From what little I’ve heard, the vetting process for picking the vice presidential candidate appears to be one of the most invasive procedures not involving body cavities. I can understand that. You don’t want to come up with the ideal second banana, only to have subsequent revelations of his, say, inappropriate text messages to minors suck the life out of your campaign.
It’s not just the vice presidential candidates either. I hear that the vetting process has become longer and more elaborate at all levels, as administrations use background checks and security clearance procedures to to eliminate any potential for betrayal, incompetence, and blackmail, as well as to satisfy other less legitimate purposes.
With one big exception: the presidential candidate him/herself.
The justification for this, is that the presidential candidate has his whole life, his heart and soul, dissected minutely and endlessly by the media, opposition research staff and, these days, the blogosphere. Sooner or later, the wayward reverend or the occasional zipper malfunction is bound to pop up, leaving the public to decide whether or not to give the candidate a pass.
The thing is, though, that once you are a candidate, you can try to spin, dissemble, outright lie your way out of your predicament, and some do succeed. In most jobs, the threshold for dismissal is higher than that for initial rejection, and the presidential candidacy is no different. Try this thought experiment. Imagine Bill Clinton auditioning for the vice presidential candidacy. Do you think for a moment that he would be selected if his personal problems were vetted by the presidential candidate’s team?