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A Defeated Hillary’s Best Bet

Don't expect Hillary Clinton to settle for second place on an Obama-led ticket if she doesn't win the nomination. The senator from New York likely has a more sinister strategy in mind.

by
Michael Weiss

Bio

May 10, 2008 - 12:32 am

It’s fair to say that George Stephanopoulos’s judgment of his former employer has suffered in the many years since his defection. Asked by his ABC News colleague Charlie Gibson whether or not Hillary Clinton would be amenable to running as vice president on an Obama-led ticket, the younger correspondent said this:

It’s hard to know. I mean, first of all, would Sen. Obama go for it? Can he get over the bitterness of this campaign? Can he be convinced that it’s the strongest ticket? Third, of course, would Sen. Clinton take it? I think if it was offered in the right way, yes.

Fat chance. Not only would it not be offered after Clinton’s explicit charge, made in the course of an interview with USA Today, that Obama can’t win over “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans” — the Illinois senator is nothing if not touchy on matters on race these days. It’s also unimaginable that Clinton would settle for the junior role in any political partnership. She would sooner sacrifice the Democratic Party to the satisfaction of her own megalomania, and this is why conservatives have begun rethinking their decades-old hatred of her. Might she be of some use, after all? And is there not something fundamentally attractive about her Iron Lady approach to national politics? Pat Buchanan and Richard Mellon Scaife, who once accused Hillary’s husband of murder, have warmed to her Rasputin-like resilience in the face of imminent defeat. Noemie Emery captured, with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, the right’s newfound affection for Clinton in the pages of the Weekly Standard: “She is becoming a social conservative, a feminist form of George Bush.” Yes, a regular God-fearing, buckshot-hunting, good ole gal who takes her coffee black, her Pabst extra cold, and thinks arugula is the name of one of Obama’s daughters.

Emery hinted at the possibility, in the event of Clinton’s failure to make it to the general election, of her forging a pro-war coalition with Lieberman and McCain. But that would imply a measure of principle that has been conspicuously absent in any stage of her reinvented self. What I suspect is something a shade darker and more sinister if Clinton is boot-kicked right out of the Denver convention.

She knows that if Obama wins this year, her hopes of ever becoming president will vanish. She will be 69-years-old in 2016 and, unlike John McCain, who retained a special place in the popular consciousness thanks to Karl Rove’s grand larceny of his initial run for high office, she won’t be able to claim she was robbed the first time around. Her best bet would be to see Obama lose, thus vindicating her unheeded plaint that he was general election poison, and then run against the incumbent McCain in 2012, vowing to “take back the White House” after twelve years of Republican misrule.

How might she facilitate this strategy? She can’t endorse McCain and campaign openly against Obama without forfeiting her right to call herself a Democrat. Also, it is by no means evident that the butterfly kisses the GOP is sending in her direction, not to say the loyalty of her dejected supporters, are enough to sustain a permanent party switch. However, what she can do is stay in the picture long enough as an off-color liberal commentator, the beaten but unbowed grand dame, ever with the ready opinion on every foible of the Obama campaign. She can present herself to voters as the missed opportunity, the jilted ex-lover for whom they all still secretly pine. The conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who did her such a favor with “Operation Chaos” in Indiana, can invite her on the air to expatiate at length about what her erstwhile rival is doing wrong and why he still fails to “connect” with her old core constituency — those diligent Caucasians without college degrees, especially the ones who think Obama might be Muslim and now tend toward McCain.

Yes, this strategy will make the Tammany bosses angry and perhaps even “bitter,” but if it works or helps unhorse the golden boy with the nutty preacher and oily ties to the Chicago demimonde, what choice will they have in four years? Adlai Stevenson didn’t get them anywhere, maybe it’s time to revisit Richard Nixon in a pantsuit After all, the only thing that exceeds the Clintonian immunity to defeat is the Democratic willingness to forgive all Clintonian sins for the sake of victory.

Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of PJ Media. His blog is Snarksmith.

Michael Weiss is a senior editor of Tablet Magazine and a culture blogger for The New Criterion. He also writes occasionally for Slate, The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The New York Daily News and Standpoint.
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