The conflict between Russia and Georgia came just in time for Barack Obama.
Despite John McCain’s efforts to exploit concern about the Russian military assault on its neighbor — a former Soviet state — the Republican candidate comes across as all bluster. Indeed, considering the potential consequences of a wrong move in what could turn out to be a high-stakes game of nuclear positioning, the Arizona’s senator’s cowboy-without-a-plan act ought not inspire much confidence.
By the same token, Obama’s diplomat-without-a-plan act is only slightly more comforting. And it certainly will not win the Democrat many votes in and of itself.
So why has the conflict come just in time for Obama?
Because it forces him to get serious about making a vice-presidential pick.
After weeks of arguing tire inflation and who is more Paris Hiltony, both Obama and McCain have been forced by global developments to try and appear presidential.
And the most presidential decision either man will be making in the next two weeks involves the selection of a running-mate.
The events on the Black Sea coast should put an end to the Obama camp’s “electoral-map” approach to the task.
Perhaps during the silly season of mid-summer, it was reasonable to talk about selecting a running mate like Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who might help tip the balance in a teetering red state, or Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who might at least create the fantasy of tipping the balance in an even redder state. It might even have been possible — if not quite realistic — to suggest that an Indiana Senator Evan Bayh could make an Obama-led ticket more attractive to skeptical voters in the Great Lakes states.
But the prospect that the next president might, on January 20, 2009, be confronted with the immediate challenge of a resurgent Russia, and all of the geopolitical consequences of such a development, should put an end to the discussion of putting a Kaine or a Sebelius, or even a Bayh, on the ticket.
Obama has spent three and a half years in the Senate.
He only recently completed his first major tour of global hotspots and, while that trek went well, he did npot even alight in Russia, China or India — let alone Georgia or the next trouble zone.
The Democrat who would be president is going to have to pick a running-mate who can, as they say, “hit the ground running.”
Translation: Treat New York Senator Hillary Clinton, whose international experience is more credible than her critics have even been willing to acknowledge, a little more seriously.