Friday, May 30, 2008

Bill Clinton now wants Hillary to be the Vice President

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on May 29th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

As I predicted, the Clintons’ wins in the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries and Obama’s big win in Oregon last week surprised absolutely no one. Obama barely even campaigned in West Virginia and Kentucky and although the Clintons continue to argue they are more electable than Obama, they have ceased their negative attacks as they wind down their presidential campaign. It should all be over in two more weeks
During my discussion of the Clintons’ “end game” in last week’s column, my suggestion that the Clintons wanted Obama to pay off their campaign debts (as a way of gaining the Clintons’ support in this autumn’s general election) came as a rather unpleasant surprise to a few of my Republican friends who also happen to be supporters of Barack Obama. They thought it was totally unacceptable for our Obama campaign contributions to be used to help the Clintons..
First off I want to say that I do sympathize with the negative feelings about my suggestion that were expressed to me by many of my “Republicans for Obama” cohorts. The idea that our contributions might somehow be used to pay off the Clintons’ campaign debts is not a concept that I find easy to stomach either. Although such “pay offs” do happen with some frequency in US Presidential and congressional primaries, it is not the sort of thing either the winning or losing candidate are anxious to acknowledge publicly.
But however distasteful one might find this idea; it nonetheless serves an imminently practical and useful purpose for both the winning and losing candidates. The big benefit for the loser of course is they get relief from the burden of their accumulated campaign debts. In the case of the Clintons their financial liabilities are the largest that any candidate from either US political party have ever amassed and the Clintons’ $11.4 million in personal loans is less than half the total amount (which is close to $30 million).
As regards Obama shouldering a new $30 million burden in exchange for the Clintons withdrawal from the Democratic primary contest and their support in the November general election against John McCain, it should be noted that none of Obama’s current or future campaign donations will be used to pay off the Clintons’ campaign debts. Any and all money a person donates to Obama’s campaign can only be used by Obama to fund his Presidential campaign’s expenses, not the Clintons’ campaign debts. The way Obama helps pay off the Clintons’ campaign debts is by asking wealthy Obama supporters, who have already given him the $2,300 maximum allowed by law, to make a similar size contribution to the Clintons’ presidential campaign.
When the Clintons finally do call it quits at the beginning of June, what they will do is announce they are “suspending” their campaign, not ending it or withdrawing from the race. That allows them to legally continue to solicit and accept campaign donations even though their presidential campaign is actually over. If you think this sounds like some kind of shell game to avoid running afoul of US campaign finance laws then you would be right on the mark. Nonetheless, this is one of the realities of US political campaigning.
Given their numerous personal attacks on Obama and the divisive racial and gender separation tactics used by the Clintons over the past five months, many Obama campaign officials and supporters are none to pleased with the idea of helping the Clintons recoup the millions of dollars they had to loan their campaign this year to keep it going. Nonetheless it is in Obama’s long term general election interests to help them to do so as a way of unifying the Democratic Party and ensuring that Obama wins the election come November. “All’s Fair in Love and War” and in the US, politics is war!
The simple fact is Hillary Clinton has many older white, Hispanic and African American women supporters who had believed, hoped and prayed that a woman would finally be elected to serve in the most powerful job in the world. Many of them are extremely disappointed and maybe a little “bitter” that their dream will not be realized for at least another four or eight years, if not longer. But Obama needs them to get out and vote for him in the General Election instead of sitting at home nursing their wounded pride or expressing their anger by voting for McCain in November.
The Clintons have also appealed to the latent racial prejudice and fears of less educated, lower income white voters during their campaign. Obama needs the Clintons to tell voters that, despite what they said when they were campaigning against Obama, they should vote for Obama because he will still be a better President than McCain will. This will be a much harder sell for the Clintons than Hillary telling women to get out and vote for Obama, but their efforts to do so will be closely watched by both Obama’s supporters as well as Democratic Party leaders.
Should the Clintons fail to campaign vigorously for Obama leading up to the November election, both their standing and future influence in the Democratic Party will be seriously diminished. There are many Democrats who have never really liked the Clintons or the ethics related scandals surrounding them, but they tolerated them for the past 16 years because of Bill Clinton’s considerable political gifts.
If the Democrats lose this opportunity to reclaim the White House because of the racial and gender divides the Clintons have tried to take advantage of during their presidential campaign, the Clintons have to know that this will have a huge negative impact on any future political plans they might have. Even so, it remains to be seen whether the Clintons are truly willing to accept this loss of their best chance to return to the White House for the sake of their Democratic Party. But they do have one other chance which I will discuss next week

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