Biden’s Vice Presidential Angst

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

Would Vice President Biden’s search for a running mate have been so fraught if he hadn’t announced his plan to exclude male candidates from consideration? The thought occurs to us in the wake of the Washington Post’s story about Mr. Biden’s decision to delay by as much as two weeks the announcement of his choice and the ill-feeling among Democrats as jockeying for the position has intensified among the potential picks.

“Even some longtime Biden allies worry that the process has become ‘messier than it should be,’ pitting women, especially Black women, against one another,” reports the Post’s Annie Linsky. “The dynamic threatens to undermine Biden’s effort to use the vice-presidential search to spotlight some of the party’s brightest female stars during the highly public vetting process.” It’s also, she writes, providing an opening for President Trump.

It’s not our intention, in marking this question, to suggest, even for a second, that Mr. Biden should not consider, or choose, a woman to stand for the second highest office in the land. We can imagine, too, that by announcing in advance that he will exclude men from consideration, he might well call forth into contention some magnificent women candidates who mightn’t have stepped forward.

It has us thinking, though, of 1984, when Walter Mondale, who had served as vice president under President Carter, chose Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. We remember that as a huge deal. The impression was underscored for us on the evening that Ferraro delivered her acceptance speech in San Francisco. We happened to be having dinner that evening with President Reagan’s envoy at the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick.

There were just three of us, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, her husband Evron, and ourselves (we were then writing editorials for the Wall Street Journal). We felt a particular regard for Kirkpatrick because she was, or had been, a Democrat, until the party veered off to the left under George McGovern. She had thrown in with President Reagan, and ended up as his most famous diplomat. Our conversation at dinner was lively.

Suddenly, though, Mrs. Kirkpatrick looked at her watch, and suggested the three of us move into the living room. It turns out she wanted to see Geraldine Ferraro accept the Democratic nomination to be the first woman on the national ticket. So we found ourselves watching Kirkpatrick as she watched the woman who was standing where, had the Democrats taken a different turn, she might have been.

It was, we grasped, a major moment for millions, including, Mrs. Kirkpatrick reminded us, millions on the right. In the event, though, the strategy of putting a woman on the ticket failed to lift the Mondale campaign. It went down in one of the most thorough defeats in American history; the only state the Mondale-Ferraro ticket carried was Mr. Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.

Which brings us back to Mr. Biden. The reason he is taking extra time might be in respect of due diligence. He could well remember, after all, what happened with Mrs. Ferraro. No sooner did she become the nominee than a hoopla erupted over whether she was going to release her husband’s tax returns. At first, he resisted, and later caved to pressure from, among others, the Times.

It’s hard to see that defeat of Mr. Mondale in 1984 had to do with the fact that he chose a woman for vice president, but neither was Ferraro a boon to his candidacy. In the Senate, the Democrats gained two seats, but not control; in the House, the GOP gained 16 seats, but not control. The election was a resounding vote of confidence in President Reagan’s pro-growth agenda and his hawkish foreign policy. Let that be a lesson for us all.

The New York Sun

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