Obama’s vice presidents

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, June 4 (UPI) — He didn’t deliver in New Hampshire. But on the last day of the primary calendar in South Dakota and Montana, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He must unite the party, bring the U.S. electorate behind him and select a vice president.

Many in the Democratic Party would like Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York as the vice president.

London bookies are remarkably accurate in their political predictions.

I will review their seven top choices, five of whom I know personally. My order of preference:

Wesley K. Clark, 63, is the former supreme allied commander Europe and commander in chief of the U.S. European Command. Previously he was commander in chief, U.S. Southern Command, where he was responsible for all U.S. military activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Clark commanded Operation Allied Force in the Kosovo War during his term as SACEUR from 1997 to 2000. Born in 1944 in Chicago and raised in Little Rock, Ark., Clark distinguished himself early as an athlete and a scholar. He graduated first in his class from West Point and was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Magdalen College. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College. He spent 34 years in the Army and the Department of Defense, receiving many military decorations and civilian honors, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2003 he stood as a Democratic candidate for U.S. president. He returned to the private sector in 2004. Clark leads “WesPAC: Securing America” and has supported numerous Democratic Party candidates. He met his future wife, Gertrude, at a USO dance while at West Point.

Kathleen Sebelius, 60, is governor of Kansas, the second woman to hold this position. She is chair-emerita of the Democratic Governors Association. Sebelius was born and raised in a Catholic family in Cincinnati. She attended a Roman Catholic secondary school, followed by Trinity Washington University, a Roman Catholic university in Washington. She later earned a masters of public administration degree from the University of Kansas. She moved to Kansas in 1974 at the age of 26. She served for eight years as a representative in the Kansas Legislature. In 1994 she left the House to run for state insurance commissioner. She stunned political forecasters by winning — the first time a Democrat had won in more than 100 years. Sebelius is the daughter of former Ohio Gov. John J. Gilligan, and they became the first father/daughter governor pair in the United States. Her husband, K. Gary Sebelius, is a federal magistrate judge and the son of former U.S. Representative Keith Sebelius, a Republican representing Kansas.

James Henry “Jim” Webb Jr., 62, is a senator from Virginia. He is an author and former secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. A 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Webb served as a Marine Corps infantry officer until 1972 and is a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran. In 2006 Webb defeated Republican incumbent George Allen by some 9,000 votes, less than 0.5 percent. The outcome was uncertain for nearly two days after polls closed and provided the final seat that tilted the Senate to Democratic control. Webb was born in Missouri and grew up in a military family. His father was a career officer in the U.S. Air Force who flew B-17s during World War II and dropped cargo during the Berlin Airlift. As a military brat, Webb grew up on the move, attending more than a dozen schools across the United States and in England. After graduating from high school in Nebraska, he attended the University of Southern California on a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship, where he was a member of Delta Chi fraternity. In 1964 Webb earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Ted Strickland, 67, is governor of Ohio. Before his election in 2006 he served six terms as a U.S. congressman. Born in Lucasville, Ohio, Strickland was one of nine children; his father was a steelworker. Strickland was to be the first of his family to attend college. He has a bachelor’s degree from Asbury College, Kentucky, a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky and another master’s degree from Asbury Theological Seminary. He received a doctorate in psychology from the University of Kentucky in 1980. He is married to Frances Strickland, an educational psychologist and author. Strickland worked as a counseling psychologist at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio; was an administrator at a Methodist children’s home; and was a professor of psychology at Shawnee State University. He has made education a centerpiece of his goals as governor. On the pre-collegiate level of education, Strickland has pushed to cut funding of school vouchers.

Philip Norman “Phil” Bredesen, 64, is governor of Tennessee, having served since 2003. He previously served as the mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999. Bredesen was born in Oceanport, N.J., but grew up in Shortsville, N.Y., a small agricultural community near Rochester. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University. He and his wife, Andrea Conte, have one son, Ben. Bredesen moved to Nashville in 1975. While doing research at the public library, he drafted a business plan in the couple’s small apartment that led to the creation of HealthAmerica Corp., a healthcare management company that eventually grew to more than 6,000 employees and was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. He sold his controlling interest in HealthAmerica in 1986. In part due to the wealth he earned from HealthAmerica, Bredesen does not accept his gubernatorial salary.

William “Bill” Richardson III, 60, is the governor of New Mexico and was a candidate for the 2008 Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States. He was involved in several diplomatic efforts as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and afterward in North Korea and Iraq. He emphasized foreign policy issues during his presidential run. He has previously served as a U.S. representative, ambassador to the United Nations, and as the U.S. secretary of energy. He was chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2005 and 2006. Bill Richardson was born in Pasadena, Calif. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Tufts University in 1970, majoring in French and political science, and was a brother and president of Delta Tau Delta. He went on to earn a master’s degree in international affairs from Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971. While still in high school, he met his future wife, Barbara Flavin. They married in 1972 and have no children.

John Edwards, 55, served one term as U.S. senator from North Carolina. He was the vice presidential nominee in 2004 and a presidential candidate until recently. Born in South Carolina, the son of a mill worker and shop owner, Edwards was raised in North Carolina. He graduated with honors from North Carolina State University in 1974 and earned his law degree in 1977 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Edwards made his career as a trial lawyer, mostly representing families and children against corporations and the insurance industry. In the Senate, Edwards carved a niche on social issues and healthcare, and was a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Edwards works at the One America Committee, a PAC he established in 2001. He is director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. Edward’s wife is a prominent spokeswoman on cancer issues. Her cancer returned during the recent presidential campaign. Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, met as law students at Chapel Hill. They have two young children and a college-aged daughter. Their eldest son died in a car accident.

(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society for International Cooperation. He is a Founding Trustee of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council. He was a visiting fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford.)