Will the US pick a woman veep?
by Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad
ONE day last year, while shopping at a Manhattan boutique, I recognised among the
not-too-many shoppers at that time of the day, a well- groomed Geraldine Ferraro.
She was, I believe, choosing Christmas presents, like I was.
I alerted my youngest son Fuad who was visiting from London that we had a VIP in
the store. "Ferraro who?" Fuad asked quietly as his custom. For a regular
rugby player for his club in London he speaks so softly that sometimes I find it
difficult to hear him.
Geraldine Ferraro, an Italian American politician, was on Walter Mondale's ill-fated
ticket in 1984 when both were trounced by Ronald Reagan and George Bush. I was at
that time a Fellow at Harvard University's Centre for International Affairs and saw
a bit of the campaign. Ferraro made American history when she became the first woman
to run for vice president. She is now betting that a Republican will follow her footsteps
this year - and she likes the idea even though she is a Democrat.
Ferraro told Deborah Orin (New York Post - Tuesday, February 8): "The thing
about it is that I had a unique opportunity to be the first, but I am kind of tired
being the only one." She does not see much chance of a Democratic woman veep
in 2000 because "I haven't heard any one say this is really what I want to do".
Many share the view that Elizabeth Dole could be George W. Bush's running mate if
she can overcome Bob Dole's baggage. Bob Dole was the Republican Party's Walter Mondale
in the 1996 election against Bill Clinton. Elizabeth Dole is a credible choice if
Bush wins the Republican nomination and needs a woman veep. She has visibility and
is regarded as an effective and honourable politician and campaigner.
However, there may be an upset outcome. Vietnam war hero, Senator John McCain, could
well beat Bush, the Republican front runner and favourite. If that happens, another
surprise can be that he selects a lady, on his ticket.
And who could that be? She is Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a defence expert who
hails from Texas. The Constitution bars her from running with Bush, who is also from
Texas, but she appears to be the perfect choice for McCain.
According to Ferraro:"...... if McCain wins the nomination, it's a problem for
our (Democratic) party. If he puts a woman on the ticket he'd be even stronger."
The Reform Party could also pick a woman and it could be anyone. Well, Donald Trump
wants Oprah Winfrey as his running mate. Winter, in the presidential election year,
is the season for guessing or noting who is running for what office and where in
the US. Last Sunday, First Lady Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, in a Hollywood style
gala with husband President Clinton and only child Chelsea sitting nearby, confirmed
she would run for Senate from New York in November. President Clinton did not speak,
his silent role fitting in well with a plan to present his wife as someone with her
own identity, as a lawyer and child advocate who, nonetheless, will carry on his
political cause. I had always thought she would run and I am glad I ha have put my
money in the right place. There were so many experts who said they did not think
she would really run.
The New York Times enthused: "Hillary started her candidacy with a polished
speech designed to reintroduce her to New Yorkers as a capable campaigner. Her confident
delivery struck a sharp contrast with the gaffes of last fall. Hillary will get good
reviews for this political performance, which probably explains why Mayor Rudolf
Giuliani's (her likely Republican opponent in the Senate race) campaign immediately
attacked the "Hollywood" staging of the event. Hillary hit the carpetbagger
question head on: "I may be new to the neighbourhood but I am not new to your
The same Sunday of Hillary's announcement, in Jean Georges Restaurant in Central
Park West, I had dinner with a young Malaysian with a degree in marketing who wants
to make big money in New York. We had a grand time. He did not believe he had eaten
foie gras in the Jean George manner anywhere in Kuala Lumpur, Bangsar or in Perth,
Australia, where he went to university. As we talked. I found what he said surprised
me. Unlike many young Malaysian Chinese, he has a very positive view of his country,
its future and his role in it. I had met the young man at Harvard during my speaking
engagement there last month.
We then talked about American politics. He said (and I agreed) that Hillary's decision
and her immense need for campaign money to beat the well-oiled Mayor of New York,
perhaps to the tune of US$40 million to US$50 million, would under cut vice president
Al Gore's campaign dollar chase. Besides, Al Gore now has also to compete with Hillary
for the hearts and minds of the New York Democrats, especially the powerful and crucial
New York Labour and Liberal vote. The Labour constituency, in particular, because
the unions have the financial muscle and the get-out- the- vote organisations. And
the more liberal, charismatic and attractive Hillary will pull in all the resources.
Although Hillary is the second-tier candidate (Senate seat) and Al Gore is running
for the White House don't forget that she is a Clinton. Many people believe Hillary
will have the last say and there is no question there will be a lot of tension between
the two between now and November.
Al Gore, despite the occasional political blunder, has generally been on target in
his campaign for the White House, and, after a series of "makeovers", is
a lot more appealing. He is now focusing on what works. He has a sizeable lead nationally
over Senator Bill Bradley which he must sustain. As the campaign progresses, it won't
be surprising in New York if Hillary and Al Gore keep stepping on each other's toes.
As far as I can determine, after the primaries - Iowa, New Hampshire and Delaware
- the expected presidential clash between vice president Al Gore and Texas governor
Bush has become more probable. However, it is too early for them to rejoice in the
political demise of their rivals Senator Bill Bradley and Senator John McCain, both
of whom are campaigning very hard as the "do or die" March 7 primary battles
loom in several states. Bradley, especially, must win to stay in the race against
Al Gore and further big wins for McCain will jump-start his battle against the formidable
and cash-rich Bush who has the Republican Party's backing.
In the first contest after his bruising defeat in New Hampshire twelve days ago,
Bush handily won the Republican primary in Delaware. However, McCain, who won the
primary in New Hampshire and did not campaign in Delaware to concentrate on South
Carolina - a more important state - got a surprising 25 per cent. McCain is reported
to be doing well in other states which will have primary pollings in early March,
Political miracles do happen, even in Malaysia although the "political miracle"
so many, including some here in New York, expected last November did not materialise.
In the case of Bradley and McCain, there are a few reasons not to lose hope yet.