Commentary Magazine


The Hillary Fall Out

The reaction to the non-selection and the non-consideration of Hillary Clinton is the biggest story (other than the selection of Joe Biden) to come out of yesterday’s events. The reaction from Clinton fans runs from mixed to furious. If Obama had been true to his own “change” theme the result might have been easier for some to accept, but Biden is sort of Hillary without Hillary –experience, blue-collar appeal and street fighter. So why not take her after all?

Bill Kristol raises just this query and makes a delicious suggestion:

Biden and Hillary have basically comparable foreign policy “experience” (such as it is in either case). Nor is Biden clearly more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than Hillary. And they have pretty similar foreign policy views. So no advantage to Biden there. And, unlike Jack Reed, for example, Biden didn’t serve in the military. So no advantage over Hillary there. Nor does he outshine her in executive experience (unlike Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius)–neither Biden nor Hillary has any. Also, if the VP is supposed to handle the Democrats’ populist economic message: after the last few months of the primary campaign, it would be hard to say Hillary hasn’t proven herself an awfully good carrier of that message. And Hillary can perform the attacking functions of the VP nominee as well as Biden. Will the Democratic party, which is committed (to say the least) to gender equity, and which in fact has a 50 percent quota for female delegates, accept Obama’s imposition of a glass ceiling at its convention? A modest suggestion to my justifiably outraged Democratic friends: Hillary’s name should be placed in nomination not for the presidency (Obama won that more or less fair and square)–but for the vice presidency. It would be an interesting roll call vote.

And if that were not all enough, the McCain camp is rolling out a new ad rubbing some salt in the wounds and accusing Barack Obama of snubbing Hillary because she was too candid about his faults in the primary.

What to make of all this? Put the conservative pundits and the McCain ad men aside for a moment. The real Hillary supporters are mad. Obama’s decision to put forth absolutely no effort to vet her (would an hour meeting and a request for documents have killed them?), after suggesting she would be on anyone’s short list, stings.

As for the Obama opponents, in e-mail and in-person chatter there was no greater fear among Republicans than that Obama would put aside ill feelings and pick Hillary. Her 18 million voters and her female, blue collar and older voter appeal worried Republicans no end. And the surprise/excitement impact would have been considerable. The overwhelming reaction when Biden was named? “Thank goodness. It could have been Hillary.”

What can John McCain do to make the most of this? Several things, I think. First, not overplay his hand. (The new ad comes right up to the line.) Second, in much of what he does from here on out — policy, VP selection, Convention speech and debate preparation — he should keep those Hillary fans in the forefront of his thinking. An enhanced middle class tax cut plan, a blue collar-friendly VP, an emphasis on the people who “work hard and play by the rules” (a Bill Clintonism which now rings true for Hillary herself) and a focus on deeds not talk (has there ever been a more loquacious ticket in love with the sound of their own voices than Obama-Biden?) would do McCain a world of good.

And as for that Kristol suggestion, there’s got to be one brave delegate to put her name in nomination, right?