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JUNE 3, 2008 11:06PM

Together, Forward

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Obama-Clinton?

Tonight, on the cusp of the final two Democratic primaries, I find myself reflecting on something other than superdelegates, elected delegates, or What-Will-Hillary-Do. I've noticed that the nation seems to be taking a breath - a long, slow inhalation that has lasted for days, if not weeks - as it collectively tries to make sense of the fast-paced yet historic nominating process finally coming to a close.

As an unabashed Obama supporter, I confess to having been annoyed to various degrees with Hillary Clinton's candidacy. I have found many of her claims to electoral strength and "working class" identity cynical. I have lamented her campaign's often underhanded and exploitative rhetorical tactics. Most of all, however - and perhaps least fairly - I have admittedly been irritated at her refusal to acknowledge the inevitable delegate math after the point at which she could realistically expect victory.

On this last count, the rapidly approaching end of the nominating process has triggered in me a renewed sense of perspective - one that comes on a cool gust of long-awaited relief, like the unleashed rain of darkly hanging summer storm clouds. Even the most die-hard Obama fan must acknowledge Mrs. Clinton's herculean mettle and unmistakable intellectual power. Each every reason these qualities have vexed Obama supporters such as myself now makes an equally compelling case for Obama to unify the Democratic ticket with her, by asking her to be his Vice-Presidential running mate.

The many reasons for my admiration of Barack Obama notwithstanding, Hillary Rodham Clinton embodies many of the traits we have found so lacking in our Democratic politicians. Whereas beginning with the shrugging collapse of the 2000 Election debacle we have only seen Democrats beg for further humiliation and defeat, Mrs. Clinton's presidential run has displayed a dogged relentlessness to a degree that has made her nearly unrecognizable to her party. Of course, I do except her vote on the Iraq War, which I and many others will never forget.

However, on every other count, she has been unapologetic and forceful in her advocacy, and equally as eloquent - never more than now. She has more than earned her bona fides as a battle-tested warrior for progressive causes, and she shows no signs of tiring or slowing. Her undeniable persona, intelligence, and fighting spirit have brought the best out of Barack Obama, sharpening his edge for the fateful contest that looms this summer and fall.

The time has come for Barack Obama to demonstrate the strength of his character and his party's diversity with this gracious acknowledgement of his rival's abilities. Indeed, such a decision would fit perfectly his themes of inclusion and reconciliation. Obama must banish the whispers of "what about Bill" and "what about Hillary's baggage," realizing that these firecracker concerns would be utterly drowned out by the blasting shockwave of significance and advantage produced by making Hillary Clinton his Vice-Presidential running mate.

This epic, unprecedented nomination battle, the smoke of its scattered explosions still hanging in the air, has led the Democratic Party by the nose to this final climax. Capping off such a titanic struggle with the ultimate act of reconciliation and unity would be monumental, dwarfing the notion and threat of John McCain almost instantly and perhaps irrevocably.

Then, with the surging, cacophonous alacrity of the resurgent Democratic Party itself, Obama-Clinton can lead the entire pantheon of Democratic presidential hopefuls in a bristling, full-throated onslaught against the dispirited and flatfooted Republican Party. Old rivalries would be extinguished, the two main candidates united. The bitter disappointment of so many ardent Hillary Clinton supporters would be salved. America would have the breathtaking opportunity to make history not just by electing America's first black President, but also its first female Vice President, at the same time.

To my mind, there is simply no Vice-Presidential candidate from a strategically chosen state or demographic that could rival the redemptive, symbolic, and substantive power of an Obama-Clinton ticket. There is no Obama advocate who could equal Mrs. Clinton's seasoned, thoughtful, and potent voice - particularly when that voice carries the reckoned history of having competed so vigorously with the man.

Furthermore, there is no harm that Bill Clinton could inflict as the husband of the Vice President that he couldn't also cause as the husband of Obama's strongest former competitor. There is also no "baggage" carried by Mrs. Clinton herself that could sully Obama now, his having already survived an often treacherous minefield of personal associations.

Even in office, the boons of Mrs. Clinton as Vice President far outweigh the disadvantages. If Obama can stay so firmly true to himself through this bruising nomination battle, he can certainly hold his own in office with her. She (and Bill) can make formidable surrogates and field marshals for President Obama's agenda. Happily as well, there is barely any light between their stances on the major issues. Reforming health care will be fraught with complexity and peril in any event, and who better to tackle it than Hillary Clinton, from the position of Vice President. Such an administration, perhaps with Edwards, Richards, Biden, and Dodd in key positions, would manifest and enshrine into institutional reality the magnificent, quintessentially American diversity of talent and identity in the Democratic Party.

Truly, the more I contemplate this possibility, the more it thrills me.

In a contest among family, the victor does not vanquish the defeated. Instead, knowing larger battles loom, they embrace. Such an embrace between the inspiring Obama and the steely Clinton would shake the political earth. Indeed, it would strike mortal fear in a Republican Party that knows only how to exploit division, knocking its candidate back on his heels. Looking beyond, this powerful combination could augur an even greater, longer-lasting Democratic ascendancy for years to come.

ADDENDUM:

By these thoughts, I absolutely do not mean to take anything away from the victory Obama is about to realize in eventually becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee. No one should begrudge Obama's achievement in defeating a candidate with immense name recognition, establishment support, and initially presumed front-runner status. I am also not asking anyone to completely ignore and forget Hillary Clinton's less admirable qualities and positions, or the fact that she represents an old model of politics that Obama hopes to repudiate.

In addition, obviously, no one should lose sight of the towering significance that Obama will soon be the first African American to become the presidential nominee of a major American party, with a good likelihood of winning in the general election.

What I am calling for, however, is some maturity from Obama supporters, and some recognition of political truth. As much as I have been and continue to be inspired by Barack Obama, it is folly to romanticize any leader too much, or to pretend they lack any of the cynical qualities of other politicians. We must now be very hard-nosed and realistic about the nature of elections generally, and this election in particular. The reality is that Hillary Clinton has commanded a dedicated electorate that has hardened to a large degree in their support of her.

It certainly isn't impossible that Hillary could persuade her supporters to come out for Obama even if she were not the Vice Presidential candidate, and I'm sure she would still make a formidable campaign asset in that case. Nevertheless, I think the prolonged nomination process, the intensity of the two candidates' supporters, and the closeness of their delegate and popular vote levels calls for giving Mrs. Clinton a much more central role in the general election.

I also, of course, realize that this is Obama's decision alone, and that he will have to contend with a multitude of factors and considerations in the days going forward. Nevertheless, as an independent observer who has still managed not to succumb completely to any politician's spell, my assessment is that the benefits of selecting Hillary as VP far outweigh the disadvantages. But we shall see.

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For some time, I have hoped that a combined ticket would happen, but I'm having second thoughts. I'm thinking now that Clinton has other contributions to make, and that being VP might actually be less than her potential...

Long before it began to be bandied about on the web, I have been suggesting that she would be a good candidate for SCOTUS, and I was one of the first to make that suggestion (many times) on the internet since then.

That might be a more powerful legacy for her, and god knows we need another woman or two on the Court. So says none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It would also have the benefit of diversifying our "assets" from this race, spreading them throughout the government, rather than consolidating them in the WH.

Of course, there must be an opening in order for Obama to make such a nomination... in the meantime, there's always health care.
KTM:

You may be right about Clinton's potential, and that is an interesting and legitimate way of looking at it. One has to wonder how much she herself wants that spot above any other opportunity, including SC Justice.

I think she would make a fine justice too, but one also has to consider the violent resistance Senate Republicans would put up to such a nomination, perhaps in enough numbers to defeat it.

I suppose that could create an interesting and fun inverted image of the histrionic screams of Republicans to Democrats' resistance to a full "upperdown" vote when Bush nominated conservative judges.
I honestly couldn't speculate about whether she's even considered the Court. I only know that I've posted similar comments for well over a year now, whenever it was appropriate.

As for the GOP senators, I've read that the senate is more likely to confirm one of their own. Plus, Clinton has made some allies acros the aisle, and I think she would have enough support even now, but certainly if we were to gain a few more seats.

Mostly, I would just like things to be more settled now. But, I've been trying not to be too "partisan," if only because I was so deeply disappointed when MoveOn decided they had to endorse. (Not that mine would have meant anything.) We all would have been better served if they had simply supported everyone in their support of whichever Democratic candidate, letting the chips fall where they may. Just as some of the better bloggers did. No endorsements.

Okay! That's it for tonight.
I can tell you one thing.

I'm not giving a dime to the democratic party this year. I'm not making one phone call on the party's behalf this year.

Until this party learns that sending up feel good candidates who don't have the stones to take on the republicans and beat them is useless, the democratic party is dead to me.

We need people like Jim Webb and Hillary Clinton running for President, not people like Barack Obama and John Kerry who are so easily portrayed as weak elitists.

The politics of Karl Rove only works when you have a candidate who can be portrayed as he wants. It doesn't work when you have someone who will fight back.

Hope and change? Hope is the stage name of a dancer twirling around a pole at your local gentlemen's club and change is all you're left with when she's done with you.
Tony -

That's a cute little slogan at the end of your comment, did you come up with that all by yourself?

I'm not sure what it will take for some people to realize that Obama is in fact a very tough-minded political fighter, as if his managing to beat Hillary Clinton, the assumed front-runner for the nomination with immense initial support, wasn't an indication. Did you bother to see Obama's speech last night responding to McCain's miserably pathetic attempt to mock him? If you really think Obama doesn't stand a chance after all this, you simply don't have any credibility as an observer of politics.

And boy, it's a good thing you won't be giving any money to the Democratic Party this year. That'll show em. The Democratic Party is "dead" to you because it doesn't send up roughnecks to your liking. Now I know how a petulant 12-year-old might view this election, thank you for sharing that.
Sorry, but Webb hasn't even been a Democrat long enough to run for VP, and he's a pretty lousy campaigner, something we don't need this year. I admire his integrity and all that, but there are lots of better VP candidates.

As for Obama v. McCain, my fondest hope is that Obama will know exactly how to push McCain's buttons and allow him to display that legendary temper during any one or more of their debates or interactions.

One advantage of the long, long season (which was okay with me) is that Obama really is a better debater now than he was at the beginning. Clinton and the rest really made him step up his game. I don't doubt that he can make McCain look like an idiot. And still be gracious while doing do.
As for Clinton on the Supreme Court, I think a lot of Republicans would vote to confirm despite a lot of angry noise. Remember that a lot of Democrats in the Senate voted to confirm John Ashcroft as Attorney General. They like their own in their "club."

Those who would not vote to confirm Clinton on the Supreme Court would do so over the abortion issues, and thus would unlikely vote to confirm any Obama SCOTUS nominee.
To cast a vote for someone simply b/c you think the Rovians are less able to portray them as a 'weak elitist is allowing the enemy to define the terms. Obama is about the redefinition of terms - which is not mutually exclusive to being able to fight effectively when he needs to.
Agreed, Chris. Obama's clearly a fighter, and he's not afraid of rejecting McCain's frames and I already see him daring to attack McCain on what people perceive to be McCain's strengths, such as his apparent genius regarding Iraq. This was the Republican specialty-- attack the undefended strength. Obama is not Kerry; Obama is learning to hit.
But wouldn't you think he'd lean on his own humble beginnings more? Not enough poor people get that Obama was once poor. He can reject the "elitist" frame by punching back with an alternate, but so far I haven't seen a lot of it.
i'm deeply conflicted about the combined ticket. i'm still leaning against, pretty heavily, but warming considerably.

one of my biggest concerns is putting the two firsts together. i'm conflicted about that, too. and it's a weird position, because i've been touting the idea--which i believe--that together they opened the door for blacks, women, latinos, everyone. but . . .

some people are still getting used to the idea. i think there are a lot of people in the middle who will be slightly unnerved to vote for either, and will do it, but they're going to be shaky about it. either alone is scary for them, two at once, first swallow may just be too much.

i'm actually much less worried about that than i was 4-5 months ago. but i'm still worried.

i get caught up in how great it is that it doesn't matter any more, and i live in a city (sort of--denver), where it's no biggie, but i talk to friends in other places, and it's a HUGE deal.

i'm not sure if we're getting ahead of ourselves trying to do two at once. i am so eager to get a woman in there and a black in there and a gayguy and every other group that's been squeezed out, but i also step back and wonder if by reaching too aggressively the first shot, we'll blow it for all those groups. i'd hate to see that happen.
regardless of VP, i think barack should/will find a meaningful roll for hillary on his team.

i think she could be great for secretary of state, but bill's too big a problem there: world summits with a prez and first lady, and sec of state, that's the usual drill. and a former prez? that would seriously complicate matters, especially when bill started shooting his mouth off. who is talking for the admin. (i also think bill would be a HUGE problem as spouse to the VP.)

she could be really good as secretary of defense. i think bill's not a problem there. would she be interested? maybe. national security is one of her big interests, and i'd love to see her managing the pentagon. and i think those generals respect her.

attorney general? i think she'd be fine, and it's a major position, but i'm not sure it's her main area of interest.

supreme court? i think that might be ideal. it's time for another woman on the court, she could be faithful to the cause of justice -- and no bill problem.

which brings us to bill. he doesn't have to be a problem. he's a huge asset, too. i think as the spouse of the VP or sec of state, he'd be massively in the way. but why couldn't he have his own job? i doubt he would take a cabinet position, but maybe some sort of senior advisor role. or bill for the supreme court?

or maybe bill is happy with the ex-prez role he has now. i have no idea. but i assume they are talking to him to see what he wants.
Will Humes -

Thank you. I read your post as well, and also found some very strong arguments there. I don't think it's beyond the realm of debate, by any means - obviously reasonable people can disagree. I'm glad you made your objections known in just such a reasonable way.

I think these times have taken a toll on all of us, including me. The drama and pressure has been intense. Sometimes we forget ourselves. It's very easy to get caught up in the combat of it all, and lose sight of things. I think the closest I came to that with regard to the Clinton-Obama contest was last weekend, when Harold Ickes announced that he would "reserve the right" to take it to the Credentials Committee. I about flipped out when he said that, especially with the hateful tone he took. I really believed him then, although we learned the next day that the threat was empty.

With so much at stake, I suppose it's understandable why people would get so sucked in emotionally. I am a big fan of releasing that, however, and finally stepping back to see the bigger picture, if I can.
You may say that a 12 year old petulant person wants a fighter, but guess what?

Who won the last two elections?

And he wasn't even really a fighter. Unlike McCain, he ducked out on serving his country. McCain actually did fight.

There already is a problem with democrats being perceived as "weak." It's been going on for my entire adult life and then some.

In the first Presidential campaign I was old enough to vote in, I remember how George Bush Sr went after Mike Dukakis. He portrayed him as a weak elitist. I thought that was BS because how the hell is a guy who was the sitting Vice President and who had a father who was a Senator going to say his opponent is an elitist?

And it worked.

Bill Clinton knew how to take those people on, and he won two terms.

Then we had Al Gore. And John Kerry. They portrayed them as out of touch elitists, and guess who won?

It will happen again, and Obama just doesn't seem to have what it takes to fight this.

I could be wrong, but he hasn't shown me anything yet.
Tony:

It will happen again, and Obama just doesn't seem to have what it takes to fight this.

I could be wrong, but he hasn't shown me anything yet.


Really though, have you seen this? Can you really say it resembles any of the bad examples you cited?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtL-1V3OZ0c
Someone down-rated my post. How pathetically petty.
Great post, Chris. Like you, I also have come to the conclusion that Hillary will be the best choice of running mate, although I cited a few different reasons in my post that just went up. I agree that the power they could wield together would be virtually unstoppable in the general election.
Chris, I haven't rated very many posts here yet, since I'm still getting the lay of the land, but I just give this one a thumbs up. A little balance I thought...
KTM - thank you. I don't really care all that much if my posts are super-popular or highly rated, I just love to write and know that people are reading and hopefully getting something from my rants. I was just kind of struck wondering what would compel someone to give the outright thumbs-down to my post. It's not a big deal, I just didn't think I had said anything offensive or unfair. I'm glad you appreciated my thoughts though.

Jim White - nice to see you!
So, now I'm rethinking the combined ticket again... after reading this article in the NYTimes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/opinion/06tyson.html?ref=todayspaper

It describes a polling method that fairly accurately predicted the 2004 results, even though that election was so close.

According to this method and CURRENT polls, McCain beats Obama and Clinton beats McCain.

Of course, there is time to work hard and have an effect on those polls, but it certainly is possible that a combined ticket would make that work easier.

Rock. Paper. Scissors.?
KTM:

Well, the good news is that there's a lot of time (in political terms) remaining until the convention in August, and even more until the election. So very much can change.

The polls can swing all over the place (or not). Clinton can become a powerful proxy for Obama (or not). Obama might settle on a non-Clinton VP pick who still ends up shoring up all the required elements to win.

The general election is JUST getting started, and just remember - in the two days since Clinton actually signaled she was bowing out, look how drastically the tone has changed from Democrats-are-divided to Democrats-are-coming-back-together.

This baby's just getting warmed up.