Saturday, October 16, 2010

Three Reasons Why Obama Should Pick Hillary As Veep

Of course President Barack Obama should pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate in 2012. But it is also entirely possible that Barack Obama, anticipating the inevitable "thrown Biden under the bus" attack from the Right-- perhaps also wanting, misguidedly, to be seen as operating wholly from political principle and not enlightened pragmatism -- will stick with Joe as his veep in 2012.

That, alas would be a fatal political error. Bush the Elder -- miscalculating within the hierarchical Republican party -- kept Quayle, valuing loyalty over political practicalities. He was, of course, a one term wonder.

And even Vice President Joe Biden -- and god bless him for his ungoverned and ungovernable tongue -- questions whether Hillary might not have been a better pick as a running mate. And she may have been. But Obama would have been, to a degree, trapped under the Clintonianin his first term would probably have been ensorcelled in Clintonian psychodrama -- something the President, a sanguine personality, clearly abhors. Of course, it is the nominee's prerogative once victorious to choose whomever the heck he or she wishes. Journalists, who would have loved an Obama-Hillary team for the sake of stories that would write themselves, would have loved this but, alas, we have no say in the final decision.

And Obama chose Biden.

2010 is a new day; probably with new Congressional leadership. Barack Obama -- a relatively young but supremely talented politician -- has learned a great deal on the fly about the operations of global leadership. And so he might be willing to reopen the argument as to whether or not Hillary would be a more effective running mate. Here are my 3 reasons as to why she is:

1) New Congressional Realities. Let's face it -- Congress is probably going to change hands. Obama will no longer be dealing with politically sympathetic allies like Pelosi and Hoyer and Dingell and the other Committee heads. Obama will be dealing with a a far more obstructionist, muscular, mandated Congress -- even on the low possibility that it doesn't change hands -- a Congress that will have their eyes on the 2012 ball.

Hillary, in 2012, would help Obama gain ground in battleground states -- West Virginia, Arkansas -- that he lost in 2008 and states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida -- that he will have trouble convincing to vote Democrat again in 2012. The effect of Hillary-as-running-mate is that Obama will not just solidify his chances of winning re-election, but it would help provide coattails for victory downticket, in districts in Indiana and Kentucky and Virginia. Let's face it: Biden --quite simply -- provides no such extra coattails.

Joe Biden was put in charge of stimulus package implementation. And that has become a millstone, unfortunately, around the administration's neck (as the Obama-ites appear unable to communicate its benefits to the working class and public sector employees). Biden's only other net political plus -- working class cred in PA, strength on foreign policy -- are not nearly as strong as Hillary's. Hillary actually won the Pennsylvania primary; Hillary, as United States Secretary of State, is the most popular figure in the administration.

Add to all those points the naked political fact that as SecState Hillary has become the consummate statesperson with high positives and, most importantly, a demonstrated loyalty to the administration. This -- we cannot fail to note -- begs the question: What has Joe done for Obama lately?

2) The Hillary Democrats. All this chatter of populism, of the President's inability to speak to the angry white working class voter, of "Chicago style academics," is pejorative code word for Obama's personality minuses in democratic politics -- sanguine, intellectual, pragmatic. Hillary is strong in ways that Obama is weak (though, we cannot fail to note, that didn't stop Obama from defeating her in 2008). And now that Obama's political weaknesses -- his minuses -- are becoming more and more evident under constant global media scrutiny, the international sausage-making machine, it seems obvious that Hillary completes his political persona. Such a partnership seems, in retrospect, obvious.

Even Pat Buchanan -- the sourest of nativist right wing sours -- admires "Hillary Democrats," a sobriquet, incidentally, that just might in the future replace "Reagan Democrats" in describing a particularly white, particularly older and particularly un-rich demographic that has been quite screwed in the new global economic order.

When Hillary, on the stump in 2008, spoke of women who work standing on their feet all day, she not only captured -- poignantly -- the daily struggles of waitresses who have to smile and bartenders who make their living on the graciousness of gratuities. No one could have been more eloquent about America's forgotten -- the Clinton demographic -- the guys who played fair, worked long hours, put their children first, who did the right thing, but continue to fall behind economically. Obama's personality appeals to the intellect, the ideals -- to the angels of our better nature. It says little to the gritty realities of American manufacturing.

The economy has erased most such idealism in the minds and hearts of American voters, who are more apt now to vote from their guts. Populism speaks to the guts. And if you've ever seen the President roll up his sleeves and talk to white working class voters with attempts at true grit you'll know Obama -- again, bless his intellectual, academic heart -- is temperamentally incapable of such a populist rhetoric. Such are the mysteries of the human personality ....

Hillary, who developed her political persona as a rara avis -- a progressivish Democrat in red state Arkansas (!!)-- a master at Southern fried populist rhetoric. This, incidentally, plays just as well in Pennsyltucky and Ohio's working class districts, places that are going to be a hard sell this time around for democrats.

3) Bill Clinton. Obama is now reading Taylor Branch's magisterial Clinton Tapes -- the best book ever on Clinton's Presidency and a must-read for any student curious of the politics of the last decade of the 20th century. Obama can learn much from it.

The wretched, simian Charles Krathammer -- and his noxious ilk --- have labored mightily at portraying Obama as another Jimmy Carter. Those narrative comparisons are becoming increasingly sticky. And that is not a good thing for a sitting president trying to get real legislative accomplishments through an increasingly recalcitrant United States Congress. From Politico:

The president wants to be more Bill Clinton than Jimmy Carter. Obama knows Clinton recovered from his party’s midterm drubbing in 1994 to win a second term two years later; Carter was a one-term president. Obama is reading “The Clinton Tapes,” Taylor Branch’s account of his secret interviews with Clinton. “I was looking over some chronicles of the Clinton years,” Obama said, “and was reminded that in ’94 — when President Clinton’s poll numbers were lower than mine, and obviously the election ended up being bad for Democrats — unemployment was only 6.6 percent. And I don’t think anybody would suggest that Bill Clinton wasn’t a good communicator or was somebody who couldn’t connect with the American people or didn’t show empathy.”

Lately there are also a lot of LBJ comparisons as well. LBJ and Jimmy Carter have a lot in common -- they are perceived publicly as one-term Democrat Presidents that are generally regarded as failures. It is no wonder that Obama abhors any such comparisons.

Enter: Bill Clinton. Clinton's two terms and the economic prosperity contained therein -- again: perception; no matter how irrational, illusory or exuberant that is -- are regarded as a golden age of Democratic politics. Unemployment was under 6% (the good old days). Barack Obama, enough of a student of University of Chicago social sciences, will study Clinton as a man and as a President. It is what, quite frankly, Chicago social science intellectuals do.

What will Obama learn? Obama will learn, among other things, that he and Bill Clinton have more in common -- the health of the Democrat party and the success of Hillary, for instance-- than they have in difference.

Alpha males, naturally, will have their jealous moments (we are still a part of the Great Ape family, after all; perhaps politicians more so). Some form of closer political alliance between Bill Clinton -- who has been there, two times, with a hostile Republican Congress led incidentally by John Boehner -- and President Barack Obama (who is facing a second term run with a hostile Republican Congress), is destined, inevitable, particularly at this moment of exigency. And the destinies of these two powerful alpha male Presidents meet fortuitously in the person of -- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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