How Team Obama is dealing with the Hillary problem.
by William Kristol
06/05/2008 11:40:00 AM
The Obama camp has moved quickly--and deftly--to shut down the Hillary Clinton bid for the vice presidential pick.
The well-sourced Jackie Calmes reports in the Wall Street Journal that "close advisers to Sen. Obama are signaling that an Obama-Clinton ticket is highly unlikely." The way they're signaling it is by suggesting that, even for Hillary to be considered, Bill Clinton would have to "release records of his business dealings and big donors to his presidential library." No one thinks Bill Clinton is inclined to do this.
And even if he did, there would still be no guarantee for Hillary: "Even if Mr. Clinton did open his records as part of the traditional vice-presidential vetting process, the unprecedented complications he would pose for an Obama White House as the vice president's spouse go deeper and broader than his personal records, Democrats on both sides say." Indeed, Calmes continues, "Referring to a potential vice-presidential slot for Sen. Clinton, a senior Obama adviser says: 'The more this gets vetted the less likely it becomes.'"
So the unvettability of Bill Clinton is the way Obama avoids having to offend Hillary and her almost 18 million voters. Obama won't have to publicly rule out Hillary, or make a potentially insulting case that others are better qualified for the job. He'll merely emphasize publicly, as he did on NBC last night, that there will be a lengthy process and wide-ranging search--thereby conditioning people to understand that there is no presumptive front-runner for the vice-presidential pick: "We're gonna go through a process in the vice-presidential search where I look at a whole range of options." And putting Caroline Kennedy on the three-person search committee is clever--a woman who is anti-Hillary but whose presence really can't be criticized by Hillary supporters. It's also, of course, a certification of the Kennedys as Democratic royalty over the Clintons.
At some point--I'd guess pretty soon--Hillary will see the writing on the wall and will take herself out of the running, so she can save face, and to ensure she can't be accused of creating trouble if Obama loses in November. So Obama will be able to make his choice without being accused of having spurned Hillary.
The apparent decisiveness and deftness with which Obama and his team seem to be resolving with the Hillary Clinton problem is an impressive opening move in his general election campaign.
William Kristol is editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.