Wednesday, July 30, 2008

VP Profile: Aaron Burr

Age: 80. Or 252.
Current Position: Supine.
Former Positions of Importance:
  • Vice President, 1800-1804
  • Senator, 1791-1797
  • New York State Attorney General, 1789-1791
Pros: Brings definite experience and gravitas to the ticket, though at this point it's unlikely that Burr has any weight to lend Obama. The Illinois senator is something of a constitutional scholar, and Burr, who was around for the drafting of the Constitution, should help him hone his views on controversial issues.

An acclaimed veteran of the Revolutionary War, Burr should help blunt the hammer blows when McCain's supporters bring up the Arizona senator's Vietnam heroism. On a related note, those rural voters who cling to guns will be quite impressed with Burr's second amendment position. It might not make them vote for Obama, but they might be disinclined to get out of bed on Election Day and pull the lever next to McCain's name.

While McCain talks up his own foreign policy experience, it pales in comparison to what Burr went through in his day. McCain's war heroism is impressive, but even he hasn't tried to overthrow Spanish power in the Southwest and set himself up as emperor. "Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee" doesn't sound particularly impressive now, does it? Should Obama attempt to launch such a plot, Burr could provide invaluable advice and expertise.

That list of former positions is quite impressive, and betrays a depth of knowledge and experience. Very few men can claim to have been vice president, a senator and a state attorney general. And that's without mentioning his impressive list of state offices.

Burr was known in his day as a passionate advocate for women's rights, at one point introducing a bill in the New York State Senate that would have allowed them to vote. A Burr nomination would go a long way toward alleviating the hostilities between Obama's campaign and those female Clinton supporters who remain angry about the primary.

He has never been convicted of treason. Not once.

Burr is not a member of Obama's party, which will be somewhat awkward for the DNC, but will also go a long way toward proving that Obama's committed to changing the rules in Washington. What better way to show your bi-partisan credentials than giving the number two spot in your administration to someone who doesn't belong to your party?

Cons: Not technically "alive," in the sense of one's heart beating and circulating blood to one's various extremities. That could pose a few problems for the campaign in terms of Burr's effectiveness and ability to connect with voters. Plus, Burr's presence on the ticket could blunt concerns many have about McCain's age. Voters who are worried about McCain's advanced age can only be put off by the nomination of an 80 or 252 year old.

Much like Clinton, he would bring nothing to the ticket in terms of geographic appeal. New York is safe, as is the rest of the northeast. It is true that Burr has spent time in the American Southwest, and it's also true that the region is considered up-for-grabs this year. But Burr has a different definition of "southwest" than most modern Americans.

Other than that, I see no cons. Burr has no real baggage that I'm aware of.

Verdict: I don't know if Obama has the guts to make this kind of choice. It would certainly cause a buzz, and he would dominate the news for weeks, but I can't deny that it would be a risk. The media hates to be wrong, and no one is talking about Burr. It would hurt the pundits' egos, and that's always a dangerous game.

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