Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An Obama-Clinton ticket would be a disaster

In clinching the Democratic Presidential nomination, Barack Obama is now the leader of his party. The first test of his leadership as a potential President will be his response to the extraordinary campaign already underway to bully him into choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

Mrs. Clinton's tenacity in the primaries deserves credit, and she has earned the respect that Mr. Obama's remarks on Tuesday night gave her. But as he prepares for November, and perhaps for January, he has earned the right to choose a Vice Presidential nominee with whom he's comfortable, and on his own timetable. On that score, we were glad to see him name a vetting team yesterday and to appear in no rush to make a selection.

The same restraint can't be said of Mrs. Clinton, whose own remarks on Tuesday were notably ungracious to the victor. The occasion called at least for an enthusiastic show of support, if not a formal concession speech. Yet Mrs. Clinton chose to vie for the spotlight, touting her own campaign achievements and all but inciting her supporters to pressure Mr. Obama to make her veep.

"I understand that a lot of people are asking, What does Hillary want?" said Mrs. Clinton. "I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard." The New York Senator then assured her backers that she had no intention of moving aside so that Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party can focus on a general election campaign against John McCain.

"Now, the question is, Where do we go from here," said Senator Clinton. And her answer was that she was undecided, though she did direct supporters to her Web site to offer suggestions. She also said that "In the coming days, I'll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way."

Her coyness notwithstanding, it's clear that this gambit is aimed at putting Mr. Obama in a Vice Presidential pickle. The race for the nomination is over, but Mrs. Clinton thinks she can force her way onto the ticket by making Mr. Obama an offer he can't refuse. Clinton aides came out in unison on Tuesday to carry the same message to the media. The implied threat is that if Mr. Obama doesn't offer her the veep post, she'll take the battle to the convention floor and her voters may well stay home in November.

Other Clinton intimates weren't so subtle. Lanny Davis, a lawyer in the Clinton Administration, has launched a petition drive to nominate Mrs. Clinton as Vice President. And Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson fired off a letter to Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, urging him to lobby his fellow Black Caucus Members to support Senator Clinton's bid for the No. 2 spot.

For Mr. Obama, the issue is whether buying short-term campaign peace is worth the inevitable headaches that Bill and Hillary Clinton would make for his Presidency. Putting her on the ticket would mollify certain parts of the party, especially the angry white feminists, and it would mean a peaceful convention in Denver.

On the other hand, having Mrs. Clinton on the ticket wouldn't exactly reinforce Mr. Obama's message of change and national unity. The Senator and her husband are polarizing political figures, popular with Democrats but not with Republicans or most independents. Judging by Tuesday night, the Clintons would want to share the campaign spotlight, which runs the risk of making Mr. Obama look weak.

Some partisans argue that Mrs. Clinton can help the nominee carry the white, working-class precincts that he failed to win in the primaries. But in the end Mr. Obama has to make that sale to working-class voters himself, because Americans vote for the top of the ticket, not for Vice Presidents. We also doubt that many Democrats would stay home in November if Mrs. Clinton is not on the ticket, given how eager they are to retake the White House.

The real trouble would begin if Mr. Obama wins. He'd then have to cope with both Clintons inside his own Administration. The former President is the definition of an unguided missile, whose every public word would be picked up and amplified by the media. Would Mrs. Clinton settle for a traditional veep role, having already been co-President for eight years? We doubt it. Mr. Obama could consign her to such a role, as other Presidents have done to other veeps. But he'd then be inviting an internal guerrilla war – if not from her, then from her many loyalists. Or from Bill. And she couldn't be fired.

There are many experienced Democrats who would make suitable running mates, and for the purposes of governing Mr. Obama needs to pick someone he can work with. Above all, he can't appear to bend to ultimatums from the House of Clinton. This is a test of Mr. Obama's political judgment and toughness. If he can't stand up to Hillary and Bill Clinton, forget about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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