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Rob Kall Headshot

Will Hillary Be Obama's Cheney?

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Will a Hillary vice presidency continue the precedent of presidential candidates picking VP running mates who also serve as insurance against impeachment and as pit bulls who do the dirty work?

We already know how far right wingers- the remaining 27% who still staunchly support Dubya -- feel about Hillary. They hate her guts from their heads to their toes, kinda like liberals feel about Cheney.

While the mainstream media and a lot of bloggers are proclaiming their indignance over Hillary's dumb remark about RFK, castigating her for her inappropriate mention of assassination, some even accusing her of suggesting the idea, I see a different perspective. Hillary is setting herself up to be Obama's Cheney-like junkyard dog.

She's shown how, with Bill, she can be incredibly tough, aggressive and abrasive -- to the extent that she's certainly pissed a lot of Obama supporters off. On the other hand, Obama has worked hard to come across as the great healer, the candidate to heal the divide and bring people together. Frankly, when the campaign gets into full gear, in September, I want a team that can get very tough. Hillary and Bill could play the "bad guys" in the good cop, bad cop routine, leaving Obama to hold on to his vision and hope positive persona. I get the feeling, Bill could really sink his teeth into the job of being the hardball guy who goes after Republicans.

Further, once Obama wins the Obama-Clinton election, Hillary will serve for Obama very nicely as Cheney served for Dubya, as a huge disincentive to right wingers even thinking about impeaching Obama. Bill Clinton had the relatively benign Al Gore, who was not anywhere near as polarizing as Cheney. Bush senior had Dan Quayle, generally seen as a mental midget who no-one could have seriously considered as a serious presidential replacement. If you think about it, Gore was an anomaly -- a tolerable VP who the other side might not have loved, but that they'd have lived with Gore without grinding their teeth in their sleep. He certainly was no attack dog for Bill Clinton and perhaps things would have been different for Clinton and for Democrats if they'd had a high visibility tough guy who was also so unacceptable as a Vice President, they would never have considered impeachment.

If Hillary does run with Obama and does play the bad cop, tough guy roll for him, which seems so, so natural, it might be a very good thing for future female candidates. She's already been villified in so many ways by right wingers, if she comes off as a tough, Cheney-type of negotiator, she'll play a valuable role for the Democrats and she'll show that women in the US can be Iron Women, like Margaret Thatcher. That will "stretch the envelope" of public perception of female American leaders, and that's a good thing.

Clinton lost the candidacy because she allowed her campaign managers to plan and run an overly top-down campaign against Obama's incredibly successful predominantly bottom-up campaign. There WILL be a roll for top-down management and leadership in the Obama presidency, even if it works better, image-wise for Obama to limit and delegate some of his top-down command and control functions and needs to Hillary, or whoever he chooses. As "bottom-up" leadership and strategy continues to explode as the new political paradigm, Bush's selection of Cheney, which allowed Dubya to come off as the regular guy may be seen, as history looks back, as a brilliant move. If Obama gives Hillary some of the more aggressive Top-down jobs, he'll be able to maintain his image as the "bottom-up" we-the-people, grassroots leader, while tapping the power of the executive office.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to consider other potential Democratic VP candidates in light of, not only their ability to pull key states or demographics, or to cover strengths lacking in the presidential candidate, but their "Cheneyesque" natures -- their ability to be a tough, to play hardball. Chris Dodd might be one. He's shown his willingness, on occasion, to stand up to the Dem leaders who have given the senate its "spineless" reputation. California's attorney General Jerry Brown might be another one. Hey, he's a former flower child, but we're talking about toughness, not corruptness or corporate sellout, at least in the case of Brown. Selling out to corporations IS a concern for Hillary. She's a bit too chummy with the K street crew. Then again, roses have thorns. I wonder if it's possible to actually elect the purest of candidates in today's world.

That said, I am not suggesting that Hillary will become a criminal who engages in a multiplicity of offenses against the constitution, who engages in serial corruption, totally worthy of impeachment, as Cheney has. My hope is she and Bill will operate as tough, honest operators who work to accomplish the vision and mission Obama is elected to complete.

Politics is all about compromise and putting Hillary on the ticket with Barack would be the penultimate compromise. It may also be a brilliant idea that really does bring together America -- at least the Democratic party and more than 50% of the voters in November -- which is the outcome I think the rest of the world and a majority of Americans desire.

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