in Washington, that it’s not about enriching corporate friends or feeding partisan disputes or getting your name in the papers, but about the dignity of service."
                        ~ President-elect Barack Obama on his nomination of Gov. Tim Kaine for DNC Chairman

There were talks — intense talks, they say — on whether Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine should  be the running mate for President-elect Barack Obama. Obama campaigned for Kaine in his race for governor, and Kaine was the first governor to endorse Obama.  But Vice President was not in the cards for Kaine, so last week Obama named the governor as the next DNC chair to take over for Howard (The Scream) Dean.

Dean has been a successful chair of the party, using a 50-state strategy to achieve a lot of House and Senate gains.  He leaves the party about $15 million in debt, but since the Obama campaign is still sending out almost daily e-mail pleas for money, that shouldn’t be a big hurdle. From a political perspective, it’s a good thing that Dean has a history of over-spending.  Sen. John Kerry ended his presidential bid with 14 million dollars in the bank and with a tight race in Ohio that decided it for President Bush.  It may have served candidate Kerry better to spend all he had and then borrow more.

Tim Kaine came to the Virginia governor’s mansion touted in the media as a conservative Democrat.  He toyed with a more conservative position on abortion, although by the time he was elected, he opposed parental notification and took a Cuomo-like position of personal opposition coupled with public support for abortion. In addition, his win in Virginia was looked upon by many Democrats as the first win on the way to the White House in 2008.  
Kaine’s first national recognition by the Democrat Party was when he was chosen to give the response to President Bush’s State of the Union Address right after he was elected governor.  He was the face of the future of the Democrat Party. That was before the Age of Obama.

Tim Kaine is a liberal who has become more liberal as his public star has risen.  Obama and Kaine like to call themselves “pragmatic progressives” because they know the liberal label is still a very big negative in America.  (Obama has even used the word conservative when describing his pragmatism. Right.)  

Obama likes to think that he and his administration will be above the politicking of the past that was “corrupted” by corporate interests.  But whoever is in power has the ear of the corporate interests in this country and has to listen to them to understand what the world of business needs — and doesn’t need — from government. It is corporate interests that create jobs and make America move.

Obama sees Kaine as a guy who is above all that and said, “It’s his belief that politics is about something more than what all too often it’s become in Washington, that it’s not about enriching corporate friends or feeding partisan disputes or getting your name in the papers, but about the dignity of service.” Kaine,  in turn, said, "We’re not the ideologues, the obstructionists, the gridlock folks. We’re the problem-solvers.” He added with an apparent reference to President Bush, "And we’re not the dividers."

Unfortunately, Kaine has not lived up to the hype as governor of Virginia and has left many Virginians unhappy with his performance in the Commonwealth.  In the world of today, it doesn’t matter what you get done as long as you have potential, and Kaine has lots of that.  In addition, those darn promises of transparency and no ties to lobbyists Obama made during the campaign are getting in the way, too. Currently, Gov. Kaine is head of the Southern Governors Association.  Bloomberg News points out in that capacity, Kaine is “intimately involved in raising funds from oil, pharmaceutical, tobacco and energy companies in exchange for access to the states’ chief executives.” So much for Obama’s opposition to lobbyists and special interests.

Clearly, the DNC has been more successful in the last few years than the RNC has, and I think that Kaine deserves a chance to show what he can do.  But I believe it’s based more on the hope of a new kind of Democrat leader rather than actual performance. Obama has surrounded himself with so many people, including Kaine, who, as Sen. Bill Frist said to me once, “look into a mirror and see a president looking back at them,” that Obama’s team may prove a team of adversaries.  It worked for Lincoln.  But Obama isn’t Lincoln.


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