Hillary Still Muscling Obama

Tuesday last should have been the best day yet in Barack Obama’s life.  Almost certain to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination that night, June 3 should have been a day for Obama to congratulate self and staff and writing a stem-winder of a speech to launch the national campaign.

But she’s still there.  

At about 10 am, while I was subbing for Laura Ingraham on her national radio show, we got the breaking “news” that Hillary Clinton would concede the race to Obama that night after the results of the Montana and South Dakota primaries were in.  But where did that statement come from?  No one knew.  Which meant it probably came from the Clinton campaign.  

Only an hour later, the Clinton camp was renouncing the report and insisting that Clinton would not concede Tuesday night.  So from 10 to noon, it wasn’t Obama’s day: it was Hillary’s.

As the day wore on, Obama claimed his place on the front pages and the top-of-the-hour segments on radio and tv.  There was a steady flow of minor superdelegate announcements of commitment to Obama.  

But she was still there.

In mid-afternoon, Hillary seized the media spotlight in an act of virtual political violence.  The New York Congressional democrats (gathered, presumably, to hear her swan song and commiserate) heard Sen. Clinton remark that she would be amenable to accepting the #2 spot on the Obama ticket.  It’s really not all about Hillary, is it?  

Despite her best efforts, the delegate counting and the clock again put Obama on the top of the news.  And, at 4:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time, the Associated Press announced that it computed Obama’s delegate count as sufficient to clinch the nomination.  But, well, you know.

All three candidates spoke Tuesday night.  John McCain was up first, appropriately horning in on his adversary’s time.  But politely, as is McCain’s wont.  By then, everyone had read the acceptance speech Obama had prepared. The full text had been up on the Drudge Report all afternoon.  McCain’s speech wasn’t either electrifying or as strong as it should have been.  But it did poke at Obama’s “real change” mantra effectively.  

Mr. McCain needs to find one of those beat-up old Reagan speech writers and have something ripe for the occasion.  They already used, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  But they probably could have come up with something better for Tuesday night.  

Such as, “Mr. Obama, I’m leaving for Iraq in the morning.  I’ll save you a seat on my plane.  What are you afraid of learning there?”  After McCain’s speech, Obama’s other active opponent seized the stage.

At about 9:33 pm, Hillary stood again, took center stage and did precisely what we who have seen every episode of the Clinton Soap Opera expected: she didn’t concede.  We’d heard her CNN proxy, James Carville, give the theme before: it takes time to consult with people, it’ll take a few days, she needs to plan for the future.  And that’s about what Sen. Clinton said.

She forcefully rejected decision-making.  She was adamant for leaving Obama adrift.  And she was tender in her care for the many people she said were wondering, “just what does Hillary want?”  At this point, we know what she wants:  she wants to muscle in on Obama’s nomination.

Clinton’s speech was sufficiently outrageous to deflect Obama from his released remarks.  Though some of us didn’t think he could summon the courage to do it, he stood up and proclaimed, “I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.”  And then went back to another of his Bush-is-McCain-is-Bush well-delivered but vacuous speeches.

Obama knows what Hillary wants.  She wants to be his vice presidential choice, and is trying to force him into choosing her.  There are only two reasons he shouldn’t: she is one; Bubba is the other.

As First Lady, Hillary was as involved as Al Gore was (probably more) in most of Bill Clinton’s decisions.  It was her decision to fire the White House Travel Office staff. She was directly involved in the FBI “Filegate” mess, where confidential files were read for political information.  You can bet that Hillary is looking at the veep’s job from a viewpoint even former vice president’s would not have.  She’s not thinking that, in the famous words of John Nance Garner, one of FDR’s vice presidents, that the job of the vice president isn’t worth a pitcher of warm, er, urine.

Were Obama to choose Hillary as his vice president, there would be no way to isolate her or reduce the power she has to less than she once had.  She’s too savvy (and Obama’s too new) to be muzzled or hobbled.  And if she’s not, she’ll end up running the show. Which would be interesting, because Michelle Obama is probably planning on doing a whole lot more than baking cookies.  For Barack, having the two in the same White House may be the only thing that could be as bad as having Lil’ Billy back.

It’s been almost fifteen months into the race, and Bubba has been playing more of a loose cannon every month.  Granted, there haven’t been any publicized “bimbo eruptions.” At least yet.  But starting with the night of the South Carolina primary – where he belittled Obama’s victory by comparing his vote to Jesse Jackson’s – to the outburst about Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum after Purdum’s hit job article on Billy came out – proves that the once-careful, precisely-parsed Clinton is now something else.

He’s not an awful political disaster waiting to happen.  Bill Clinton promises an endless series of them.  

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a strong supporter of Hillary, told the Politico that, “The Obama campaign would have to make strict rules, you know, about what President Clinton could and could not do during the campaign… For example, the Obama campaign would have to control his schedule; where he would go into, what states.”  So, if Hillary couldn’t control Bill in three-plus decades, Michelle Obama is going to be able to in a five-month campaign?

Vice Presidential candidates rarely help but often hurt a ticket.  If Obama is as smart as people think he is, he’ll keep Hillary Clinton off his ticket.  As far off as she can be put.