Typically, a presidential nominee’s running mate is supposed to be the campaign’s staunchest partisan — the one willing to throw the thickest mud at the other side, while championing his or her boss in the strongest possible terms. That’s why leading veepstakes contenders often “audition” by playing attack dog at one of the nominee’s rallies. But according to the New York Times, Hillary Clinton’s VP short list includes a registered independent who refuses to do so much as publicly endorse her.
On Tuesday, the paper reported that Clinton is seeking “national-security experience” in her running mate and, thus, had put Virginia senator Tim Kaine and retired four-star Navy admiral James Stavridis on her short list. That same day, Stravridis declined to say whether Clinton represents his political views better than Donald Trump does.
“I am a registered independent, which is something I encourage all military folks to do,” Stavridis said on Brian Kilmeade’s show on Fox News Radio. “Over the years, I have voted both Republican and Democrat. I try to judge each election on the candidates in front of me and make an informed decision as a citizen, and that’s what I would expect everyone to do.”
Stravridis did say that he was “leaning toward Secretary Clinton from everything I have seen so far,” but insisted, “I am very comfortable with making that decision in the privacy of my own home.”
The fact that Clinton was even vetting Stavridis came as somewhat of a surprise. The retired admiral has no experience in civilian government, his domestic-policy views are largely mysterious, and on foreign policy he’s been a harsh critic of President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran — perhaps the single most significant achievement of the Democratic president’s second term.
That Stavridis has made it to the short list while refusing to say unequivocally that he prefers Clinton to a pseudo-fascist insult comic is confounding. Especially when leading Republicans within the national-security Establishment have deemed it their patriotic duty to voice public opposition to Trump.
Perhaps Clinton hopes that by loudly considering Stavridis, a moderate like Kaine will become less disappointing to her party’s left by comparison — "Sure, I picked the boring white guy who’s hot for the TPP and lukewarm on abortion rights, but that’s better than an Iran-deal-hating admiral whose political ideology is completely unknown, right?"
The Washington Post’s latest veepstakes dispatch adds credence to the idea that Stravidis’s name is being floated purely for the sake of optics. The paper writes that Kaine and Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor and the current Agriculture secretary, are alone at the top of Clinton’s list. While Stavridis remains under consideration, per the Post, several Clinton advisers say “choosing a running mate who has never held elective office would be an unnecessary risk that Mrs. Clinton, a cautious candidate by nature, is unlikely to take.”
Clinton is expected to announce her pick at a campaign rally in Florida this Saturday.