Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why do the Clintons want to be Vice President?

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on June 5th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

Last week I closed my column by promising to discuss the Clintons best chance for returning to a position of power in the White House. I call this the Clintons’ “back door” option because while one might prefer to enter this “House” through the front door, if that entrance is blocked then why not go in through the back door? In other words I think Hillary will try to gain entry as Obama’s Vice President.
Consider if you will that over one third of all US Presidents served as the US Vice President first, before later moving up to the job as US President. Sometimes they assumed the Presidency because of the untimely death of their predecessor while at other times they won their party’s nomination and then the general election when the President they served under didn’t run for President again. But regardless of how they became President, the fact remains that serving as Vice President is as good a stepping stone to the top job as there is in US politics.
While I could be wrong, I strongly believe that the Clintons have done their math and come to the same conclusion; that getting on the ticket with Obama is their only other good option for landing in the Oval Office again. This observation is also based on the end game I have watched the Clintons playing ever since they and their closest advisors were finally forced to admit (privately not publically) that they had lost the Democratic Presidential nomination to Barack Obama due to the disappointing vote of no confidence they got from the voters in last month’s Indiana and North Carolina primaries. Once the reality that it was over sunk in, the Clintons and their top tactical adviser, Harold Ickes, began sorting through various possibilities that could get them back into the White House and then developed a strategy based on a number of different possibilities.
The first scenario involves continuing to search for information about Obama that could blow up Barack Obama’s chances of clinching the Democratic nomination while simultaneously toning down attacks on him to placate the concerns expressed by many Democrats that the Clintons were hurting the Democratic Party using such tactics. Then if the hoped for information never materialized, the Clintons could tout how they made nice once they saw the end in sight, even though they nonetheless continued their campaign against Obama. Toning down their attacks also helps lay the groundwork for getting the Clintons on the ticket as Obama’s Vice Presidential running mate(s).
The second set-up involves threatening to fight on to the convention in August thus maintaining rather than repairing the racial, gender and socioeconomic divisions the Clintons have opened up within the Democratic Party and hurting Obama’s chances of wining the General election. More importantly, the prospect of losing in November because of theses divisions scares Democratic leaders so the Clintons believe this threat will cause them to pressure Obama to offer the Clintons the Vice Presidency.
The Clintons are well aware that Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their closest advisors will vigorously resist the Clintons push to get on the ticket no matter how much they threaten to wreak havoc, so they are counting on Democratic leaders to pressure Obama to agree in the larger interests of Democratic Party unity. The Clintons will then be able to return to the White House thanks to the Vice President’s set of offices in the West Wing of the White House when the Obama-Clinton ticket wins in November.
The Clintons and Ickes have already calculated that they have a better chance of becoming President if Obama wins even if they have to wait 8 more years to run again, because they’ll be running as the incumbent Vice President instead of running against an incumbent Democratic Vice President not named Clinton. Hillary will be 69 years old in 2016 and while that’s still younger than John McCain currently is, her age won’t be as much of a concern because of the other advantages she would enjoy running as a sitting Vice President. The Clintons are also aware that Hillary’s Senate seat wouldn’t serve as well as the Vice Presidency as a springboard to the Oval office. This is due to the fact that the President elected later this year will only be the third Senator in US history to move straight from the Senate to the White House.
The Clintons also know that if they are not on the ticket and Obama loses this election to McCain, they are likely to be blamed by a large segment of the Democratic Party for their divisive primary attacks which will hurt their chances of being the nominee in 2012. But if they are on the same ticket with Obama and lose, they will be more likely to get away with blaming Obama’s weaknesses, telling Democrats that they had tried to warn the party of such an outcome in spite of their best efforts to win the election as Obama’s running mate(s).
The Clintons arguments for why Democrats should pressure Obama to make Clinton his VP look good on paper because millions of Democrats voted for her in the primaries. But the Clintons conveniently ignore the fact that some of her less educated, white supporters will likely vote for McCain, due to their latent racial prejudice, even if Obama chooses Clinton as his Vice President.
Another fact the Clintons ignore is the likelihood that many of Obama’s younger, independent and Republican supporters will regard a choice of Clinton as a running mate as a sell-out to the “old politics” that Obama has been campaigning against. The Clintons simply don’t fit Obama’s theme of change, which would lead some Obama supporters to either vote for McCain or throw up their hands in disgust and not bother to vote at all. Next week I’ll discuss a different career path for Hillary as a US Supreme Court Justice along with a few other potential VPs.

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