Don't laugh at the title. Someone's got to do it.
Recently, I've been giving some thought to the process by which Mitt Romney should make his vice presidential pick. And one thought keeps coming to mind: George W. Bush got it right.
Now, even if you weren't keen on Dick Cheney individually (I myself am an unabashed fan), I think you have to acknowledge that he possessed an ideal set of traits for a running mate: seasoned, discreet, ready to step into the job on day one, not self-promoting and -- most importantly in my judgment -- beyond the point in his career where he entertained presidential ambitions.
We often think about the choice of a running mate in narrowly political terms: what electoral real estate they can put on the table (I'm not convinced there's ever a lot to be gained); how their profile enhances, or contrasts with, the candidate's; or how they'll do in a vice presidential debate where it's virtually impossible to influence public opinion unless you have a grade-A meltdown that ends with you killing a protected species onstage.
What we don't focus on enough is this: among the powers of the presidency, few are more momentous than serving as an Electoral College of one when it comes to choosing a potential successor. Given that incredible responsibility, my own instinct would be to choose someone who borders on emeritus status -- someone whose service to their country could already be judged a worthwhile life's work, who would have made a worthy president had he ever thrown his hat into the ring, and who, if not chosen, would take his leave of Washington or whatever state capital he inhabits and pursue a relatively quiet life.
This militates against those (and I myself have entertained these thoughts before) who are touting the likes of Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, or Bobby Jindal for the number two spot. These are all formidable figures in the Republican Party -- and all people whose substantive contributions might be cut short if they, like most recent vice presidents, take the number two slot only to never hold another office again. It just doesn't make sense to bench your stars when they're hot.
So who do I propose as alternatives? Two names come immediately to mind. The first is Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, but he says (with a conviction unusual from those making such a claim) that he's not interested. The second is retiring Arizona Senator Jon Kyl.
Kyl may not be at the front of your mental rolodex, but that's because of one of the traits that make him fit my schema: despite being the number two Republican in the U.S. Senate, he's not a publicity hound. What he is, however, is hard working, whip-smart, conservative (his lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union puts him in Jim DeMint-Tom Coburn territory) but in a style that won't scare the horses, and deeply experienced (four terms in the House, three terms in the Senate).
Kyl's background also allows him to add some value to a potential Romney Administration. In recent years, he's been one of the leading Republicans in the Senate on foreign policy issues (an area where Romney is notably short on credentials -- and where he seems to be flailing at times). And a D.C. outsider like Romney might do well to choose the man who's currently in charge of counting heads in the upper chamber if he wants to establish a decent working relationship with Congress. Finally, Kyl's age (at 70 perhaps his biggest hurdle) and lack of further political ambitions would leave the race to become Romney's successor wide open, allowing a free-for-all amongst the many talented members of the GOP farm team instead of giving one candidate the institutional advantage of the vice presidency.
Jon Kyl for Vice President. I've just about convinced myself. How about you?