Presidential candidates pondering their vice-presidential choice while queuing up to buy the just-released Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (or having a key aide do same) should consider the advantages of the Sorting Hat. As all Potter initiates know, the Sorting Hat is a magical pointed wizard's hat that assigns incoming students at Hogwarts, the boarding school for aspiring wizards, to one of Hogwarts' four residential houses. Each house has a distinct identity; in choosing which house a student will belong to, the Sorting Hat makes an unchallengeable judgment about that student's character. What better way to size up the strengths and weaknesses of those designated to dwell a heartbeat away from the presidency?
If this exercise sounds familiar, that's because Chatterbox earlier proposed using the same method to nominate presidents. (See "Harry Potter and the Iowa Caucuses.") Chatterbox's previous item detailed the Sorting Hat's methodology. (The hat sings a song that explains how it works. Click here and scroll down two paragraphs to read the version in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.) Here Chatterbox will simply summarize:
Gryffindor: For those possessing "daring, brave, and chivalry." It's the good-guy house, where Harry Potter lives.
Hufflepuff: For those who are "just and loyal," "patient," "true/ And unafraid of toil." The dependable (and sometimes boring) kid house.
Ravenclaw: For those "of wit and learning." The smart-kid house.
Slytherin: For "cunning folk" who "use any means/ To achieve their ends." The bad-guy house, where Harry's nasty rival Draco Malfoy lives. It once housed the series's most fearsome villain, Lord Voldemort.
Let the sorting begin.
Commentary: Chatterbox, who will be voting Democratic in the next election, was surprised to discover how few Democrats made it into Gryffindor. Besides Joe Lieberman and Jim Hunt, the only two Democrats Chatterbox would even consider putting in Gryffindor are Robert Rubin and Kathleen Townsend. (Townsend's omission may reflect an excess of scruple in avoiding favoritism; she is a friend and former employer of Chatterbox.) At any rate, Gryffindor may not be the best place to look for a veep. Gryffindors tend to wander off the reservation; they can be blowhards; and some (e.g., Rudy Giuliani) can easily transmogrify into Slytherins. Neither presumptive presidential candidate was judged a Gryffindor in Chatterbox's earlier sorting. Al Gore was (and remains) a Hufflepuff--though perhaps one with Slytherin tendencies. (See James Fallows' recent Atlantic Monthly article about Gore-the-debater.) George W. Bush was, and, contrary to the conventional wisdom, still is, a Slytherin. (See Tucker Carlson's Bush profile in the August 1999 Talk magazine, which included the now-famous scene where Bush mocked Karla Faye Tucker's pleas for clemency. The article is offline, but National Review Online has a good excerpt and analysis here.)
There is no Hogwarts house for benign opportunists. If there were, quite a few Hufflepuffs would have to resettle there. There is also no Hogwarts house for weirdos, which is the only place Chatterbox would dream of putting Bob Kerrey.
The good news is that there are very few Slytherins among the vice-presidential considerees of either party. Moreover, the two Chatterbox placed there--John Kerry and Liddy Dole--aren't remotely in Lord Voldemort's league. Neither, let it be said, is Dubya.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.