Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Alternative careers for Hillary Clinton

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on June 12th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

Last week I mentioned an alternative career for Clinton as a US Supreme Court justice that I could foresee her pursuing and that Barack Obama might wish to consider as an alternative to a position in his cabinet. However this option is heavily dependent on how Mrs. Clinton orchestrates her withdrawal from the Democratic nomination contest and how vigorously she and the ex-President campaign for Barack Obama this autumn.
While I could be wrong, I continue to assume that Clintons will do more than pay lip service to the idea that Democratic Party unity and defeating John McCain in November is more important than their personal political ambitions to reclaim their former residence in the White House. But in response to suggestions that Obama might offer Clinton a position in his cabinet instead, the Clintons’ supporters were told to begin campaigning for her to be Obama’s Vice President.
Bill Clinton has been privately voicing support for placing his wife on the ticket for some weeks now because he has calculated that this would be the best alternative as a spot where Hillary could launch another Presidential bid in either 2012 or 2016. While I don’t believe Mrs. Clinton has the necessary CEO skills to be an effective and competent US President, I do agree with her husband that serving as Obama’s Vice President is her best path to winning the Democratic nomination in 2012 or 2016. I discussed both mine and the Clintons’ reasoning in last weeks column, but recent statements made by the Clintons while they were campaigning in South Dakota ahead of the final Democratic state primary severely undercut their campaign to become Obama’s running mate(s).
Let it suffice to say that because I now believe the Clintons’ chances of being on the ticket have gone from slim to none, I would now like to offer some suggestions about what she could do as an alternative. Obviously one option would be for her to return to the US Senate where she has demonstrated the ability to be an effective legislator. She will probably win re-election to her Senate seat easily in 2012 and could then run for President again in 2016 at the end of Obama’s second and final term in office.
Mrs. Clinton has learned a lot during the course of her failed bid for the Democratic nomination this year and it’s likely she won’t repeat all those same mistakes again. Hillary has also demonstrated she has both the tenacity and stamina to run for the presidency, so she would be a formidable opponent for whoever the incumbent Democratic Vice President happened to be or any other Democratic candidate for that matter. But an incumbent Vice President still possesses more advantages in such contests.
The other two options I see for Mrs. Clinton involve her giving up her Presidential aspirations for good and for all much like Ted Kennedy did after he failed to unseat President Jimmy Carter back in 1980. Since that failed race for US President, Senator Kennedy has gone on to become the third longest serving and, more importantly, one of the most distinguished and effective Senators the US has ever known. He is widely respected and held in great esteem by liberals and conservatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties. I believe Hillary Clinton has the intelligence and political savvy to serve as a worthy successor to Kennedy’s mantle should she choose to.
The other option entails Mrs. Clinton becoming willing to give up her political career and with it the national limelight that attends members of the US Congress. But a career as a Supreme Court justice has a number of advantage. The biggest of these is she does not have to go out to raise money and campaign for re-election every six years in addition to putting up with the sometimes harsh media scrutiny that attends any candidate for high political office. Another major plus is that Supreme Court justices serve for life in a position that commands the utmost in respect and dignity from the general public.
Personally, I think Mrs. Clinton is both more capable and better suited to a career involving either of these last two options or serving as Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. I also think Hillary could realize even greater personal satisfaction from any one of these three jobs than she would ever find in the job of US President. My only question is “Would Bill Clinton be satisfied with the prospect of never being able to return to their former residence in the White House except as invited guests?” At this juncture I would have to guess the answer would be “probably not”, but it’s really a bit too soon to tell yet.
So if the Clintons are out then who do I think Barack Obama will pick to be his running mate for the General Election? That’s a tough question and one that is much harder for me to predict than my March 15, 2007 column’s choice of Barack Obama as the best of the potential 2008 US Presidential candidates from either political party. But of course I will nonetheless attempt to do so anyway since Obama’s choice as Vice President will tell us a lot about how much the last few months of trench warfare with the Clintons has changed him as a Presidential candidate.
Given the Irish love for betting, I will begin by first giving you some odds on the various different Democratic Vice Presidential candidates that are being discussed in the news media both in the US and abroad, as well as my personal assessment of these candidates and reasons why they might or might not be selected. I will then follow that up with my appraisal of a couple of “dark horse” candidates that I think would be better choices than the ones being most prominently mentioned by the mainstream political media types. So now you know what to look forward to next week.

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.