The Necessary Audacity of Hillary Clinton as Vice President

09/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Adam Hanft Political Columnist, CEO of Hanft Projects

The likelihood of the 24-hour tchochke mill churning out buttons, placards and key chains screaming Obama/Clinton '08 is about zero.

That's a huge loss and a big mistake. Normally, as we know, the choice of the vice-presidential candidate is far from an election-maker. But this is no ordinary year, as we also know.

The reasons for Senator Obama to choose Senator Clinton as his running mate are manifold, inter-connected, and urgent.

1. Practicality. She would make a meaningful, if not profound difference on the ticket. Her appeal to women and blue-collar voters is indisputably stronger than Obama's. Yes, he can get stronger, although it will be difficult in the face of McCain/Schmidt's relentless efforts to frame him as running for president of the United States of Arugala.

But he will never have her drawing power with the Krispy Kreme krowd, never be able to energize her base, which is so critical in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. And the value of the power and influence of the Clinton network as the race tightens is inestimable.

2. Fairness. Normally by the time a putative nominee has been determined, and the runner-up runs out of gas, the gap between them has become substantial, crippling the argument that any one candidate has a "claim" on the vice-presidential slot.

This year, however, on the strength of 18 million passionate voters, Hillary made it a horse race almost till the end. Say what you will about her mistakes, she threw herself into retail politics with a vengeance, and through that has earned a place on the ticket more than any vice-president in recent memory earned theirs.

To ignore the passion, grittiness and success of her efforts, and anoint a secondary figure like Evan Bayh, is a definitive act that would be hard to interpret as anything but a slap in the face. After all, when both fairness and logic point to Hillary, a rejection of her - from someone whose brand, in large part, stands for a clear-eyed, unemotional, pettiness-free analysis of the facts at hand - is unambiguous.

3. Obama's Personal Narrative. The "Not Ready to Lead" storyline that McCain has introduced essentially says that Obama is talented but immature. Given that the vast majority of reasons for spurning Senator Clinton are personal - the negative nature of the primary, the awkwardness of having Bill big-footing all over the White House, the country and the world - moving beyond her is essentially a validation of McCain's framing of Obama as not possessing the true qualities of leadership.

If she's not selected, the implicit message to voters will be that ego kept her off the ticket, reinforcing the dangerous cultural sub-texting going on right now that defines Obama as arrogantly self-confident.

4. The credibility of her voice. Who would be stronger making the argument that Obama is prepared to lead at 3AM...Hillary Clinton, or Evan Bayh? Who would you want as the archetypal pit-bull VP candidate, taking the low road while Obama remains Obama? Who is remotely as strong as her to stand beside him at the convention, and through the remainder of the campaign, as both a validation of his leadership abilities, a comforting bastion of continuity, and as someone who could lead the country at a moment's notice herself?

5. The stakes. If you believe this is a pivotal election, that it's absolutely critical that we reverse the failed geopolitical, social and economic policies of the last eight years, isn't it a moral and ethical responsibility to construct the strongest national argument for that? Hillary Clinton needs to be part of that argument.

When Hillary dropped out on June 7th -- a two+ month eternity ago -- the conventional veepdom wisdom was that a) he didn't need her; and b) she wouldn't take it. Like most conventional wisdom, it was, and is, wrong on both counts.