Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Political Mercury

Why Hillary Clinton should select Tom Vilsack as running mate

2/12/2014

Some long-assumed sagacity about success in Iowa politics is this: never say things are going too well on the farm.

Considering the last five years, that wisdom, which always sort of played on hayseed characterizations of those of us living in rural Iowa as taciturn head-shakers, is far from realistic. In fact, it’s laughable.

Land and commodity prices have soared. Unemployment is low, frighteningly low, in fact, in much of rural western Iowa. It’s 2.6 percent in Carroll County, for example.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American farm exports reached a record $140.9 billion in fiscal year 2013 and supported about a million U.S. jobs. In fact, compared with the previous five-year period from 2004-2008 (Bush), U.S. agricultural exports from 2009-2013 (Obama and Tom Vilsack) increased by nearly $230 billion.

“We are aggressively promoting agricultural exports overseas,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told Political Mercury in an interview. “We’re breaking down trade barriers. We’re negotiating free-trade agreements. We’re proposing additional free-trade agreements in the South Pacific and in Southeast Asia as well as in Europe.”

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Vilsack has been as strong a secretary of agriculture as any our nation has known.

He’s a former highly respected two-term governor of Iowa, one with a reputation as an able manager, a quick study on policy — basically a level-headed guy with the right stuff where it comes to not getting all fussed with the daily winds of politics.

Vilsack has a long game, which is rare in the modern, 140-characters-or-less public sphere.

A full, clear-eyed analysis reveals Vilsack as the best vice presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2016 if Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket.

Clinton will do exceedingly well in urban areas, and the historic nature of her bid plays well with independent women in the suburbs.

In her 2008 primary-and-caucus slugfest with President Obama, Clinton performed well in rural areas, places like Southern Indiana. Much of that boiled down to race. But some of it is just flat-out Arkansas — and the fact that while very much her own woman, she benefits from the natural populism of her husband.

Vilsack, for his part, brings many assets to the race, not least of which is Iowa, a state that will be in play without him, but reliably in the Clinton camp with him.

He’ll be a wonderful ambassador to rural America for the campaign, the man best suited to turn that “What’s The Matter With Kansas” nonsense upside-down and send it spinning. In short, Vilsack can survive, even fight, behind enemy lines for the Democrats in a national election.

Vilsack can go after rural voters based on an economic, production-agriculture friendly appeal. Does this mean Clinton-Vilsack carry Kansas? Of course not.

But think about what it would mean for agriculture to have someone with intimate knowledge of policy — and unflinching support for policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard — serving in the beating heart of American government. Many in rural America, while culturally disconnected to the point of hatred, revulsion from Hillary Clinton, will see past that in favor of security for the government’s buoying of American agriculture — which will be in sure hands with Vilsack behind Joe Biden’s former desk in the Old Executive Office Building.

What’s more, Tom Vilsack’s loyal in the way the Clintons expect it. The forthcoming Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’ book “HRC” (Hillary Rodham Clinton) reportedly details the Clinton’s compilation of an enemies’ list.

As the tide clearly turned toward Obama in ’08, Vilsack and wife, Christie, remained active and highly visible Clinton supporters.

There’s also an intangible. In watching Tom Vilsack’s interaction with his wife through the years, particularly the pride he showed in her bid for Congress, it’s clear he respects and values women in the way that would be essential to a Hillary Clinton presidential run.

Vilsack will reinforce the Clinton message, not get out in front of his skis.

Go through the list of possible running mates for Hillary Clinton. Vilsack emerges on top.

Most of all, with 16 years of service as an executive, with state and federal leadership, he’ll be prepared for the job of the presidency should tragedy interrupt a second Clinton era.

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It’s no long-shot bet if you are thinking of some early prospecting on T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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