V.P. Qualities

I was up late with some friends last night engaging in the usual political banter and the question of the moment: who will — or rather who should — Obama pick to be his vice presidential running mate? What should be the criteria? After much deliberation, it seemed to us that the usual geographical and even demographic criteria just didn’t play out. What seems most important is for him to find someone with lots of foreign policy or governing experience who doesn’t dilute or distract from Obama’s overall message and profile. The V.P. choice should appeal to those who are on the fence about Obama (rather than just those who already fully support him) but not to the point of being a jarring counterpoint. The choice should complement Obama but expand the pool of interest, be someone who’s a fighter but not a distracter. So we’re liking Jim Webb.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.


  1. I’m surprised to hear a feminist express support for Webb, given the things he said in 1979 about women in the military. You can read the whole thing here. Highlights include:

    “Man must be more aggressive in order to perpetuate the human race. Women don’t rape men, and it has nothing to do, obviously, with socially induced differences.”

    Calling the co-educational Naval Academy “objectified and neutered” and “a horny woman’s dream”.

    “Many women appear to be having problems with their sexuality. Part of it comes from male scrutiny: What kind of a woman would seek out the Academy routine? Another part comes from the daily environment, which cannot help but create self-doubts and uncertainties. Part of it comes from what is left of the plebe system, which is designed to unsettle a person’s self-image, and has the potential of cutting deeper into women, who are traditionally not verbally abused by males in our society.”

    I’m not saying Webb must be discounted immediately on feminist grounds — these words were written 30 years ago, after all — but I do think a feminist supporting Webb needs to say something about this article.

  2. Thanks, Noumena. Mea culpa, I didn’t research before posting. But I’m with you on not necessarily dismissing Webb for what he said thirty years ago. But it does give one serious pause.

    What about Tim Kaine?

  3. I haven’t heard of Kaine. According to Wikipedia, though, he’s a member of the anti-abortion group Democrats for Life of America, and seems to be an otherwise ordinary Southern White Male politician. I don’t see the appeal — but, again, I haven’t heard of him before.

    Ampersand of Alas, a Blog wrote a post a couple weeks ago favouring Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, and I like what I see on a brief glance at her page on Wikipedia. I also think Hillary Clinton should be at least a serious contender for the VP slot.

  4. If I were a betting man, I’d bet the VP slot will go to Kathleen Sebelius. Also, if you haven’t been following it, there’re a series of posts on all the potential VPs on electoral-vote.com that have been very good at evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of various potentials for both parties.

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