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Obama Campaign Angers and Confuses Clinton Supporters

Hillary loyalists were stunned and suspicious by the appointment of former Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle.

by
Taylor Marsh

Bio

June 19, 2008 - 12:02 am

The thinking is all over the map as to why it was done, but one thing is certain: Obama’s hiring of former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle has certainly unleashed a flood of public venting and fevered speculation within the Clinton ranks.

The donor, speaking on background, said that everyone in Clinton circles knows the two have hard feelings towards one another and haven’t spoken since Clinton removed Solis Doyle as campaign manager, and that Clinton loyalists view her with deep suspicion and believe that she is shopping around a book deal and acted as a background source for an extremely harsh Vanity Fair piece about Bill Clinton.

“Either one of two things happen,” said the bundler. “Hillary is selected as vice president and they fire Patti, or Hillary is not going to be the vice president.”

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said “nothing could be inferred about Obama’s thoughts on a vice presidential candidate from the hiring of Solis Doyle,” according to CQ Politics.

Nice try. However, something got lost in translation:

“Translated subtitles aren’t necessary,” the insider said. “There is no other way to interpret this other than ‘F*** you.’” Burton declined to comment on the Clinton camp’s reaction to the appointment.

Hiring a chief of staff for Obama’s vice presidential pick, who hasn’t even been chosen yet, doesn’t seem to demonstrate any respect of Obama’s running mate, whoever it might be. However, it’s not out of the ordinary. It’s just not the signal Clinton people are taking from it. Clinton circle loyalists are taking this very personally.

It makes one wonder what Hillary and Obama talked about in that private meeting they had with one another. Nobody knows. Clinton, of course, was gracious in her camp’s statement about the hiring, but she would be. Via Politico:

“Patti will be an asset and good addition to the Obama campaign. After nearly two decades in political life, she brings with her the ability to tap an extensive network that will be a huge asset to Senator Obama. As Senator Clinton has said, we’re all going to do our part to help elect Senator Obama as the next President of the United States,” said spokesman Mo Elleithee.

Jerome Armstrong thinks it looks similar to a move that was made during the Kerry-Edwards campaign.

The hire of Doyle raises the chances that Clinton is the VP choice of Obama. You’ll recall, in 2004, that Kerry went out and hired an Edwards staffer for this position, in the weeks leading up to the announcement of Edwards as VP.

Marc Ambinder disagrees:

I just don’t think the evidence supports that argument. First, Patti Solis Doyle and Hillary Clinton have some issues to work out between them. I don’t know if they’ve spoken within the past seven days, but they certainly did not speak for several months prior to that point.

Lynn Sweet doesn’t see it either:

Don’t read into the Solis Doyle appointment as a sign that former rival Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is moving up on the vice presidential short list. Rather, the opposite is probably more realistic. Solis Doyle now is the highest ranking Hispanic on the Obama campaign. She helps build a bridge to Clinton women to join the Obama camp.

We don’t know what went down in the meeting Clinton and Obama had together. It’s quite possible that Hillary knew all this was coming, but loyal Clinton insiders did not, hence their reaction.

The possibility certainly also exists that the unity ticket is on. But according to John Heilemann’s piece in the New Yorker, suspicions about Clinton’s ambivalence have now been confirmed.

Naturally, the answer depends, first of all, on whether Obama decides to offer her the VP slot. For all the talk of her trying to muscle her way onto the ticket, one senses in her a genuine ambivalence about whether she wants the job. If Obama does offer it, however, she will have no choice but to take it. She is all too aware that if she turned it down and he lost this fall, she would be blamed even more loudly than she will be already, even though in her view his downfall is foreordained, and has nothing to do with her.

Frankly, I find the prospect of a unity ticket more and more remote. Hillary would want to hire her own chief of staff and given the fallout over Solis Doyle leaving the campaign, with Maggie Williams replacing her, I just don’t see them pairing up again, and the reports persist that the two haven’t spoken in weeks.

The way in which Obama treats Clinton during the vice presidential selection process is very important to her supporters. Given the recent polls showing Hillary’s supporters are moving to Obama, maybe he feels this has already been taken care of.

The bottom line is that there’s absolutely no evidence that Obama would stiff-arm Clinton, so the reality that she is in on at least some of his planning seems quite possible.

We can speculate all day about the move, but besides teasing what type of vice president Obama wants, he may also be about to pick someone who isn’t encumbered with their own people already. This could mean any number of things, but points to someone outside the Senate, like a military person of Wes Clark’s stature who’s been superlative in slamming McCain lately, or maybe Ret. Gen. James Jones, the former Marine-turned-NATO Supreme Allied Commander. Having an aide in place likely wouldn’t bother a former career military man (or woman, though no high ranking military female has surfaced), with Jones the latest to reportedly be on Obama’s short list.

But beyond that, Obama is sending an anti-Dick Cheney message. Patti Solis Doyle has known David Axelrod for around two decades, so they’re not only friends, but trusted allies. She’s being tapped to be Obama’s running mate’s chief of staff so, obviously, Solis Doyle will be an ear for what’s going on. There will be no extra-curricular vice presidential activity in an Obama administration. The other reality is that the Solis Doyle’s hiring was hinted at weeks ago and this is just the realization of what’s been coming.

As a Clinton supporter, I’m now completely committed to keeping a McCain presidency from happening, I intend to give our nominee the benefit of the doubt. I’m counting on the fact that Obama shouldn’t be foolish enough to disrespect Hillary in a manner that drafts her former campaign manager, then makes a vice presidential choice before sending further messages about what’s happening to Clinton.

Obama’s the nominee. He won. This move could represent Democratic Party takeover time for the Obama camp, gathering the best from all the teams; Stephanie Cutler from Kennedy and Kerry, Solis Doyle from Clinton, Al Gore, etc. Obama has never had a hard time stepping over vanquished adversaries before. Just ask Alice Palmer. I’ve reported on him and done enough research on his style to know that he’s not all that into making sure his former opponents are happy.

However, the man is not stupid. Why anger Clinton and her crowd if you don’t have to? We may not know the whole story for quite a while. But one thing is certain: Hillary loyalists are obviously ticked off. No matter what Obama’s motives were, that’s not a good thing right now.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, talk radio personality, and author. She can be found online at TaylorMarsh.com.
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