THE selection of vice presidents is too hurried and depends too much on popular appeal, says a commission of former government and party leaders.
To avoid a post-selective parade of allegations like those that marred Vice President Dan Quayle's nomination, the bipartisan commission recommends more public scrutiny and a less hurried background check.
Their solution: The parties should hold meetings with potential nominees up to four weeks before the convention. Then they should allow at least 48 hours for a full background check between the presidential nomination and the vice presidential choice.
"There has been an extraordinary likelihood of the vice president becoming president," said Stuart Eizenstat, a domestic policy adviser in the Carter administration and commission member. "Yet the methods [of selection] are often hurried, ill-considered, and based excessively on regional and political balance rather than presidential caliber."
The commission, the sixth to be set up by the White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia to study presidential problems, began its study of vice presidential selection almost two years ago.
The report was released on Tuesday, a primary day in which Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination. Mr. Clinton had already named a three-person committee to begin reviewing potential running mates three weeks ago.
"Clinton is in a better position than most presidential candidates have been to consider the vice presidential nomination more thoroughly," says former Sen. Edmund Muskie (D) of Maine, co-chair of the commission, referring to Clinton's early hold on the nomination.
THE commission also recommended that the vice president's responsibilities be expanded to include the role of senior counselor to the president. "If you have a capable person as vice president, they ought to have something important to do," says Judith Richards Hope, former counsel to the Reagan-Bush transition team and a commission member.
Changing the responsibilities of the vice president would be nearly impossible without a Consitutional amendment, says George Reedy, a professor emeritus of journalism at Marquette University and part of a 1988 bipartisan task force on the vice presidency that issued a report favorable to the status quo of the office.
Giving more consideration to the selection process of the vice president is a waste of time, he adds, because voters place little importance on the position.
"Political reality cannot be ignored," Professor Reedy says. "And political reality is that people still vote for the president alone."