Kaine and Unable
Most pundits consider Tim Kaine a safe, if boring, vice presidential running mate for Hillary Clinton. For those who truly understand the frontrunner, Kaine is an apt pick. Like Mike Pence, he is not exceptionally attention-grabbing. Neither of them has to be. The two top dogs in the race already have all the deep-throated growl they need.
Kaine has been operating in the political arena for over 22 years. He has an all too familiar "insider" résumé that tracks his career moves through various levels of state, party, and federal government. He is being touted by Democrats as someone who at times disagreed – but respectfully! – with President Obama, the objective being to paint him as his "own man" with potential appeal for independents. But those in the know recognize that Hillary, as president, would never brook disagreement from anyone.
At a time when our citizens' level of distrust for government is at an all-time high, those seeking office are wisely reformatting their résumés. The predictable trajectory of public servants must now avoid the scornful appearance of their being political insiders. Hence the attempt to paint Kaine as a conciliator, who as governor of Virginia in 2007 used the Virginia Tech massacre to spearhead mental health reforms. They picture him as a compassionate law student who learned to speak Spanish while working for a year with Jesuits in Honduras. Hillary cited his long-ago pro bono efforts on behalf of minorities. On the other hand, his acceptance of gifts from favor-seeking constituents has understandably been omitted from the Kaine rollout.
While some Hispanics resent the implication that Kaine's fluency in Spanish guarantees their vote, the fact is that Latinos will play a huge role in this year's election. It was no coincidence that Hillary chose to announce her pick before a packed auditorium of mostly Hispanic students at a college in Florida, a state Team Clinton needs to win.
Nothing Clinton does is coincidental. I wrote months ago that she would never share the ticket with Elizabeth Warren. The feisty senator from Massachusetts is a formidable competitor, not a suitable running mate. The last thing Hillary has in mind is another female fighter for America decked out in cerulean blue.
One wonders, then, why her choice did not cater more obviously to the aspirations of the Bernie Sanders millennials. The reality is that Hillary feels comfortable with a non-threatening old shoe like Tim Kaine. Most importantly, he'll have the good sense not to upstage her. And before the directors of the Philadelphia convention can shout, "It's a wrap!," Hillary will have the spotlight hauled back in place and trained unwaveringly upon herself.
Kaine is a guy with a rumpled presence and a crinkly grin. He mugs and waves easily to the crowd. His rhetoric is about as inspiring as his haberdashery. He perceives his adversaries as evil and his running mate as good. He's less buttoned down and spruced up than his Republican counterpart, a sartorial shortfall that might sew up the votes of Americans who think too much tidiness is "not who we are." The proper grooming of the Republican ticket – not to mention of the entire impeccable Trump entourage – makes some voters very nervous, indeed.
In spite of Tim Kaine's long involvement in politics, it's a safe bet that most Americans have never even heard of him. He's presently the junior senator from Virginia, but he's not, after all, the one who was briefly married to Elizabeth Taylor. That's John Warner, not be confused with Mark Warner – unrelated, even politically – another Old Dominion politician and the current senior senator from Virginia.
Ironically, were it not for the fickle fortunes of politics, it might be Mark Warner standing on the stage in Philly this week – either as the vice presidential or the presidential pick. Ruggedly handsome like the Kennedy clan, Mark cut such a promising political figure as then governor of Virginia that he was expected to enter the 2008 Democratic presidential race. He declined, but he delivered the keynote address .
Mark was a "comer" in the mold of, say, Marco Rubio: young and attractive, his boundless ambition gathering momentum. But having been handily elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, Warner fumbled badly in his 2014 incumbent race, eking out a mere 17,000-vote win over his opponent, RNC chairman Ed Gillespie. Even in a year of voter disaffection, pollsters were shocked. Republicans had spent comparatively little on Gillespie's campaign, considering it a long shot at best.
After that, there was no more talk in Democratic circles about Mark Warner being the darling of the party. And now it is Tim Kaine – the other, older Virginia senator, with an almost mirror-image résumé, who will make the political journey with Hillary. He should be accustomed to campaigning by now. Even his wife's family were prominent Virginia politicians, though Republicans. With the years, the D.C. Beltway and the Honduran countryside have become ever more mundos aparte.
It's not hard to imagine the Clinton campaign strategy. She will keep it simple, because that's how she views the electorate. She will speak in outrageously incendiary terms against Donald Trump, as though she never even went to his wedding to Melania! She will continue to rely shrilly on the clichés carried forward from the long months of her sanctimonious claptrap. Platitudes will rain from the rafters like wet confetti, starting with the one about building bridges instead of walls.
Hill's familiar gestures will accompany her wearisome words. She will point, grin, and wave to those she doesn't recognize in the audience. She will pat her heart and then mouth "thank you" to her supporters. She will cackle raucously at jokes about Trump. And in her resentment at his having taken aim at her failed public record, she will retaliate with ludicrous falsehoods about his conduct in unelected office, like the charge that he denied housing to blacks.
If his introductory performance is any measure, Tim Kaine doesn't meet the snarl test for a designated attack dog. Hillary, on the other hand, personifies the words of Shakespeare's Hamlet "… that one may smile and smile – and be a villain." She talks often about "working together," but she has managed to pull our world apart and pull the wool over the eyes of naïve Americans. Between now and election day, the Democratic standard-bearer will seek to achieve her ultimate ambition of leading unsuspecting lambs to slaughter. As for Tim Kaine, he's just along for the ride.