Monday, July 16, 2007
Quindlen: Hillary Should Make Barack Her Running Mate
By Anna Quindlen
July 23, 2007 issue -
Well, senator, with the "Sopranos"-influenced video gone viral, you managed to convince millions of Americans that you do have a sense of humor. With the continuing massaging of your position on Iraq, you've managed to convince a significant number of liberals that you have a sense of urgency about the war. And with the most recent poll results, you must have a sense of yourself as the front runner.
Now it's time to show that you have a sense of history, a sense that this election is bigger than just one woman's ambitions. Make it your business to persuade Barack Obama to be your running mate.
Conventional thinkers like to make this sound risky, pairing a woman and a black man on the ticket. But it's not as wild as it sounds. The calculus of choosing someone for the second spot is always, first and foremost, whether the choice hurts your chances. The answer here is no. Anyone who would be put off by Obama isn't going to vote for you in the first place.
The second question is what you gain. The way in which that has been interpreted has usually been tediously predictable, and has centered on geographic balance. That's how John Kerry of Massachusetts wound up with Southerner John Edwards.
You have a more inventive and useful role model where this issue is concerned, and, I'm sorry, but it's Bill. You probably get tired of hearing about how good he was at all of this, especially since one key to how good he was, was you. But people forget that he stood the issue of how to choose a running mate on its head. Instead of balance, he and Al Gore were a double threat—two young Southerners with future-forward notions about government. Millennium squared.
But that was nothing compared with the excitement that would ensue if you eschewed your customary caution and asked Obama to join you in creating the first real 21st-century ticket. It's not simply that with one fell swoop you would solidify the two largest blocs of Democratic support, but that the historic nature of the pairing would galvanize the race and make any Republican slate seem so same-old. Every politician likes to talk about a new era. The day the Clinton-Obama ticket is announced would really be one for the history books.
Of course, maybe this memo should be going to Senator Obama, since running for vice president has often been a thankless non-job with a probable non-future. "There is an old story about a mother who has two sons," Hubert Humphrey used to say. "One goes to sea and the other becomes vice president of the United States. Neither is ever heard from again." The mantra of George Bush the elder's staff used to be "you die, we fly" because as Ronald Reagan's vice president he spent so much time attending state funerals abroad. Bush went from chief mourner to commander in chief, becoming the only vice president in the 20th century to be elected president immediately after his time in the second spot was over. Humphrey tried the same gambit after serving as Johnson's vice president, and became one of those who flamed out.
Obama might make the argument that being a member of the Senate is more like real work, but you could convince him otherwise. No one thinks it would be desirable to do what Reagan did out of desperation, trying to lure former president Gerald Ford onto his ticket with the promise of a kind of shared presidency. But there is another model and, sorry, but it's Bill again. He turned Al Gore into the most openly influential vice president in American history, letting him take the lead on issues like the environment and technology. (Gore ungraciously returned the favor by editing the Clinton legacy out of his own presidential campaign, which may have had something to do with the result.) And because the two were well matched in terms of intellect and experience, Clinton did it without the risk of being overshadowed.
You and Barack Obama are a good match as well—intelligent, eloquent, with similar positions but from different generations, which means he could afford to be patient in his ultimate ambitions. The elder Bush had to eat some crow when he joined the Reagan campaign. There were differences on policy issues and harsh words, most notably when Bush referred—correctly—to Reagan's "voodoo economics." Both you and Obama have taken care not to bicker. No apologies necessary.
He would have to decide he would be willing to coexist with a strong woman. But it seems as though he already does that at home. You would have to be willing to let a charismatic man steal some of your thunder, but you do that at home, too. This would be a political marriage of convenience, sure, but one that could excite the country. The president has driven the nation into a ditch, and the American people are standing by the side of the road with their thumbs out. Everyone is poised for big change, big ideas. Do the big thing that also happens to be the right thing. Your Web site says help make history. Go ahead. I dare you.