Saturday, November 15, 2008
While choosing Clinton as SOS is different from choosing her to be “Vice-President” (I use quotes because the campaign to force Obama to choose her is a Vice-President was really seeking a co-Presidency), many of the reasons why it would be a bad decision are the same.
First, how is it different? Well, for one, the SOS serves more or less “at the pleasure” of the President, meaning it is easier to get rid of the person serving as Secretary of State and it has been done countless times while there is no record of any Vice-President being cashiered, except during the next election. The last instance of a VP change within the same President’s Administration was 1944, when FDR’s lack of enthusiasm for Vice-President Henry Wallace opened the door for the Democratic convention to choose Harry Truman (arguably Spiro Agnew is a more recent example but he was forced to resign for legal reasons). So, Hillary would be on a shorter lease as SOS.
Second, being SOS would limit Hillary’s ability to co-opt Obama on domestic policy, but this is only somewhat reassuring since too many people minimize the importance of foreign policy, which gets us to some of the problems with Hillary as SOS.
The reasons Hillary is a bad choice are still the same. She and her husband have no record of playing second fiddle to anyone else. If her campaign demonstrated anything else, it was the sense that the Clintons feel entitled to power. Yes, she played the good soldier on the campaign trail in the fall after Obama was nominated, but so has almost every other losing candidate for a Presidential nomination. The tendency of the Clintons to want to set “their own” foreign policy is going to be strong and by choosing Hillary, Barack is going to open himself up to the question of who is running the show. One article in the Politico came close to making it explicit: “Clinton would be most attractive if Obama concludes that he will have to focus his early days in office on the domestic economy, and will have to essentially outsource heavy-duty foreign travel to his secretary of state.” This is a VERY bad impression to leave in public. Foreign policy is really the President’s number one responsibility. Yes, “the economy” is high in the voters’ minds right now and it is always fun and easy to bash the rich and talk about helping the middle class and poor, but truth be told, the President has a limited ability to affect macroeconomic trends and even then, he needs agreement from Congress. His hand is much freer and his direct impact much greater on foreign affairs. The President could order withdrawal from Iraq or bombing of Iran in minutes (Congress would weigh in at some point but he could initiate this on his own). Second, if terrorists were to set off a nuke in an American city, the composition of the economic stimulus package is pretty well moot. This is not to suggest the former is any more likely with Hillary as SOS, but rather, foreign policy is not something to be “outsourced” to Hillary or anyone else.
Certainly many who resisted Hillary as VP, especially given the obnoxious demands of her most bitter supporters, might be open to her as SOS. Since this idea appears to have originated with Obama, obviously his supporters don’t feel he is being pressured. However, the downsides aren’t escaping notice. Hillary’s foreign policy experience is really rather thin as the New York Times notes “Greg Craig, one of Mr. Obama’s top foreign policy aides, detailed in a memorandum in March what the campaign called evidence of Mrs. Clinton’s lack of foreign policy experience. Another Obama adviser, Susan Rice, said in a conference call during that period that the ability to handle a 3 a.m. crisis phone call was not something that could be acquired “merely by being married to a commander in chief.” An article in the Washington Post also pointed out that she and, more importantly, Bill would have to undergo a vetting process. The same article reported that Bill Richardson and John Kerry, whose foreign policy credentials are far more impressive than Hillary’s, are also in the running.
All of this may be nearly a done deal, according to some press reports and certainly the fact this has made it into the news and the Obama people aren't really slapping it down, it doesn’t augur well. All I can say I hope Barack knows what he is getting himself into.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Of course, people have been aggressively pushing Hillary as VP for months. First there are the disgruntled anti-Obama Clinton supporters have a demand “Pick Hillary or else line” as much in spite as anything else. Also, pro-Clinton hacks masquerading as objective media pundits continue to chant “Hillary for VP.” CNN’s David Gergen and Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis have continued to push the “Obama needs Hillary to win” line. There are huge flaws in this argument. First, the evidence to back up this claim all seems to be rooted in a Fox News poll in July showing Obama-Clinton enjoying a larger lead against a hypothetical McCain-Romney ticket than Obama enjoyed against McCain in a matchup of only Presidential candidates. If there is more recent polling data to support this assertion, they don’t mention it. What recent polling data does show is Obama enjoys a consistent if narrow lead over McCain. As of today, the polling data over at RealClearpolitics.com shows Barack over McCain from 1 to 5 points. No current poll shows McCain ahead. If Obama can win on his own, why does he need Hillary? It isn’t just an academic question because picking Hillary would come at a VERY high cost.
Obama has been exceptionally gracious to the Clintons, given the obnoxious behavior of Bill Clinton and Hillary’s supporters. While Hillary has been publicly supportive of Barack, she has done little to restrain her supporters’ overt hostility to him. The Clintons will already have very prominent speaking rolls on two nights of the four-day Democratic convention and Hillary may get a third when the roll call vote is held. What would it say if the Vice-Presidential candidate ends up with more speaking time than the Presidential candidate? By all accounts, Bill Clinton has refused to open the donor list to his Presidential library to Barack’s Vice-Presidential vetting team. To pick Hillary after that would make a mockery of the process. Hillary’s supporters have already said she should have clearly defined “responsibilities.” Since when does a Vice-Presidential aspirant make demands of the Presidential nominee in public? Finally, there is Hillary herself, who said the Vice-President “can’t be fired.” What should be clear is Hillary would not be Vice-President but a co-President or at least a greatly empowered Vice-President with an independent power base that gives her the ability to chart a course of her own. Let’s just hope Barack realizes this if he is seriously considering her as his “Vice”-Presidential nominee.
Monday, August 4, 2008
It must have been a slow news day at CNN, since they have nothing better to do than push Hillary as VP. Jack Cafferty, who was critical of Hillary during the primary campaign, asks “Should Obama consider Clinton for V.P.?” It isn’t necessarily a bad question except it included only the talking points from the “PICK HILLARY OR ELSE” crowd and nothing else. Former Clinton Administration strategists David Gergen also cites the Faux Snews poll showing Hillary would boost the ticket, as if that is proof by itself. What is more he evokes the Kennedy-Johnson analogy to show that previous differences between the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees don’t mean they can’t be on a successful ticket. What people who push Hillary by citing Kennedy and Johnson miss is what made that match successful wouldn’t be an option with Hillary. Political rivals don’t sit easily in the same Administration unless one is clearly subordinate. LBJ was a powerless Vice-President, he was not part of the Kennedy inner circle and much of his time as Vice-President was spent on goodwill visits overseas. Hillary wouldn’t be content with such a minimal role and anyone who thinks she would is deluding themselves, her supporters have already demanded she be given significant power and responsibility.
Finally, in a recent interview, Bill Clinton continued to illustrate why the Clintons' loyalty to Barack is questionable at best. He was very tepid in his praise for Barack. Also, he declared he wasn’t a racist, even though the questioner never even raised the issue. What is more, to my knowledge, no one in Barack’s campaign ever claimed he was.
To be blunt, a possible short-term bounce from picking Hillary would not be worth the long term grief.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Although it is her supporters who are saying her name should be placed in nomination, she is doing nothing to dissuade them and then lamely claims “I don’t have total control over this process.” That may be true, but she would seem sincere if she actively discouraged her supporters from placing her name in nomination because of the obvious divisiveness it would cause.
She is also cagey on the Vice-Presidential nomination, claiming she isn’t seeking it but giving reasons why Obama should select someone who, not surprisingly, has her characteristics. Left unsaid is the fact that having the threat of her name being placed in nomination for President, she retains leverage to push for a co-Presidency via the Vice-Presidency.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Clinton backer demands an empowered Vice-Presidency for Hillary and dubious Fox News poll lends support to the “Pick Hillary or else crowd”
“In order for the union [of Obama and Hillary] to work, Clinton will have to be offered a clearly defined portfolio of responsibilities.” (italics added)Really? The sheer brazenness of that statement is stunning. When has a person seeking the Vice-Presidency every made such a demand? In public, no less! Of course this isn’t coming from the Clintons themselves, but given Kunin’s stature she isn’t just some voice in the wilderness but rather a Hillary insider. People who support Barack and are open to having Hillary is VP should consider what this type of arrangement might look like.
Poll by Faux Snews boosts “Pick Hillary or else” argument
There has always been something silly about the frequent claim by Hillary supporters that “Obama will lose unless he chooses Hillary to be his Vice-Presidential nominee.” First, I’m hard pressed to cite any polls that show Obama losing to McCain, so how they claim he will lose without her is a stretch, but a new poll from Fox suggests adding Clinton may strengthen him.
Today, Fox news released a poll that shows Obama only up by one percent (41 to 40 percent) in a head to head match with McCain. However, if Hillary is paired with Obama and Mitt Romney with McCain, this poll suggests Obama-Hillary betweens McCain-Romney by nine percent (48 to 39 percent).
What is wrong with this poll? Perhaps plenty, where to begin? First, when voters of given the option of voting for Ralph Nader or others, Barack’s lead against McCain is three percent (40 percent for Barack, 37 percent for McCain, 2 percent for Nader and the remainder “Other”, “Don’t Know” or “Not Vote”). It seems odd that, excluding the others, especially Nader, raises McCain’s vote more than Barack’s. Also other polls with head-to-head match-ups between Barack and McCain show a wider gap. The most recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll has Obama up by six percent, Gallup’s July 21-23 sample has Obama up by two and Rasmussen has Obama up by three. Given margins of error, these polls do not necessarily contradict the Fox poll but it does suggest the Fox poll may have over sampled McCain and Hillary supporters.
Also, the comparison with potential Vice-Presidential nominees is at odds with other polls that have suggested there is no benefit to adding Hillary. Even if one takes the Fox poll at face value, it only pairs Barack and Hillary against McCain and Romney. There is no mention of other prominent Democratic VP nominees, so we don’t know the relative benefits of adding Hillary.
However, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, so I can only assume the Fox poll is flawed not phony. So, let’s assume for the sake of argument adding Hillary strengthens Barack’s chances of winning at this time. Although press coverage of Hillary has declined since she “suspended” her campaign, negative press coverage of Hillary has ended completely. What is left has been quite favorable, praising her “tenacity”, noting her warm public embrace of Obama and so forth. Plus, not burdened with the tough decisions that the nomination and the Presidency carry, she has been free to take easy votes, such as her vote against telecom immunity. The day Obama chooses Hillary, her honeymoon ends, and all her baggage will be brought back before our eyes. Even if one assumes Obama gets favorable press and they might go easy on Hillary if she is Barack’s VP, the Republicans will certainly open the Clinton scandal box. Secondly, Hillary and Bill have never played second fiddle to anyone. Given Hillary’s sense of entitlement to the Presidency, how long until she reveals her anger that she has to run as back up to a man she deemed unqualified several months ago. Even if one assumes Hillary would run a disciplined campaign as the supportive Vice-Presidential nominee, how long until Bill wonders off the reservation with some remark that causes Obama embarrassment. What is more, what does would it say to the public if Obama chooses Hillary in light of the demands of her obnoxious supporters? You can bet plenty of media pundits claim he caved and displayed weakness, perhaps with justification. Above all else, a successful Presidential candidate can’t afford to be seen as weak. Rest assured, if Hillary looks like a plus to ticket, it is only in the moment.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The most recent exception was in 1956 when delegates at the Democratic convention actually chose the Vice-Presidential nominee, but only after Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson threw the selection process open to the delegates. Even in this instance the prerogative of the Presidential nominee was predominant.
Never ones to be bound by custom or taste, as Hillary’s prospects for winning the top spot on the ticket grew increasingly dim in May and June, the Clintons suddenly decided, “well, okay, we’ll take the Vice-Presidency.” It wasn’t that explicit of course. First there were Clinton surrogates suggesting a so-called “dream ticket” of Obama and Hillary, then it was revealed the Bill Clinton said Hillary had “earned” an offer of the Vice-Presidency (one wonders what Bill’s reaction would have been in 1992 if he was told Paul Tsongas or Bob Kerrey had earned the offer to be his running mate and he was obliged to make the offer?). Finally, it was reported that in conversations with supporters, Hillary did not reject the plans to mount efforts to “encourage” Obama to choose her.
The taboo of expressing uninvited interest in the Vice-Presidency has been broken before. 2008 also-ran former Senator Mike Gravel submitted his name for the Vice-Presidential nomination at the Democratic convention in 1972 but was soundly trounced by the Presidential nominee George McGovern’s pick Thomas Eagleton. What is unusual is the speed in which Hillary began a campaign to anoint herself Vice-Presidential nominee and intensity of her supporters’ tactics. Blogs have been set up to promote her candidacy, Hillary supporters are being encouraged to flood online polls, they are employing hot rhetoric to demand Obama choose her.
What Hillary and supporters don’t seem to understand is Vice-Presidential nominees are not self-selected. Even if selecting her was a good idea, and it isn’t, the tactics of her supporters look like an ultimatum to Obama. For him to agree would be a sign of weakness.
The results of the MSNBC “Veepstakes” are in
The efforts of Hillary supporters to stampede the online poll came up short, Senator Joe Biden was preferred selection by 55% to 45% for Hillary. If there was an organized effort for Joe, it wasn’t apparent. I guess it was a simple case of merit. I don’t know if Barack wants Biden or Biden really would accept, but as I said before, he’d be a FAR better choice than Hillary.
Friday, July 18, 2008
MSNBC VP Poll
To vote: after the page loads click the small arrow next to Hillary's name and then press submit towards the bottom right hand side.
These folks are taking a cue from Hillary's primary campaign, say or do anything to win!
MSNBC's Veepstakes poll is fashioned after tournament where potential VP nominees are paired up and participants are asked to choose between them. The last two are Senator Joe Biden and Hillary. Biden isn't necessarily my first choice but he would be a fine VP for Barack and is infinitely better than Hillary. I have voted for Biden and encourage others to do so. Don't let Hillary and her dishonest supporters railroad the VP selection process!
If you haven't already voted in the MSNBC poll, please do so!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Several pro-Clinton blogs are crowing about a supposed canvassing of superdelegates that revealed eight who committed to Barack would vote for Hillary in a roll call vote. This appears to be wishful thinking, but even if true, she’d need plenty more to switch to seriously threaten Barack’s nomination.
More than likely, this really part of a campaign to force Barack to make Hillary his “co-President” although her official title would be Vice-President. An Op-Ed in the London Guardian hit the nail on the head with the question “will Hillary and her sulking supporters successfully blackmail Obama into choosing Hillary as his running mate?” The media in this country have not really picked on the shenanigans of Hillary’s supporters nor have they focused on the glaring gap between Hillary’s sucking up to Barack in public and what is apparently going on behind the scenes. Hillary has only “suspended” her campaign. Traditionally when a candidate drops out and endorses the front runner, they release their delegates but Hillary has not done so. Suspending her campaign has also allowed standing to rise by keeping her out of the limelight. Once Hillary dropped out of the race, her negative press coverage ended and even many journalists who had been critical started singing their praise of Hillary. At the same time, Barack faced continued media exposure and had to make some tough decisions. I happen to think Barack voted correctly on the final FISA bill, others don’t but it is clear the easy vote for a Democrat was “no.” Hillary almost certainly would have voted for passage had she been the nominee but knowing the bill was going to pass and free from the burden of being the nominee she took the easy path in an attempt to burnish her credentials with progressives who opposed her and voted in the negative. Naturally, there is some second-guessing about Obama and while Hillary publicly butters up Barack, the implicit message is “hey, I’m still available.”
When is the press going to pick up on Hillary’s game?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Several people thought to be potential Democratic Vice-Presidential candidates have dropped off the list and there is an increasing tendency in the press to suggest they will all drop off and Barack will be forced to surrender to Hillary. A post in the generally conservative RealClearPolitics cites the withdrawals of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Virginians Senator Jim Webb and Senate candidate Mark Warner to suggest Barack may have no choice but to pick Hillary. The post concludes by saying “[w]ith Obama's diminishing short list, let's make a prediction: Despite the denials all around, Hillary Clinton as VP is an idea that I think has weathered the tumultuous month following her defeat. Polls show Democratic voters still like the idea and Clinton's electoral strengths certainly haven't lessened any…an Obama/Clinton ticket is very much a possibility.”
This mostly nonsense. First, of the four contenders who dropped out, only one was ever a serious VP possibility. Ted Strickland and Jack Reed looked good on paper, but as Michael Barone suggested, Strickland’s resume is very thin and he apparently judged himself to be unqualified. Reed’s military background made him attractive to a few (including yours truly) but he was not being formally vetted by the Obama campaign, rather he was a temporary media celebrity after it was announced that he was going to accompany Obama on an upcoming trip to Iraq. The reality is the low key Reed doesn’t desire the job and it was never seriously in offing. Mark Warner is already a candidate for the Senate in Virginia. He is the prohibitive favorite to win the Senate race at the moment, a race that might be much more in doubt if he suddenly wasn’t the Democratic candidate. It is doubtful the Senate Democrats want to give up what looks like a sure pickup when Obama has plenty of other choices for VP. The one who was apparently going to be vetted but dropped out was Webb. Most of the speculation suggested Webb would not have wanted his many non-politically correct statements of the past open to re-examination. Webb, who changed parties to Democrat only a few years ago, at one time suggested women had no business in the military and made statements that some took as sympathy for the Confederate cause in the Civil War.
Even these eliminations still leave Biden, Edwards, Richardson, Bayh and a host of others. Of course, Hillary is on the list but only because some of her supporters and Obama’s enemies feel she is owed it or he is stuck with her, not because she is a good choice.
About those polls
Hillary’s supporters and Obama’s enemies continually read the polls incorrectly. Many typically use the same logic as the RealClearPolitics post, basically “most Democrats want Obama to select Hillary, therefore he should” as if that observation matters. What really matters is whether selecting Hillary would help the ticket and here the evidence runs against a selection of Hillary as VP.
The latest Quinnipiac poll finds Democrats favor Hillary’s selection by a margin of 56 to 33 percent. Democrats also plan to vote for Obama over McCain by a margin of 84 to 8 percent, in short, whatever Democrats may feel about Hillary as VP, they are voting for Obama anyway. Among independent voters, who could tilt the election, Obama and McCain are running evenly and this same group opposes Hillary as VP by a margin of 50 to 35 percent and all voters oppose the selection of Hillary by 49 to 36 percent. More importantly, 28 percent of independents and 24 percent of all voters say the selection of Hillary would make them less likely to support Obama while only 18 percent of independents and 19 percent of all voters said they would be more likely to support Obama. In other words, Hillary would be a drag on the ticket.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Hagel and Reed to accompany Barack on trip. Clinton backer pushes Hillary in phone conversation with Barack
A number of news reports have cited a Los Angeles Times article in which Barack said he was considering Hillary as a running mate. The claim apparently comes from Democratic donor and Hillary backer Jill Iscol. Obama contacted her as part his outreach to Clinton backers and she took the opportunity to push for Hillary as VP. According to Iscol, Obama responded by saying Hillary was on his list of possible choices but Bill Clinton “complicated” matters. According to the London Telegraph, Bill Clinton is not willing to have the contributions to his presidential library scrutinized by Obama’s vetters while other potential selections are undergoing rigorous scrutiny. If true, that is equivalent of Bill giving Barack the finger.
Iscol was noncommittal of making a donation to Obama, apparently in the hope that will encourage him to choose Hillary. This smacks of blackmail and her indiscretion in making the discussion public has to further send a shiver down Obama’s spine about the Clintons and their supporters. The fact that Clinton donors are holding back on giving money to Barack makes one wonder if the Clintons’ commentary regarding Obama to their supporters in private differs from Hillary’s supportive public commentary.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The Clintons have their good points. While I have problems with Bill’s ethics, I think his time as President was good for the United States and while I don’t think he deserves all (or even most of) the credit for the peace and prosperity that characterized the period from 1993 to 2000, he certainly deserves some. He made what I consider to be sound policy decisions. As for Hillary, I agree with her stated positions on many issues. However, none of this means she would be a good selection for Obama as his running mate. The reasons for not choosing her are clear.
Fundamentally, there are several factors for any nominee to consider when selecting a Vice-Presidential candidate. Obviously, the Presidential nominee would want to choose someone could assume the job of President but realistically, many potential Vice-Presidential nominees meet that criteria. The two more fundamental questions are 1) Does the Vice-Presidential pick increase the ticket’s chances of winning the general election and 2) Would that pick be a good fit in the future Administration?
As nears as I can tell Hillary is a wash on question 1. Several polls have shown Democrats favor putting Hillary on the ticket but most of them are likely to vote for the Democratic ticket anyway. More telling are polls of all voters and the most recent I could find suggested Obama-Clinton doesn’t poll much differently than Obama by himself.
On question 2, Hillary is complete flop. Vice-Presidents are supposed to be loyal to the President above all else and the Clintons have never played second fiddle to anyone, it is hard to imagine them starting now, especially to a man Hillary suggested was unprepared to be President. More than likely, the Clintons envision Hillary as Vice-President with greatly expanded powers and a portfolio for Bill as well; In effect, a tri-Presidency with Obama as the odd man out. That would be a disaster as this nation doesn’t need three chief executives.
Finally, there are the Clintons themselves. It might be tempting to take Hillary’s recent warm praise of Obama at face value but the problem is, how would one know? While even the most honest politicians fib a bit, Hillary and Bill have a record of mendacity that puts them pretty low in the trust scale. If someone isn’t accustomed the getting shot at, they tend to have a pretty good memory of when they did. It is hard to see Hillary’s repeated claim about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire as anything but a brazen lie. Also, because all politicians pander, pandering itself isn’t a disqualification but the shamelessness of the Hillary is amazing. There isn’t any serious Democratic policy analyst who favored cutting the gas tax and Hillary Clinton probably didn’t either. However, this spring she came out for a cut in the gas tax after having talked about the need for alternative energy and reduction in green house gases. Lower fossil fuel prices are the quickest way to make those goals harder to achieve. It would have been one thing if she called for a second stimulus package to, among other things, help mitigate the impact of higher gas prices. At least that could have been targeted to low income folks and because the recipients could spend the money on whatever they deemed necessary, the incentive to conserve would have remained. However, Hillary just couldn’t resist demanding a cut in the gas tax that would have benefited millionaire owners of Hummers, because she saw political gain. Not only was it dishonest given what she said she believed otherwise, it showed a lack of leadership and a lack of courage that Obama commendably showed on the issue.
Bill’s mendacity is well documented but perhaps he was being the honest one in this case, when he reportedly told someone Obama could kiss his behind if he expected support. All the more reason for Obama not to want a Clinton in his Administration.