Steve Ralls

A VP Pick We Can All Believe In

Filed By Steve Ralls | June 22, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Al Gore, Barack Obama, Claudia Kennedy, John Edwards, Sam Nunn, Vice Presidents

In the midst of rumors about the unacceptable (Nunn), the uninterested (Gore), and the uninspiring-to-some (Edwards) has emerged a quiet speculation about a truly exceptional possibility for Barack Obama's vice presidential pick.

Unlike former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, who invented and long propped up the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, it is a name that should be more than welcome in the LGBT community. And unlike former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, it is a name that would have little problem bringing along Hillary's core group of supporters -- especially white women -- to the Obama campaign.

Retired Army General Claudia Kennedy, who has now been mentioned several times as a possibility for Senator Obama's short list, would also bring enormous military and national security credibility to the ticket ... along with those working class, female and southern voters who strongly supported Clinton's White House bid but have been lukewarm, at best, to the Obama quest for the Oval Office.

Kennedy, who was the first woman in Army history to achieve the rank of Lieutenant General, has long been deemed "poised for greatness" in the Democratic Party. In 2002, she was recruited (but declined) to run for Virginia Senator John Warner's seat, and in 2004, she was widely considered a top choice for Secretary of Defense in a possible Kerry administration. She has served as Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and has spent most of her military career in the fields of intelligence and cryptology ... two areas where the current foreign policy climate demands expertise.

Kennedy also comes to the field of VP possibilities with far less baggage than many of the other rumored contenders. Unlike Nunn, who would be strongly opposed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, General Kennedy has strongly denounced "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," on several occasions, and remains one of the highest-ranking military veterans to call for its end. And unlike Edwards, who would find it challenging to rally the enthusiasm of Clinton's converts, Kennedy has close ties to the Clintons - so much so that, when she endorsed Hillary's White House run, it warranted a stand-alone press statement from the New York Senator. She's also far more skilled in foreign policy than Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and would prevent the "One Term Times Two" label that an Obama-Webb ticket would elicit from the GOP.

General Kennedy's strongest appeal, however, has to be her ability to convince many of Clinton's white, female, working class supporters to punch their ballots for Obama in November. Kennedy made a splash, and became a heroine to countless American women of Clinton's generation, when, in 1999, she accused General Larry Smith of sexually harassing her three years earlier, when she was a Major General and he a Brigadier General in the Army. Kennedy spoke out about the harassment after Smith, a la Clarence Thomas, was nominated for a prestigious promotion. She successfully derailed his career, and Smith's appointment was withdrawn. Following the eruption of anger among many women over the treatment of Anita Hill during the Thomas hearings, Kennedy's success in stopping another promotion for a man accused of harassment made her an overnight cause célèbre in the feminist community.

There's little doubt, in fact, that Kennedy would be among those most able to carry Clinton's mantle in the general election. And, she wouldn't be anyone's "symbolic" or "token" choice for number two ... she has the credibility and credentials to be a truly deserving Obama VP pick. (And, like any good American who wants to make a run for high office, Kennedy has even penned an autobiography, Generally Speaking, about her history-making time in the Army.)

"Army values are taught to soldiers from their earliest days in the Army," Kennedy said at a 2006 event in Washington. "Those values are loyalty, duty, mutual respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage." And those same values would be invaluable to Obama's campaign between now and November ... and for the next four or eight years.

Lieutenant General Kennedy would be a VP -- and an historic change -- we could all believe in.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 23, 2008 2:42 AM

Steve, I note that General Kennedy was born in Frankfort Germany. I assume that both of her parents were American citizens and she was an American Citizen at birth? (I am thinking German Bride here due to the time frame) As she was born outside of the United States I believe that her mother also had to be an American Citizen at the time of her birth.

See Wiki "Natural-born citizen"

(I can already hear the Republicans! A president born in Hawaii and raised in Indonesia and a vice president born in Germany...)

If the answer is no to either of these she may not be qualified to be a candidate constitutionally. From what I have read about her I hope she is and would consider the vice presidency if offered to her. Finally a president and vice president with a global sense of the world. It would be remarkable.

We just don't know who it will be. At this point I'm almost of the "Anyone but Sam Nunn" mentality...

You've sold me though, Steve. I'd be happy with the choice - at least from what I know so far. I'd like to see her "in action" on the campaign trail though before I make up my mind.

I thought all that was settled with Herbert Hoover--born in Canada of American parents.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 23, 2008 11:39 AM

The way I read the statute both parents need to be American citizens at the time of birth of the child. As I mentioned, if the mother was a German national "war bride" (and I do not know she was as it was not in the bio) and the father was an American soldier it would be a gray area.

If the mother had a "green card" residency status through marriage, but was not an American Citizen at the time of the birth (and sometimes they want up to 14 years residency in the USA) her eligibility would be in question. Only the President and vice President have this restriction.

McCain, for instance, was not born in the United States, but on a military base, as both of his parents were United States citizens he is constitutionally qualified. I just wanted to know if this was the status of General Kennedy.

How about General Kennedy for Secretary of Defense?

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | June 23, 2008 11:50 AM

My understanding is that General Kennedy is, indeed, qualified to be VP, and is an American citizen.

If she's not on Obama's VP list, I do think she should be given consideration as Secretary of Defense. I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would have put Kennedy high-up on her SecDef list, and I hope Senator Obama will, too. It'd be great to have an advocate like General Kennedy at the Naval Observatory OR at the Pentagon!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 23, 2008 12:05 PM

Steve, no doubt about Gen Kennedy being herself an American Citizen. The only question I had was the citizenship status of her mother at the time of her birth. For the purpose of your posting I hope her mother was an American Citizen at the time of the general's birth. I have nothing but respect for non American citizens currently serving in our military as there are a number of "resident aliens" that do serve with distinction.

This requirement is unique to the President and Vice President.

Thank you for your illuminating post.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 23, 2008 2:49 PM

When Kennedy says "Army values are taught to soldiers from their earliest days in the Army. Those values are loyalty, duty, mutual respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," she’s obviously deluded or lying or both. Army values turn out to regularly consist of high civilian death rates.

The military brass has a long and dishonorable history of organizing and ordering the mass murder of civilians. It began with the wars against native Americans, was continued when Philippinos rebelled against the illegal US occupation of their country over a hundred years ago, and reached horrific levels in the nuclear and conventional fire bombing of Japanese and German civilians during WWII. It got much, much worse with repeated and deliberate terrorist attacks on civilians in Vietnam, where estimates of civilian deaths were in the millions. The current genocide in Iraq, begun by Bill Clinton and continued by George Bush, is approaching the same scale as the mass murder in Vietnam.

Obama, and presumably Kennedy, are for “phased withdrawal”. That means no withdrawal until they’re defeated on the ground like they were in Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. It also means more dead GI’s and more dead muslims.

It doesn’t matter to most of us who the VP picks are. Most voters in most elections either lodge a protest vote or just ignore the elections. They’re a diversion from the real need to build anti-government, anti-bigot, anti-business movements.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 23, 2008 9:00 PM

Gosh, I was hoping for something important, like from Steve, telling me that General Kennedy's mom was an American Citizen when the General was born.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | June 24, 2008 8:54 AM


While I wish I could answer your question (which is, of course, constitutionally important!) with 100% certainty, I cannot. However, I am fairly (read: 95%) certain that both of her parents were, indeed, American citizens.

And, the speculation continues to grow, with this article noting that Obama is "seriously considering" Kennedy. And I can't imagine there would be serious consideration if she just wasn't able to serve as second-in-command.

So, let me continue to research. And, in the meantime, I'll leave you with this link to a HuffingtonPost entry that General Kennedy wrote in August 2005.

I remain convinced that she would be a stellar choice for Senator Obama's running mate.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 24, 2008 10:54 AM

Steve, thank you for your diligence. You see, I remember "The Thomas Eagleton" affair of 1972 where the repubs remained quiet until it was "leaked" that he had been in a mental hospital and had endured shock treatments for depression.

At the time we said: "At least this guy is sane enough to know that he has a problem and seek treatment for it."

Still, America was not ready in 1972 for a VP candidate who had been hospitalized in this manner. So instead we elect "W" who doubtless had his treatment records destroyed. it is entirely possible that the General herself would not know the citizenship status of both of her parents. I would rather be sure first than see Obama become a new McGovern who had to find a second VP candidate under a cloud. I want all our horses pulling in the same direction. Again, thank you. Robert

I was just reading an interesting article about the PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass), the people who supported Hillary and won't be supporting Obama in the general election. It recounted a lot of the sexism of the primary season, and how it's gone unacknowledged after the contest ended, and that's why there are a lot of people saying they can't vote for Barack.

Interestingly enough, in the comments there and on another site that linked, most of those who identified as PUMA were pretty pissed off at the article. They said it did not reflect at all why they're not voting for Obama.

Someone actually straight up asked what the issue was then. He didn't get a direct answer from anyone, except for a few people saying that he'll destroy the party and that they thought Clinton was more qualified (forgetting that a lot of people thought that Edwards, Richardson, etc. were more qualified but they got over it).

So when you say that this is someone who can bring back those last few Clinton supporters who can't get over it, I'm just going to put myself down as doubtful, at least based on what I saw. I can't think of many VP's who've delivered votes in the general. (And I don't see why they'd be more mad about Edwards, unless the whole experience thing was a facade....)

Gail Collins said picking a VP is like picking a pet. Kinda seems that way.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 24, 2008 8:09 PM

Alex, I would add that VP candidates like Lyndon Johnson were vital in delivering Southern voters, but more important to me is the possible voters who desert us if anything about the process is left to chance or constitutional challenge.