Politics

What Does Hillary Want?

"Situations Wanted:  Mature female attorney, government experience, desires challenging career change."

Or does she?  What DOES Hillary want?  Maybe better yet, what does Hillary NEED?
This is clearly a crossroads moment, and the answer doesn’t necessarily lie in the only other two times a Clinton lost:  1974, in Bill’s first try for elective office, a good race against an incumbent congressman only fueled his successful run two years later for Arkansas attorney general.  And after his first term as governor led to reelection defeat, Bill ostensibly spent two years at a Little Rock law firm, but in truth, from 1974 on, he never stopped running for something.  He won the rematch and was governor ten more years before eight years as president.  Running FOR is what he did best, arguably much better than running THINGS.  But is that really what Hillary wants/needs? 

First, the obvious:  Hillary wants to be president, and now that she can’t be that this year, she wants to topple a 76-year-old President McCain when she’s still only 65, in 2012.  Yes, she’ll "work her heart out" to elect Barack Obama, in the same way that we should start laying tarmac around pigsties because pigs will be flying more regularly than American Airlines (and probably not charging for checked bags).  She’ll do precisely what it takes to convince party faithful that she’s really trying, and not one ounce more.  Unless she’s picked as the running mate, in which case Obama should start wearing a hat.  To hide the lobotomy scar. 

What about a Supreme Court nomination?  Yes, what about it?  For Obama, it would effectively get her away from looking over his shoulder, and she could no doubt be counted on as a reliably liberal jurist.  But Obama would get more bang for his appointment buck with someone younger.

There’s always the Obama cabinet, although giving Hillary anything remotely resembling a power base is akin to giving a teenaged boy whiskey and car keys.  Would a President Obama really need that hassle?  Plus, which would Hillary want?  HHS would seem obvious except that it’s such a minor cabinet position when you’re the savior of womankind.  No, Hillary’s sense of entitlement would fairly well demand State or Defense, and those would be real power bases, sufficient for a critical mass of mischief. 

What about Senate Majority Leader, as some have suggested?  I have to tell you, Harry Reid seemed not the least threatened when I raised that to him.  He merely noted that he has every intention of winning reelection in two years and then winning reelection as majority leader.  He refused to speculate on any challenges from anyone, much less the junior senator from New York. 

And I’m not so sure Hillary would relish the job the way Reid does.  It’s a nitpicking nose-counting kind of job, not the grand platform Hillary would seem to want.  Ted Kennedy tried it awhile as sort of "this will do til the White House comes along", but he lost the leadership to a man who wanted nothing more than majority leader:  Robert Byrd.  Other senators didn’t want grand vision.  They wanted someone who knew how to count votes and twist arms, and bothered to. 

There is, of course, the pedestrian job of just being in the most exclusive club in the world.  Granted, it’s way beneath Hillary, but she does serve on the Armed Services Committee and its Air/Land, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, and Readiness Management and Support subcommittees; The Environment and Public Works Committee and its Superfund and Environmental Health subcommittee (as chair), plus the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, and Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittees; The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and its Children and Families, and Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittees.  And, she serves on the Special Committee on Aging. 

That’s four committees and eight subcommittees, not to mention looking after the needs of nearly 20 million constituents.  It’s not savior of mankind nor even just leader of the free world, but it’s not a bad way to make a good fast buck. 

Which leads to the timing issue.  Hillary is up for reelection in 2012, and in order to make another presidential bid (assuming McCain wins or she pulls a Teddy and challenges a sitting democrat), she’d have to give up her senate seat or get New York to pass a Lyndon Johnson law, which let that man run simultaneously for vice president and senate reelection in 1960 in Texas (he won both–Joe Lieberman used the same sort of thing in Connecticut in 2000, losing for veep but winning senate reelection).  And all the while the clock is ticking.  She’ll be 65 in 2012 and 69 in 2016, the same age as Reagan when he was elected as our oldest first term president to date. 

Maybe this isn’t what Hillary wants or needs.

Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn sat down with me one morning and posited a really wild notion:  What Hillary needs is a clean break:  First, a visit to a retreat for several weeks or even months.  Sally says there’s a great one in West Virginia.  While there, she thinks Hillary should avoid crowds and speeches and aides and issues and hoopla, and just think.  Just sit and think and contemplate her navel (Try getting that image out of your head for the rest of the day). 

Sally thinks Hillary should think long and hard about basic changes:  perhaps an end to politics, "perhaps even a loving relationship" said Sally, which raised my eyebrows a bit.  But Sally Quinn feels Hillary Clinton has spent her entire life trying to please others, and only such a drastic step would enable her to break free and start trying to please herself. 
Well, that’s not gonna happen.  Although maybe it should.  Maybe it should.

What is gonna happen is that Hillary will dig back for another helping of persistence and again take aim at…something. 

If she wanted to, she could play the corporate board/big speeches game and get filthy rich.  Start her own Bilderberger franchise, even.  She could write another book or two.  Or go the NGO route and aim for U.N. Secretary General or even a Nobel Peace Prize.  Or she could play golf or grab a hammer for Habitat for Humanity. 

Naaah.  She’s gonna stay in politics.  If she really wants to call her own shots, she could always run for Governor of New York in a couple of years.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Governor Hillary purging the memory of a philandering cheat — while Bill applauds in the background? 

Hillary might even try to become John McCain’s running mate.  Or Bob Barr’s.  (No, on second thought…).

But for the moment, she’s a democratic politician and the party — her party — is run by that upstart Barack Obama.  Like it or not, her immediate goal has to be to suck up a bit.  To express sincere solidarity.

Perhaps she should send him some nice fresh tomatoes.


Sign Up