Making Choices

Eyes west, everybody. That would be Denver, where the Democratic National Convention opens on Monday. The suspense is not over the nominee - Senator Obama seems to have that one cinched - but journalists and political junkies have whipped themselves into a lather speculating on his running mate.

Will it be Joe Biden? (The verbose chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shores up the foreign policy flank, where the conventional wisdom has it Obama is weak.) As I write, late Tuesday evening, the smart money (that would be inside-the-Beltway money) is on Biden. They're sure of it. Of course, the smart money has been wrong before - but it's important to remember that it has also been right. That's why it's called the smart money. It can't be dumb all the time.

Only moments ago, like maybe yesterday, that same money was on Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine. Virginia hasn't voted Democratic in a presidential election in 44 years but this year it's in play, leaning towards Obama, according to me (and the New York Times Election Guide). Kaine just might push it over the red line into blue territory. Its former governor Mark Warner, now running for the Senate seat held for 30 years by the Republican John Warner, is giving the convention's keynote address Tuesday night. Thirteen electoral votes there. The race may be tilting but it's still tight. Those thirteen votes could be decisive.

And then there was - still is - Evan Bayh, the Indiana Senator whose name habitually appears among the top three.

Although most people have, we can't discount the force known as Hillary. The downside to Hillary is that she comes with Bill. The question is often asked - and Obama, heart sinking, must have asked it himself - what's Bill going to do all day in that big house at the Naval Observatory? We're not going to go there.

But maybe Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius would bring in those vitally needed women voters who are now seriously disaffected by Hillary's loss in the primaries. There's no question but that some of them are still really mad. The Democrats hope they're not mad enough to stay home from the polls on election day or - the unthinkable - vote for McCain.

Well, the list of Vice Presidential possibilities goes on - and on and on. I'm not going to run through the whole catalog, which includes Senator Dodd, mentioned by Dan Balz in Tuesday's Washington Post, and even reaches across the aisle to include Senator Lugar. Everybody knows it will be this one or that one. All of us inside the Beltway have an inside source who knows somebody who knows somebody who heard something - but in fact nobody knows.

My guess should be better than yours. I've spent my life in politics. I've been to more Democratic conventions than I have fingers on one hand but not quite two. I must have learned something along the way. Mustn't I? (Don't answer.) But I'm not going out on a limb to saw it off. This smart money is keeping quiet. Well, I will make one prediction, but I've made this one before: it won't be Sam Nunn, the former Senator from Georgia who fairly exudes national security, another of Obama's perceived weaknesses.

If you want to know quick, take a look at Drudge. He doesn't know either but that's never been known to stop him. Monday Drudge said the big announcement would come Tuesday morning. Did I miss it? Not likely. This has been one of the most successfully guarded secrets in years.

What isn't secret is that not one of the named Vice Presidential candidates is at odds with Senator Obama's or the Democratic Party's straightforward position on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT): get rid of it and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in military service. All it takes is leadership, from the President to the Vice President, to the Cabinet and on down the food chain and back up to Capitol Hill. Are you listening Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid? I'm sure that Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is listening, and his House counterpart, Ike Skelton, too.

The next Congress and the next President and Vice President have yet to be elected. Senator McCain continues to believe that DADT is working fine. He's unlikely to choose a running mate who's against it. Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, is struggling to keep his Senate seat and the last thing I expect him to say is that he supports open military service for gays and lesbians. His counterpart in the House, John Boehner, is too busy talking about drilling for oil to talk about what's wrong with DADT.

We'll see next week in Denver where the Democrats are prepared to lead us. The signs look promising. We hope the Republicans are also prepared to lead in repealing DADT when they meet in Minneapolis in September. No matter the party, it's still about the kind of country we are and hope to be.