Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trading it in for a bucket of warm spit

Bill Keller's Sunday NYT op/ed suggesting that Obama drop Joe Biden from the ticket and replace him with Hillary Clinton strikes me as rather silly. While not as mean-spirited as the Caddell/Schoen please-wreck-your-party memo, I can't imagine what purpose such a suggestion serves. I can understand that some people, particularly Hillary supporters from the 2008 days, would like to see her name in the top slot on the party's ballot and may want a chance to vote for her for national office. But beyond that, I think this idea suffers from two important errors:

  • Error 1: Hillary Clinton would help the Democrats retain the presidency. I see no evidence that she brings any voters to the Democratic side who aren't already there. Yes, I know her approval ratings are currently higher than President Obama's, but that's basically because she isn't the president and isn't receiving blame for economic difficulties. Remember, Obama has basically polled ahead of where economic conditions would predict him to be. Also remember: she's a deeply polarizing figure! She may not look that way now, but put her on the executive ticket and see what happens. Besides, everyone already knows she's a prominent member of the Obama administration. Why changing her job title would bring in additional voters escapes me.
  • Error 2: The Vice Presidency is a promotion above Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton has been the United States' public face abroad during a period of extraordinary international changes. My impression is that she's managed this position rather well, projecting U.S. interests and priorities without appearing overtly pushy or imperialistic. It's a serious job and she's handling it in a serious way. Conversely, what would she be doing as Vice President beyond sitting around waiting for a close vote in the Senate or President Obama's death? When was the last time you read about Joe Biden when it wasn't about him making a gaffe? I have no doubt Biden has been important behind the scenes in dealing with colleagues on Capitol Hill, and Clinton could do the same thing, but this role is very much out of the limelight and it's not obvious just how effective she could be there, particularly if Republicans retain control of at least one chamber. 

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Re Error 1: If someone like Santorum (who is on record against birth control and basically saying women's place is barefoot and pregnant) is on the GOP ticket, having Hillary Clinton on the ticket could draw independent and moderate Republican women to the Democratic ticket. The pick would leverage and accentuate the gender gap that a VP like that would create in the first place. Biden is also not a very good messenger for the "Bain Capital is crony capitalism" message which is emerging as an important one in this campaign and quite frankly was a non-entity on the campaign trail in a way that Hillary Clinton would not be.

Re Error 2: The VP job itself might not be a promotion over Secretary of State, but it would expand her resume (First Lady, U.S. Senate, Secretary of State, Vice President) and in a second term it effectively makes her the presumptive Democratic nomination front runner in 2016. The VP job is flexible in scope - Dick Cheney was quite powerful in that post, other holders of that office have been marginalized. Biden chosen in substantial part as a move to not prejudge the Democratic successor to a President Obama as he isn't a good fit for running for that office himself. But, Americans love dynasties and a Clinton as VP move creates a truly amazing dynasty in 2016.