Ted Strickland Channels General Sherman: How About Sebelius?

Lots of people, including myself, thought that Ohio Governor Ted Strickland might be a very plausible Veep candidate for Obama: extremely popular in a critical state, formerly represented an Appalachian district in the Congress, Hillary supporter, executive experience, strong campaigner. But apparently not:

Asked if he was angling to become Senator Barack Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, he told NPR: “Absolutely not. If drafted I will not run, nominated I will not accept, and if elected I will not serve.”

Hard to make it any clearer than that. Despite the talk today about a long list, I still think that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius would make the best choice. Sam Stein has a good piece about her today on the Huff Po. Sebelius doesn’t bring a state (although she might help somewhat in Missouri), but on the constituency matters she is of course strong, as a female Roman Catholic.

More importantly, she is supposed to be a superb administrator. And if Mark Helperin is right on his underrated VP characteristics, she scores high: she would be ready on Day One to run a bureaucracy (at least as much as anybody), and she gets along extremely well with Obama. Her SOTU response fell flat, but as Stein makes clear, she can attack quite well, thank you.

A personal vignette; several years ago, when she was the Insurance Commissioner, a student listed her as a reference on his application. So I called her office, and she immediately dropped everything and took the call to talk up her student (we admitted him, and he was an excellent student and now an excellent lawyer). That’s the only time I have ever contacted a public official about a reference that the official took the call. That may not say much about Sebelius as a candidate, but I think it says something about her as a person.

One interesting issue with her, though: I mentioned her to a colleague who is an Obama supporter but very sympathetic to Hillary (enraged at the sexist attacks on her), and she said: “No way. She’ll be seen as a replacement Hillary. It will just make the Hillary supporters angrier.” Who knows. I would think and hope that the feminist support for Hillary wouldn’t degenerate into a personality cult, but we’ve stranger things in politics.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.