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Inside Politics
Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

The inevitable vice presidential nominee

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WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- To hear the wise words of Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart is to understand why American voters on the eve of 2004 distrust, mistrust and scorn so many major American institutions.

"Begin with scandals at the United Way and the Red Cross; mismanagement of both the peoples' money and their blood," he says. "Then the Olympics, where winners are always decided -- even at the 1936 games in Munich under Hitler's shadow -- on the field of competition, we discover that at Salt Lake City the results were rigged."

Add to those: sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests; prestigious stock brokers urging their customers to buy stocks that the brokers' own analysts privately ridicule; respected accountants cooking the books of big clients; The New York Times admitting that its news stories were hoaxes; Tyco, WorldCom, Enron, the list goes on.

The present skepticism has been, sadly, earned. The pervasive suspicion, a reporter encounters repeatedly, that those with power and privilege, as a matter of course, do not play by the same rules and that they cheat the rest of us who are powerless.

In this grim environment, Democrats in the next few months will choose a candidate to oppose President George W. Bush. That Democratic nominee will then practice either micro-politics or macro-politics in choosing a running mate.

In micro-politics, the nominee focuses on a major state or constituency in naming a number two, such as a governor who could "deliver" his battleground home state.

The macro approach would be to choose for vice president an individual who helps politically beyond a home state and the selection of whom sends a positive message about the presidential nominee, himself.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan certified his self-confidence by asking his principal opponent for the nomination -- just as John Kennedy had dared to do in 1960 -- to join his ticket.

If the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 dares to go macro, then his running mate could be the one public man who has shown the guts, the brains and the will to take on the Class War Criminals who have fleeced millions of Mom and Pop investors.

He has exposed the secretive and sleazy practices of Wall Street investment houses and the sleazy and secretive practices of major mutual fund companies. With manifest courage, he has time and again taken on the richest, the most influential and the most politically connected white men in America.

It could be said of him, as Gen. Edward Bragg said in nominating President Grover Cleveland, " (T)hey love him most for the enemies he has made."

To run for national leadership, you should first have a compelling personal story to tell. New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, 44, has one great story.

He has been the lone cop on the beat, the Sheriff of Wall Street. He and the exceptional staff he leads went through nearly 95,000 pages of Merrill Lynch emails to document the phony recommendations the brokerage's analysts were foisting on unsuspecting customers to buy a company's stocks so that the brokerage house could keep the company's lucrative investment banking. Merrill Lynch paid $100 million in fines.

There are 95 million Americans who invest in mutual funds, a $ 7 trillion industry. Eliot Spitzer and Massachusetts Secretary Of State William Galvin have blown the whistle on the outrageous practice of mutual funds allowing big, favored clients to buy, after the market's 4 p.m. closing, a company's stock at a lower price.

This, in spite of the fact that the company after the 4 p.m. closing had issued a favorable earnings report that guaranteed that the stock's price would climb the next day, thus guaranteeing the insiders a windfall profit at the expense of the 95 million ordinary folks.

Critics have faulted him for letting Merrill Lynch -- which had profits totaling $7 billion in the three preceding years -- off too easily. Nobody went to jail. Detractors criticize him for grandstanding.

Conservatives who have ardently endorsed the transfer of power from Washington to the states now accuse Spitzer of poaching on federal jurisdiction -- choosing to ignore the absence of enforcement from the Bush Securities and Exchange Commission or Department of Justice. But his office's case against 12 investment banks produced $1.4 billion in fines.

Spitzer has hit Wall Street malefactors where they hurt the most -- in the pocketbook and the press. You can be confident that if there were any scandals in Spitzer's background, his well-heeled enemies would have used their considerable resources to find and reveal them by now.

To convince ordinary Americans that they are really on their side, committed to fighting for them, Democrats can name Eliot Spitzer their vice presidential nominee.

Click here for more from Creators Syndicate.

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