Here’s why I like it:
- If Obama chooses as VP anyone other than Hillary, we’ll all know that it was because Clinton didn’t want the job and chose not to emulate Cheney. The offer is understood to be made, and rejected. But understood, rather than publicly staged: thus Obama is not publicly rejected by Clinton, and Clinton is not put in that somewhat embarrassing position of being offered favors from her onetime rival.
- Putting Clinton in this position gives his eventual VP pick the air of Clinton’s approval, or at least tolerance, thus expecting her supporters to also approve/tolerate it.
- Even if the final result isn’t a Clinton ally, we’ll know that her friends received a fair hearing. It keeps the Obama campaign from appearing to strike off the list anybody who supported Clinton. This especially means Wes Clark (not my choice, but on the list).
- It doesn’t really take the choice away from Obama. The VP search committee’s job isn’t really that hard or crucial. They do some “vetting” and interviewing, but chances are you don’t end up a Senator if you’re completely unable to campaign (though Jim Webb comes darn close to that) or have skeletons that some committee could find within a month or two. Anyway, the search committee usually just provides the nominee with a “short list” annotated with plusses and minuses that we all know anyway. Obama would of course make the final decision.
- It sends some strong signals to the Democratic Party. It makes clear that Obama acknowledges that Hillary Clinton is a person of deep knowledge and strong influence within the party, and will be a partner in the Senate of Obama’s presidency. It makes clear to his supporters that there will be no tolerance to turn this bitter primary into a left-wing locus from which to attack her in the Senate. It also makes clear Obama’s awareness and respect of her influence within the party as a valuable tool, and not a threat to him.
- It also mends bridges. Seeing Clinton touring the country on “official” business for the Obama campaign will make it more smooth for her supporters join the Obama campaign. She has accepted this somewhat humbling position.
The offer would have to be handled carefully. This job is a somewhat bureaucratic task, and if handled poorly comes across as rather demeaning to Clinton. I’d hope that a statement would make clear that Clinton would have a great deal of independence and autonomy in this job. She should be meeting with/interviewing people on the list that she and the committee believe merit consideration. Clinton will have something official to do, and help her move on in this process (Keep Bill far away from this, incidentally.) It allows her some prominence throughout the spring and summer, and unites the campaigns in a very official way. Meanwhile, Obama doesn’t have to deal with endless speculation — it’s not on his plate. Obama can work the swing areas of the country, and credibly claim to be in close contact with Clinton.
I don’t know if these two people have it within them to accept such an arrangement. But if the Democrats are going to do what needs doing this fall, these two (and anyone who thinks “we won/ shoulda won the nomination, so everyone else should shut up”) really do have to get over themselves pronto.