In his spicy, tantalizing, tell-all inside the belly of the Obama campaign book, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says that Obama toyed with picking Hillary Clinton as his running mate and then junked it because hubby Bill posed too many complications. In less polite terms, the thinking among Team Obama was that Bill would have meddled, bossed, shoved his weight around, and been an insufferable know-it-all wise guy on policy issues. Obama would have had to waste time fending him off, and that would have made governing a living nightmare for him. This is all after-the-fact speculation, second guessing, and flat out Bill loathing.
It's true that Bill passionately and tirelessly backed Hillary's campaign, and he should have. This wasn't just a case of husbandly pride or guilt: millions thought and still think that she was the savviest, most experienced, knowledgeable, best prepared, and toughest of all the 2008 presidential candidates. It's also true that at times Bill's passion and exuberance for her got him in hot water when he took a couple of intemperate swipes at Obama. Much of the media and the professional Hillary loathers giddily jumped all over him for them, and wildly blew them out of proportion. There is, though, absolutely no proof that Bill would have been an unbearable obstructionist in the Obama Administration if Hillary were Vice President.
The proof is in Hillary's campaign. She ran it, Bill didn't. She made the crucial decisions, Bill didn't. She raised the money, Bill didn't. She framed, shaped and articulated all key policy campaign issues, Bill didn't. She did the debates, gave the speeches and interviews, and organized the troops, Bill didn't.
The minute she threw in the towel on her campaign she unhesitatingly endorsed Obama, campaigned for him, and repeatedly bombarded her supporters with emails and exhorted them in speeches to back Obama. Bill did the same.
Nearly a year after the campaign, a mid-October Gallup survey still showed her as far more popular than Obama. This has far more to do with her political savvy, grace and comportment than the fact that she's not a sitting president without the burdens, pressures, and hatred that go with the office. As VP, Hillary would have brought the same qualities to Team Obama that she brought to the campaign. That is expertise on health care reform, civil rights and liberties, campaign finance and immigration reform, and her special area of expertise on foreign policy. She would have been a role model and inspiration for millions of women young and old. She would have proven that women can hold a top political power spot that requires providing valuable policy guidance and expertise on tough domestic and foreign policy issues. She would have been a priceless go-between for Obama to Congress in the hard battles he faces to get his agenda passed.
Obama knew this about Hillary. That´s why he shocked his advisors by seriously considering making her his running mate. The two would have been an unbeatable ticket. He desperately needed her foreign policy expertise to deal with the hot button issues of Iran and North Korea's nukes, improving relations with Venezuela and Cuba, keeping Russia and China at bay, negotiating settlements in the Middle East conflict, and dealing with two flawed and failed wars. He also needed to neutralize her as the only Democrat who still posed any real threat to his 2012 reelection bid. Obama wasted no time in tapping her to head the State Department.
After the Gallup survey that showed she far outshone Obama with the general public, Clinton again proved her iron loyalty to Obama and the Democratic Party by quickly scotching any talk about running for president in 2012. This wasn't Bill talking. This was Hillary talking. Obama's initial instincts to consider her for Vice President were right. Hillary would have made a terrific Vice President--Bill notwithstanding.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.
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