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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bowers on Nunn

It was just a matter of time before some progressive blogger got alarmed about the possibility of Sam Nunn being Barack Obama’s running-mate. Chris Bowers of OpenLeft filled the vacuum yesterday with a post that calls Nunn a “worse Vice Presidential choice than Joe Lieberman” and half-seriously proposes a “stop Nunn” movement.
I’m a big fan of Chris Bowers, but he goes way over the top with this piece. Yes, Nunn would be an offensive choice to many gay and lesbians, and no, he’s not exactly Mr. Change. But Chris’ suggestion that Nunn has done nothing since leaving the Senate other than serving on corporate boards is a pretty egregious refusal to note the Georgian’s yeoman work towards avoiding the fiery annihilation of the planet. Sam Nunn is to the nuclear proliferation issue what Al Gore is to the global climate change issue, and you could make the argument that these are the two most urgent challenges facing the country and the world. It’s encouraging that both these men have endorsed Obama for president (Nunn back in April, Gore yesterday).
The invidious comparison of Nunn with John McCain’s close friend and supporter Joe Lieberman is more than a bit odd, too, since the Georgian shares none of Joe’s adoration of the Bush-Cheney foreign policy (au contraire), of the Iraq War, or of John McCain’s neo-Cold War posturing towards Russia, China and Iran. Indeed, as a surrogate if nothing else, Nunn could do Barack Obama a lot of good by getting under John McCain’s thin skin on his dangerous approach to national security.
One final thing about Chris’ post: in an effort, I guess, to bring out the Big Berthas on the Nunn Veep idea, he says that “the DLC was originally founded in order to elect Sam Nunn President. I’m not kidding.” Chris’ authority for this assertion is a disputed, agit-proppy Wikipedia entry on the DLC which says the group’s “original focus was to secure the 1988 presidential nomination of a southern conservative Democrat such as Nunn or [Chuck] Robb.”
You know, I somehow don’t think that founding DLC chairman Dick Gephardt (who ran for president in 1988), or founding members Al Gore (ditto) and Bill Clinton (who nearly ran that year) were “focused” on elevating Sam Nunn to the presidency in 1988. But this and other bad and good arguments for and against Nunn will be heard a lot if his apparent short-listing for the vice presidency continues.
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7 comments on “Bowers on Nunn

  1. NealB on

    There’s no way in hell Obama’s going to pick Nunn for VP. There’s no reason to say why; anyone with half a brain knows why and it doesn’t need to be explained. Nunn’s just another old man in a country that’s had enough of old men.

  2. ducdebrabant on

    Well, Steve Kornacki at the New York Observer offers one explanation — Nunn is Sistah Souljah:
    “That Mr. Nunn is from a Southern state doesn’t hurt, and that some on the left have begun carping about his conservative record on social issues like gay rights is actually a political plus, too – a chance for Mr. Obama to reach out to center-right swing voters who roll their eyes at the liberal interest-group establishment.”
    Yeah, all of those soldiers who got early discharges for being part of the “liberal interest-group establishment” (for which read: queer) WILL just carp carp carp. They didn’t just start doing it, though. Where’s Karnacki been since the mid 1990’s? Apparently the choice of Nunn will reassure anybody troubled by the fear that Obama might have actually meant it about gays and lesbians being citizens too.
    I actually agree with Karnacki on that point. It’s just what I’ve said before — if Obama picks Nunn, I won’t believe him on gay issues either. I’m already a skeptic.

  3. ducdebrabant on

    “Lieberman’s position on military ballots in FL was dictated to him by the Gore campaign. It was only a “surprise” to those hard-line lawyers who were out of the Gore political loop. Moreover, Gore probably wouldn’t have even been in the position to win FL without Lieberman’s presence on the ticket (look at the 2000-2004 numbers in South Florida).”
    I suppose I could have intuited the latter, but I’m happy to know the former. Lieberman’s statement at the time infuriated me. I honor our servicemen, but I don’t happen to think that the vote of a peacetime soldier in Germany is more important than that of a WWII veteran in Florida — and the latter were expected to follow the rules, sign their absentee ballots, and get them postmarked before Election Day.

  4. edkilgore on

    I don’t think there’s any real chance of Nunn going on the ticket unless he offers something like the “repentence” you are suggesting.
    Have to quibble with one of your analogies, though: Lieberman’s position on military ballots in FL was dictated to him by the Gore campaign. It was only a “surprise” to those hard-line lawyers who were out of the Gore political loop. Moreover, Gore probably wouldn’t have even been in the position to win FL without Lieberman’s presence on the ticket (look at the 2000-2004 numbers in South Florida).
    Look, I hold zero brief for Lieberman these days; I seem to be “to the left” of a lot of Democrats who think he should be stripped of his committee assignment if he keeps attacking Obama; I think the mere act of endorsing McCain is enough grounds for booting him out of the Caucus as soon as is practicable.
    But that doesn’t mean we have to accept a lot of revisionist history about Lieberman’s responsibility for Bush. If anything, Gore lost FL when he failed to push for a statewide recount from the get-go, as a lot of us felt at the time.
    Thanks for the comments.
    Ed Kilgore

  5. ducdebrabant on

    It’s been pointed out to me on another site that a repentant Sam Nunn would be a very dramatic development and a real boost to gay people. So it would. The repentance is missing, though. He makes no apologies, offers no regrets, makes no promises, refuses to state a present position, and then he does something really surprising. He has the gall to claim credit for the fact that gay men and women, thanks to DADT, no longer have to lie on enlistment forms as they did pre-DADT. Thanks to DADT, perhaps, but very little thanks to Sam Nunn, who wanted to keep things exactly as they were. Neither DADT nor anything resembling it was his original position. If he’d had his way completely, they’d still be lying on enlistment forms and, I suppose, still be getting dishonorable discharges. You know, instead of just discharges. He’s a long way from admitting he was wrong, and that is a bottom line prerequisite in my view.

  6. Christopher Carrington on

    Sam Nunn could be a mistake if the Obama campaign is serious about winning Colorado, New Mexico or possibly Nevada. 2004 exit polls in Colorado indicated that 4% of voters were gay/lesbian. Many gay men (less so lesbians) hold a surprising positive view of McCain, particularly in these Western states. Placing someone like Nunn with such a distinguished pedigree of heterosexism/homophobia could prove a mistake. Why risk Colorado, New Mexico or Nevada (all will be very close) on the off chance you might pull in Georgia. At the very least, Nunn will need to do some explaining to these voters as to why he now thinks “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be revisited, and what are his current views.
    More importantly, elevating a conservative, Southern white male into the future leadership of the Democratic Party is a mistake for 2016 and beyond. The Democrats need to look West, Northwest, and Southwest as they consider their future, not to the remnants of the old Democratic base in Dixie.

  7. ducdebrabant on

    Perhaps Bowers is easier to differ with than Jonathan Capehart, whose article “Don’t Ask Nunn” was in the Washington Post last Wednesday:
    It may have been just a matter of time, but not quite as much time as it took Bowers. The comparison of Nunn to Lieberman may fail in one way, but unless Nunn enthusiastically embraces Obama’s program, I’d be very much worried about his independence turning into obstruction. He turned on a President of his own party already, when he was in the Senate, and what is the Vice President but President of the Senate? Another surprise like Lieberman’s jumping to the Republican position on putative military ballots in Florida without signatures or dates is not something I would care to see.
    Nunn of course deserves credit for his work on non-proliferation.


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