It’s Veep Week at the news magazines, which give us news on the veepstakes, words from the current veep himself, and a big (and somewhat curious) profile of the nation’s second veep and third president, Thomas Jefferson.
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman kicks it off with a by-the-book veepstakes story thinly disguised as a “How-to guide” for those interested in capturing the number two slot on the ticket. “There are many ways to run for the vice presidency, all requiring that the contender somehow be simultaneously indirect and clear,” writes Fineman. But, he notes, no one knows what’s the best way, since the “sole vote belongs to a deeply secretive, highly complex, superbly connected and (usually) politically cautious insider at the top of the ticket. ‘[Kerry] doesn’t like to be pushed,’ said a good friend.”
Fineman continues by treating the reader to the anonymously sourced tidbits of information that have come to define the Veepstakes tale. Gephardt, Edwards, Graham, and Vilsack, we hear, are all still in the running. One plan has Kerry making his choice within in the next week or so, which points to Gephardt — no, wait — Vilsack. You get the idea.
Buried in Time’s special issue on Thomas Jefferson is Perry Bacon Jr.’s critique of the man that wants to be the 44th president. Kerry, according to Bacon, is having trouble connecting with African American voters, even failing to “follow Hippocrates’ instruction: do no harm.” Bacon ticks off a series of Kerry missteps, including the largely press manufactured controversy over the absence of an African-American in Kerry’s inner circle.
Democratic insiders tell Bacon there is little chance that Kerry will follow in Clinton’s footsteps to earn the title of the second black president. But, Bacon points out, “Even if Kerry fails to build excitement among African Americans, he can still rely on one thing to help get them to the polls: George W. Bush. Only 17 percent of blacks have a favorable view of the President, while 80 percent have an unfavorable view, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.”
Excitement, or perhaps mood, will drive the electorate in Michigan, says The Economist, in its look at the peninsular battleground state (subscription required). Right now the mood is “bleak” with an unemployment rate (6.5 percent) hovering above the national average, although it has improved a bit since last year. (The magazine suggests that as “an omen of better times ahead, the Detroit Pistons, an underdog team from an underdog city, has just snatched the basketball championship from the glitzy Los Angeles Lakers.”)
The mystery in Michigan is that the polls are neck-and-neck, despite the state having gone Democratic in the last three elections and the presence there of a strong union base. “So why isn’t Mr. Kerry doing better?” asks The Economist. The British weekly provides myriad reasons: Local unions are worried about Kerry’s pandering to environmentalists, Republicans are making inroads with Indian-Americans, and some Arab-Americans dislike Bush but favor Ralph Nader. However, as we have been hearing so often lately, the biggest problem is that Kerry’s campaign is off to a slow start, only appointing its Michigan campaign director earlier this month, and thus people don’t know what to make of the senator from Massachusetts.
Concluding the vice presidential roundup, U.S. News’ Gloria Borger breaks down Vice President Dick Cheney’s response to the 9/11 commission’s declaration that there is “no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on [the] attacks.” In response, Cheney dismissed the commission’s conclusion, telling Borger, “There clearly was a relationship [between al Qaeda and Iraq]. The evidence is overwhelming.”
Cheney also has some choice words for the media, telling Borger, “The press is, with all due respect, there are exceptions, oftentimes lazy, oftentimes simply reports what somebody else in the press said without doing their homework.” The veep takes some shots at the “vaunted New York Times,” citing a media bias “in which news outlets ‘fuzz up’ the facts.” As for the media’s motive, Cheney tells Borger, “Sometimes it’s ignorance. Sometimes it’s malicious.” No word yet from the veep’s office on whether he’ll be guest-blogging for Campaign Desk.