One Place Obama Shouldn't Go

Washington Matters

One Place Obama Shouldn't Go

Crumbs dropped like Hansel and Gretel's clues suggest Barrack Obama is thinking seriously about a retired general as a running mate, a way to shore up his national security credentials and emphasize his commitment to a strong defense. But there are good reasons not to go there.


Several names are being bandied about -- from retired Gen. James Jones, a former Marine Commandant and NATO Supreme Commander, to Wesley Clark, another former NATO commander who ran for president in 2004 and backed Hillary Clinton this year. While both men -- and other retired generals that have been mentioned -- may be fully qualified and smart choices politically, there's something Obama will need a lot more should he win.


If Obama becomes the next president, public expectations will be enormous. The public wants change, and voters want Washington to come up with realistic solutions to the nation's long-term problems. That voter sentiment can work to Obama's advantage by keeping the pressure on Democrats and Republicans in Congress to compromise. Liberal Democrats who think their day has finally come would have to curb their demands, while conservative Republicans will have to realize that obstructionism will only lead to near extinction.


But leveraging that power and turning it into policy and legislation will require a lot of help. Obama will need people who understand Washington, have good ties to both sides of the aisle and can find his or her way through a swamp  filled with competing special interests and can get things done in a way that makes all sides of legislation or new regulations walk away with some of what they wanted. Obama can set the goals, establish a bipartisan mood and a constructive climate for change, but he'll still need someone to help him understand the power centers in Congress and bureaucracy better than he does. There aren't any generals who fit that bill.


So he'd be wise to start looking in other directions. We'll offer up our take on some of the people more likely to help him in the coming days. And to show we're equally opportunity advice-givers, we'll also offer thoughts on John McCain's choices.