Barack Obama's vice presidential search team had begun floating the name of former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, one of George Bush's most loyal lieutenants, as a possible running-mate on the 2008 Democratic ticket.
What the Obama camp is doing is clear enough. They are signaling that the candidate might consider a bipartisan "unity" ticket. That's reasonable, as long as the Republican has some record of taking stands that might by some reasonable stretch of the imagination be considered breaks with Republican orthodoxy. Of course, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, an edgier critic of the Bush administration's foreign policies than most Democrats who recently traveled with Obama to Afghanistan and Iraq, tops most lists of cross-over contenders.
Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, a determined internationalist who like Obama opposed attacking Iraq and generally served as a moderate (some would even say "liberal") Republican, would fit the bill.
Maybe someone like former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, a steadfast Iraq War foe who has endorsed Obama, would find a place on a list of possible running mates.
Perhaps former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth, who was no liberal when he served as a senator from Missouri but who is universally recognized as an honorable and realistic political player, would fit the bill.
But Ann Veneman?
Veneman would be a uniquely awful choice.
All of her political roots are in California -- where her father was a prominent ally of Ronald Reagan -- a state Obama will win with or without her in November.
Veneman is not trusted by farm and rural folk, so it would be ridiculous to think that adding her to the ticket would help in Midwestern and Plains states that might be in play this fall. In fact, this uniquely un-charismatic bureaucrat who has never held elective office was booed on visits to farm country when she served as Bush's Secretary of Agriculture.
And Veneman, whose background was as a corporate lawyer specializing in trade issues, was known to organized labor as one the most militant advocates for free trade in a militantly pro-free trade Bush administration.
In sum, it is hard to imagine a worse Republican to put on a Democratic ticket.
When Veneman first entered the national spotlight in 2001, I penned an assessment of her record for The Nation.
It was titled "No Friend of the Farmer" and read:
The fierce farm crisis that is ravaging rural America garnered scant attention during the 2000 presidential campaign, so it came as no surprise that President-elect George W. Bush's nominaton of Ann Veneman for the post of Agriculture Secretary received far less attention than those of several others. Yet, because of the broad authority she would be handed and because of her extreme politics, Veneman merits every bit as much scrutiny as that directed at Bush's more high-profile appointments. Veneman's track record leaves little doubt that if confirmed she will use her position as head of a powerful agency with 100,000 employees, an $82 billion budget and responsibility for implementing federal farm policy, protecting food safety and defending public lands, to advance what farm activist Mark Ritchie describes as "strictly pro-agribusiness, pro-pesticide company, pro-pharmaceutical company positions."
As a key member of the Reagan and Bush farm teams, as former California Governor Pete Wilson's Food and Agriculture Department director, as an agribusiness lawyer and as a member of the national steering committee of Farmers and Ranchers for Bush, Veneman has rarely missed an opportunity to advance the interests of food-production and -processing conglomerates, to encourage policies that lead to the displacement of family farms by huge factory farms, to open public lands for mineral extraction and timbering, to support genetic modification of food and to defend biotech experimentation with agriculture.
Full Story: http://www.thenation.com/blogs/campaignmatters/339563