Published on TheHill.com on May 13, 2008.
It would be an act of terminal insanity for Barack Obama to name Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential candidate. It would not help him get elected, it would drag all the Clinton controversies into the general election, and having her down the hall in the West Wing would be a recipe for disaster, dissension and civil war. Other than that, it’s a hell of an idea!
Start with the election. There are two kinds of people who backed Hillary in the primaries: her original supporters and those who joined her later in the game. Her original backers are all solid Democrats whose arms would fall off before they would back anyone who is pro-life. They are true believers, feminists, pro-choice advocates, older party loyalists who would prefer Hillary, may have doubts about Obama, but will always fall in line and vote Democratic. The more recent converts are people who are turned off by Obama’s connection to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and who worry that he might be a closet black radical. Their latent racial fears were heightened by the revelations about Obama’s links with Wright, and they voted for Hillary as the lesser of two evils. Putting Mrs. Clinton on the ticket will do nothing to assuage these fears. One wonders if these blue-collar, downscale, racially motivated voters would actually support Hillary against John McCain if she were to win the nomination. They certainly wouldn’t follow her into Obama’s camp just because she was on the ticket.
Obama’s key need in the election is to demonstrate his experience and ability to do the job despite only minimal federal experience. Running with someone whose experience he, himself, derided will hardly solve this problem. Voters only credit Hillary with having experience when her record is compared with Obama’s almost total lack of a record. Against McCain, she would do nothing to close the experience gap. Better for Obama to choose a senator with long tenure – a Chris Dodd (Conn.) or Joseph Biden (Del.) – just as Dukakis chose Bentsen, Bush chose Cheney, and Kennedy chose Johnson.
If Obama put Hillary on the ticket, it would re-raise all of the questions about Bill’s income sources, what he did for Dubai, what he did for Frank Guistra – the Canadian mining executive who gave millions to the Clinton library and whom Bill introduced to the president of Kazakhstan – and whether he will make public his library donors. Who needs those issues, especially when Obama is trying to wage an anti-Washington-influence-peddling campaign?
Finally, having Hillary in the West Wing would be a nightmare. There is no way that Obama could trust her. She would be a throwback to the old days when the president did not consult the vice president on anything, a situation which led Vice President John Nance Garner, FDR’s VP during his first two terms, to call the office “not worth a pitcher of warm piss.”
If Obama got into trouble, he would have to look over his shoulder at Hillary and he would always have both Bill and Hillary around to show him up, hog the limelight, generate controversy with ill-considered remarks, and make life difficult. Would Bill stop giving speeches and making money? Would his ties with Arab nations and questionable American and Canadian businessmen end? Or would Obama have to explain his VP’s husband’s business dealings over and over again.
And, the ultimate question: Can Bill Clinton be put back into the bottle? Is this recent spate of angry, finger-wagging bursts of inappropriate outrage a permanent fixture of his public persona? Does Obama want to take the risk of having him on the team and having to account for his conduct?
Hillary would add no votes to Obama, she would dog his campaign with scandal, she would be disloyal in office, and her husband would be, at best, a huge distraction. Case closed.