Edward Schwarzschild, the investigative journalist who brought to light a tranche of correspondence between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his American penpals (some of it allegedly posted to the Ahmadine-blog), has uncovered a secret strategy memo in the John McCain campaign. Apparently, the McCainiacs have internal polling showing that a Barack Obama-Philip Roth ticket could be electoral dynamite. But McCain might be able to parry that dynamic duo by putting a novelist on their ticket:
Strengths: Gets all the conservatives and Jack Ryan fans running back into our arms. Wrote the book, several times, on how to fight terrorists.
Weaknesses: According to Time, prefers keeping his "virtue intact" to working toward a political career. More importantly, can he love another president as much as he loved Reagan? Dedicated books to him and said, "Ronald Reagan will always be 'my' president. He was instrumental in making me a bestseller." What quid pro quo would he expect from us? Also, Bill Maher created a McCain/Clancy image confusion problem when he said, "Some people look at McCain and see a tough guy who's going to protect us from the Islamofascists. I look at him and see a walking Tom Clancy action figure who's going to get us all killed." Sell it as a good cop/bad cop negotiating strength? Maybe better in poet laureate role?
Level of interest: He called our office first. Said he had a video game that could help us.
Strengths: Carrying substantial anger against Obama. Recently wrote this witchy threat: "Okay sweetie, we'll step aside. Watch your own cauldron bubble. You're in a heap of trouble—and you don't even know it." Women wouldn't fear flying our way! Ditto HRC supporters. Ditto perhaps the Clintons themselves. Big help in New York. Perfect debate matchup with Roth. Isadora Wing could take down Nathan Zuckerman anytime. And Roth has never been mentioned in a Bob Dylan song (see: "Highlands").
Weaknesses: What would Cindy say? And press might have field day with political commentary like this: "We need beavers and we need stallions. Beavers get the work done. Stallions inspire us." She also claims that the "job of the writer is to seduce… demons." Appeasement?
Level of interest: Waiting to see if HRC runs as an independent.
Strengths: Unlike Roth, has actually won a Nobel Prize. Friend of Oprah. A maverick woman for a maverick man: "I don't subscribe to patriarchy, and I don't think it should be substituted with matriarchy. I think it's a question of equitable access." Brings gender and racial balance to the ticket, but also a published expert on Whiteness (see: Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination). Her belief that Bill Clinton was the first black president helps us. Beloved in Ohio!
Weaknesses: Even older than we are. Also has endorsed Obama early and often. Called him "the man for this time." But that was back in January.
Level of interest: Zero, but never surrender.
Strengths: Brings at least as many conservatives as Clancy, and strong female support. Background as Mormon, Presbyterian and Methodist. Already answered the Red Phone at 3 a.m. on several occasions.
Weaknesses: Not yet well-known as a writer of literary fiction, despite her novels Executive Privilege and Sisters. But signs of change there. Elaine Showalter, Avalon Foundation professor emerita at Princeton, calls Cheney's novels "skillful and fascinating." Admittedly, some trouble lurks in lines like this, from Sisters: "The women who embraced in the wagon were Adam and Eve crossing a dark cathedral stage—no, Eve and Eve, loving one another as they would not be able to once they ate of the fruit and knew themselves as they truly were." Problematic, but if we put it out there ourselves, might make our GOP tent look warmer and bigger.
Level of interest: Was on the shortlist in 2000 and very unhappy about not being chosen. Could with good reason believe it's her turn this time. I think she remains interested. Just to be sure, I'll ask her tonight during our ride over to the in-laws for dinner.
On a serious note, Jim Webb, who really is a celebrated novelist, is the favorite to be Obama's running mate according to the punters at Intrade (the second favorite is Hillary Clinton, who won't be the nominee).
How could Team McCain counter that? David Frum argues for Rudy Giuliani, which would set up, for the first time in American history, a contest between a ticket composed entirely of compelling memoirists and a ticket composed entirely of people who had (rather forgettable) memoirs ghostwritten for them. That's just bad politics. I suggest McCain draft Tom Wolfe, who poses the triple threat to the Dems of being a more prominent writer than either of them, makes McCain look younger, and can make inroads among the latte-sippers to offset the God and guns voters Webb can tip back over to his side.