In addition to being a respected scholar on the subject of the U.S. vice presidency, Professor Joel K. Goldstein of Saint Louis University (SLU) is a Clayton resident. Goldstein's children graduated from .
"We've enjoyed the neighborhood," he stated.
Goldstein is the Vincent C. Immel Professor of Law at SLU. He appeared this month in The New York Times, which quoted the sought-after expert as saying, "My wife says that I am an exotic plant that blooms every four years”—in other words, whenever presidential candidates select their running mates.
In an email interview with Patch, Goldstein talked about his reaction to the news that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will share the Republican Party presidential ticket with former Gov. Mitt Romney. He also reflected on the work of Vice President Joe Biden and looked ahead to an October debate between the two candidates.
How did you react to the news that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had been selected as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate?
I was surprised. I thought Gov. Romney would most likely select Senator Portman or Gov. Pawlenty. But in recent times, Republican vice-presidential selections are almost always a surprise so one should expect to be surprised. Dan Quayle was a surprise pick in 1988, Jack Kemp in 1996, Dick Cheney in 2000 and Sarah Palin in 2008. So, too, were Spiro Agnew in 1968 and Bob Dole in 1976.
How will this help the Romney campaign, and what challenges might it pose?
The selection of Rep. Ryan was conventional in the sense of bringing ideological ticket-balancing to the ticket since Romney is perceived as a more moderate Republican whereas Ryan is a favorite of the GOP right. In this sense, the pick follows a pattern of more moderate Republican presidential candidates choosing people from the right (e.g. Bush-Quayle, Dole-Kemp, McCain-Palin). It was also conventional in that every governor or former governor who has run for president since 1952 has chosen a D.C. insider as his running mate.
I was surprised because a) I did not think Gov. Romney would wish to be so identified with the controversial Ryan budget plan as he now will be and to raise it to such importance in the race; b) Sitting members of the House rarely are chosen as running mates, especially by candidates in competitive races; c) the ticket has no one with national security expertise, which is anomalous; d) Congress, especially the House, are very unpopular as Rep. Ryan, due to his prominence and that of his plan, is identified with the House.
There has been some talk that the Ryan pick might energize people such as members of the tea party movement. To what degree might this be the case?
I think it likely that Rep. Ryan's presence on the ticket will energize the bases of both parties. The Republican base is obviously very happy but the Democratic base is likely to be engaged now to an extent which might not have occurred had Portman been chosen. In this sense, the Ryan selection resembles the Palin choice by engaging both bases.
Rep. Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to participate in a debate Oct. 11 at Centre College. What issues do you expect to be central to that debate?
I would anticipate a wide-ranging debate with a principal focus on the competing economic plans of the two tickets but also discussion of foreign policy and social issues. Both VP candidates will extol the leadership of the standard-bearer on their ticket and criticize the vision and leadership of the other side. The VP debate will be about Obama and Romney more than about Biden and Ryan.
How would you characterize Vice President Biden's tenure so far? What key decisions or initiatives have been integral to his role so far, and what would you expect from him were he to be elected to a second term?
Biden has proven to be a very consequential vice president. He has served as a principal presidential adviser on policy, political and personnel issues across the board, has taken on major trouble-shooting assignments, and has managed several major initiatives on an ongoing basis, principally the disengagement from Iraq, the implementation of the recovery plan and spending of the money Congress authorized for that purpose, and the Middle Class Task Force.
He has taken on major diplomatic missions, to Russia, China, the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. and has been the legislative closer on some important matters like the ratification of the START treaty and the tax and budget deals in 2010. His role in the discussions regarding Afghanistan policy was distinctive in that he was willing to take positions contrary to some of the president's other advisers and to raise questions to make certain that the issue was considered in its full complexity.
Every VP beginning with Walter Mondale (1977-81) has played an important role. Biden has proven one of the more significant vice presidents.
What other comments would you like to make?
From being something of a national joke for most of our history, the vice presidency has risen to a position of real importance, especially beginning with the service of Walter Mondale. Mondale reimagined the vice presidency as a principal across-the-board adviser to the president and trouble-shooter for him. He obtained important resources for the office and implemented the new vision successfully.
Subsequent vice presidents have retained those resources (West Wing office, weekly private lunch with president, right to attend any meeting on president's schedule, right to walk into Oval Office, access to paper which goes to president, involvement of VP staff with issues) and, to varying degrees, have followed the Mondale model.
All VPs beginning with Mondale have played important roles in the ongoing work of the executive branch. At a time when Americans are unhappy with the work of many governmental institutions, the vice presidency has had a very positive trajectory.