The Logic Behind the “Vice President Clinton” Meme

11 01 2012

Happy New Year, now let’s talk politics, specifically that long forgotten subject – Democratic politics.

ImageOk, maybe forgotten is pushing it a bit too far, but with the Republican primary process well and truly underway and the incumbent Democratic president running unchallenged, there’s not much for us on the left to do politically except remark on the dog and pony show of ultra-conservatism that’s bumbling its way around the country. I suppose that it’s that kind of party boredom that’s mostly to blame for this kind of story, but there might just be more to it. The latest incarnation of the “Hillary for VP” meme comes from a New York Times opinion piece by Bill Keller published Monday and another in the Washington Post by Suzi Parker from yesterday. The points they makes are much the same as in most of the other renditions of this tune that’s been playing off and on almost since this administration began, but there has been a decidedly different reaction to the notion of Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden switching places this time around. It’s no longer treated as some crazy idea being floated by Clinton diehards (highly unlikely) or desperate Obama fans (also ridiculous) that has no basis in reality let alone fact. Monday night this opinion piece was discussed all over the place on cable news in spite of it being the day before the New Hampshire primary and discussed with some degree of seriousness albeit prefaced by numerous “this will never happen”-type comments. The truth is that, no matter how unlikely the scenario, you never know. I mean, did you think that the question of whether or no states can ban contraception would be a question in this year’s presidential primary debates at this time four years ago?

“Ok, so it’s a thing, but why and how would it work?” you ask. Well, even though I’m in no way involved in national politics or punditry (Not that I wouldn’t like to be, in case anyone in those fields is looking to hire. 🙂 ), I have just as good an imagination as the rest of them, so, if you would like, let’s take a stroll around Speculationville. We’ll start with the “why”.

2008 was the year of Hope and Change. The nation was weary of war and increasingly unnerved by the steepening decline in our economy. People were looking for something fresh and optimistic – a feel good candidate – and they found that in the calm persona of “No Drama Obama”. There is, however, a downside to being seen as Mr. Cool and that’s running the risk of looking too ‘on point’ and scripted. Obama needed a foil that brought a more approachable, down to earth ‘average Joe’ quality to the ticket and they got just that in an ever likable, if chronically gaffe-prone, senator from Delaware by the name of Joe Biden. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the past four years, the mood of the country has shifted. Our idealistic search for something new has given way to old cries, from the eighties and even earlier, of “fat cats” and “corporate greed” versus a shrinking middle class and growing number of people on some form of government assistance leading some candidates to insinuate that these lower-income people are lazy. It’s all remarkably similar to the Reagan era arguments about “welfare Queens” and the financial culture of hostile takeovers and Gordon Gekko types running the show on Wall St. At the same time we have seen the rise of the Tea Party culminating in the Great Butt-Kicking of 2010 which flipped the balance of power in the House of Representatives and shifted the political dialogue of the entire country well to the right of anywhere I’ve ever seen it. The moderates, Republican and Democrat alike, were excised in favor of more partisan candidates and the resulting Congress has been deadlocked ever since. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve almost-but-not-quite shut down the government. Is it four times now? Six? I don’t remember.

So this year is shaping up to be a Smackdown election worthy of a Pay Per View cage match and the respective political parties are looking for prize fighters. The Republicans are looking for a defender of tax cuts and a champion of smaller government and business interests. The Democrats are looking for fighter for workers and the middle class and a protector of programs that they see as vital. What Democrats have is a very mellow, professorial president with an affable everyman as his VP. The Republicans are searching and re-searching their candidate field in the vain hope that one of their potential nominees is the much longed for second coming of Ronald Reagan and Democrats are kind of left to pine for their second coming of FDR.

The Democratic presidential candidate is decided by default, or should I say incumbency, but there is still that unfulfilled desire for a fighter. Someone who will have no problem going a couple of rounds with the Republicans on the Hill, conservative pundits, or maybe both at once without flinching. Joe Biden, as likable as he is, doesn’t strike most people as a tough guy, so regardless of the good job he’s done, he’s not necessarily what a lot of Democrats are looking for this time around. If there is one thing that Hillary Clinton is known for, it is her strength and her tenacity and throughout her time as both a political spouse and a political figure in her own right she has never, ever had any problems with taking it to Republicans at all. There was one instance during one of her husband’s gubernatorial races when she crashed a press conference his opponent was holding to criticize the then Governor for being out of state and Mrs. Governor Clinton took him on herself. I don’t think anyone has any doubt that she’d know how to handle these tea folk and that’s why I think this rumor never quite goes away. The fact that she’s the most popular government figure in the country right now doesn’t hurt either.

The mechanics of how a Biden/Clinton switch would happen takes us deeper into the realm of completely unsubstantiated guessing games. It’s worth noting that removing Biden from the ticket does have some serious drawbacks. Just look at the coverage the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley got even though it was primary time in New Hampshire. That would increase exponentially if it were Joe Biden that was on his way out, even if it was just to head down to Foggy Bottom. Coverage like that is rarely a net positive. It would look bad to demote someone who has been such a loyal and hardworking member of the administration. It could also be spun out as a sort of Hail Mary play by a desperate candidate and put the new Obama/Clinton campaign on the defensive from the get go.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the administration had weighed their options and decided that the switch was both possible and worth the risk. Hillary Clinton would have to leave the State Department before the swap was announced because, by law, a Secretary of State can not play a role in domestic politics. Her pretext for doing so is anyone’s guess, but it would not be due to any difference of opinion between her and the White House, obviously. She’s mentioned retirement enough that an announcement to that effect might be the way she’d go, take a couple of months off to rally her people, and then, on some beautiful afternoon in the Rose Garden, there she’d be – as Barack Obama’s new running mate. Immediately the question would be raised – the question that is always raised where Hillary Clinton is concerned. What about Bill?

In the years since he left office, Bill Clinton has become an elder statesman par excellence. His foundation is involved in numerous charitable endeavors the world over and his annual Clinton Global Initiative event is such a big deal that he has to hold it on the same week as the UN General Assembly so as to be more convenient for his international attendees who are going to the UN anyway. He also has a Global Initiative specifically for undergrad and graduate students interested in NGO work which his daughter play a significant role in. He was named the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy to Haiti after that country was decimated by an earthquake. He has appeared several times in support of the President’s economic agenda and has proven to be a rather good surrogate seeming to have learned from his mistakes in his wife’s presidential bid. He has also written two books. In short, he’s got a lot going on and some of that work might present a conflict of interest if his wife was the vice presidential nominee. He had to make significant changes in order for her to become Secretary of State and I imagine that he would have to make more if she was second in line to run the country. My feeling is that he’d leave most of the foundation’s operations in someone else’s hands. In addition to getting rid of any perceived conflicts, it would also be a sort of trial run for the organization to see how it would operate when Bill Clinton retires. During this time the foundation could be prepared to run for decades and become a part of Bill Clinton’s legacy as opposed to his pet project. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the globe-trotting former president held a press conference, heaped praise upon his wife, headed out on the campaign trail, and then to DC. His elder statesman skills might come in handy and he could prove to be an asset to the administration, a kind of Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary’s FDR.

I’ll end my completely amateur, uninformed, armchair analysis by saying that this whole thing is about as likely as me appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition… or voting Republican. It’s all conjecture and the conjecture of someone with no inside information, but I’ve heard too much about this idea being entirely bogus and it’s not. It’s certainly unlikely, but it’s not bogus and that’s why I sketched it out this way. Hillary Clinton would be good for Barack Obama in the same way that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is such a good surrogate for Mitt Romney, another “Mr. Cool, Calm, and Collected”. She is a veteran of many partisan fights and would make a good “Iron Lady for the Middle Class” if that’s what the administration thinks they need in 2012. I think this issue is hinged on what the traveling circus that is the Republican primary constructs for a message and a ticket. If it’s something like Romney/Christie, there might be a new, and yet very familiar, running mate for the President.

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Negative Political Ads Done Right

29 09 2011

As much as the political process interests me, there is one inevitable part of any election season that I cannot stand – those obnoxious, negative ads that just whack away at the candidate that the group who paid for the ad doesn’t like. Around a week prior to the election it’s practically raining negative ads – they’re on the internet, the radio, and they are all over TV – to the point that at the end of your day, unless you are either working on the campaign for, or personally close to one of the candidates,  you’ve heard so much about lies told and dirty deals hatched that you don’t want to vote for either of them. They both look like dishonest, cheating, morons and, frankly, they do that to themselves.

We hear this every couple of years. “Everybody hates these attack ads,” and yet the attacks return when the elections do. They come back because, as much as everyone says they don’t like them, studies have shown that they work. They get remembered and they get results. My father told me that he still remembers a negative ad run by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and that it played a role in his voting for LBJ. That ad is known as the “Daisy” ad and insinuated that Goldwater’s A-bomb friendly attitudes could lead to World War III if his itchy trigger finger was in control of the red button. Just as Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America” ad defined his 1984 re-election bid, the “Daisy” ad came to define Barry Goldwater’s candidacy and did a lot to lose that election for him.

It seems like every campaign enters in a race to come up with the next “Daisy” ad – the next attack that so effectively vilifies their opponent that it goes down in political history and is referenced in poli-sci classes (and in the writings of political geeks) for decades to come. That makes for some very unpalatable advertisements invading our every information source. It’s already well underway for the poor souls who live in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Thankfully, amid all the allegations and insinuations, one can occasionally find a bit of a humor. This is from Texas Democrats and is aimed at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. It made me chuckle and I wanted to share it.

And you know what, for any more Republican leaning individuals that have kept reading this post and made it this far, I have something for you, too. It is from the campaign of Roger Williams a Republican running for the US House of Representatives from Texas.

Now, obviously I don’t agree with Mr. Williams’ characterization of Democrats, but I have to admit the ad is clever. I wish we had more of these kind of negative ads. Cute, snarky ads get the message across without leaving people pondering whether or not they want to vote at all. These are attack ads done right. Politicos, take note.





She’s In!

15 09 2011

I’ve never had much of a desire to live in Massachusetts. It’s not that I don’t like the place – my cousin used to live there and one of my aunts lives there with her husband – it’s just never had the same appeal that New York or DC have for me. That said, tonight I wish I lived in Massachusetts because then I would be able to cast a vote for Elizabeth Warren. Today Dr. Warren formally announced her candidacy for United States Senator from Massachusetts. Elizabeth Warren has been an advocate for middle and lower-income people and workers for a long time. She was the architect of the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but Republicans made it clear that they would fight her confirmation so President Obama never nominated her to run the agency she put together. Since the end of her service in the administration that wouldn’t bother to defend her in the confirmation process the question of whether or not she would run for the Senate has been out there. Today she gave her answer – she’s in. I wish she were running in the great state of Connecticut so I could not only vote for her but maybe even work for her campaign, but alas, all I can do is put a link to her website  – elizabethwarren.com – up one my blog and wish her the best of luck.





Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.





John Boehner, Joe Biden, an Unattended, Live Microphone, and What That Should Remind Us

13 09 2011

Before President Obama’s speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress Americans got an unlikely opening act – John Boehner and Joe Biden joking around and talking golf.

Speaker Boehner also had something to say about the Vice President’s wife.

For the record, the Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is the one in the red dress. You can decide for yourselves whether or not she’s the “cutest one in the row by far,” or not.

You might be wondering why I’m making a fuss over such a few soundbites that are too mundane to be of any importance. They are just basic human interactions. Well, that is exactly why I’m pointing them out.

We long ago forgot that politicians are, in fact, human beings – much like the rest of us only with better connections. Even on the local level – the level I work round as a camera tech for a small town’s government access television channel – a politician with an opposing point of view is not a fellow town resident with whom you have a difference of opinion. No, they are the enemy and no piece of hyperbolic, incendiary language goes too far in describing them and their kind. These alleged “people” across the political aisle are cruel, inhumane, lying, cheating, unpatriotic, anti-American, etc, etc. Pick your adjective, they are nearly innumerable and if you do run out, take a page from the strategy books of several politicos and make some up. Even the politicians from your end of things seem more like robotic characters – or caricatures, depending on the day and the issue – than flesh and bone human beings. Moments like this briefly point out that is not the case. Neither of these gentlemen is the scheming, devious Disney-style villain we might image them to be and they aren’t. They aren’t androids either, though former Vice President Dick Cheney does come the closest to inorganic life with his mechanical heart. (That’s not an attack, by the way, it’s a fact, so relax.) These two men are merely two guys with big, important jobs who enjoy a joke, a good game of golf, and think that Jill Biden looks particularly fetching.Conversations like these happen in workplaces all across the country and might sound familiar if you swap out a few points. If a comment had been made that “anyone who doesn’t like the Yankees is an asshole,” the conversation could’ve gone like this at the water cooler or in the break room of an office in the real world.

John – Hey, I’m one of those assholes you were talking about.

Joe – Haha, yeah, you’re nuts, man. You don’t know what you’re talking about.We have that meeting today. I hope it doesn’t drag on forever.

John – Yeah. So, did I tell you my in-laws are visiting?

Joe – No, how’s that going?

John – Not too bad if you’re comparing it to, say, a root canal. I swear I have no idea how anyone ever slept in their house. Her father snores so loud you can hear it on the other side of the house! And then this morning I’m woken up by my mother-in-law yelling at her husband through the bathroom door. “Harold, do you have a pair of undershorts in there? You have a pair? Did you say yes? Yes? I can’t hear you! I’m bringing you a pair.” I hope I survive to the end of the week.

John – That’s gonna be the two of you in about twenty years. I’ve been meaning to ask you, did you see that new girl? In HR?

John – Yeah, I saw her. Cutest one in the department. By far.

See? Told you.

Politicians are people, even though they don’t always seem like it and even when they say things that we don’t like. At the start of what is sure to be a vicious presidential election process, I think it’s a good thing to be reminded of. I’m not sure the President’s plan of action for jobs really lived up to all the pomp and circumstance of a joint session of Congress but I think getting all of our elected officials together and talking and so on did get them in a slightly less partisan mood and the country needs that every so often.





The Trickle Downgrade

12 08 2011

I have mentioned that I got a job a couple times now, but I’ve never discussed it too much because it’s sort of difficult to do. I record local government meetings for broadcast on a nearby town’s government access television channel. It isn’t easy to write about what goes on at work because you don’t want to offend people or appear to be imparting a bias. Some issues get people’s blood pressure up and, if their statements are taken out of context, they could seem rather foolish. Actually, a lot of politics and debate is context and that’s why you hear so many people in the public eye complaining that their words are being “taken out of context,” and I can almost guarantee you will hear that phrase a lot more as the presidential election process gets moving. With all that said, this information comes directly from a meeting I covered. The meeting was public and I think this little tidbit of information serves as a reminder of how irresponsible it is for elected officials at the national level to play games with important issue like our nation’s economic stability for the sake of pleasing a small portion of the population. There is no ‘I’ in democracy no matter how many flags you wrap yourself in, how many times you say the word “constitution”, “patriotism”, or “common sense”, or how much you know – or don’t know – about eighteenth century colonial history and historical figures.
The town I work for is small, rather affluent, running a small budget surplus at the moment, and – according to the First Selectman – has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. They use the Moody’s agency to rate their credit. When Moody’s changed its outlook for the US economy from stable to negative because of the ridiculous brinksmanship of some in Congress, they changed this town’s outlook from stable to negative as well because a town, city, or state is really only as reliable as the country it’s in. That makes sense, but it still doesn’t seem fair and that’s not the fault of Moody’s. It’s the fault of those in the House of Representatives who decided to hold their breath until they got what they wanted even if it endangered our nation’s economy. These people have been called a lot of things – and I’m about to say my piece as well – but I will be avoiding a couple popular terms. I’m not going to call any elected official a terrorist. That is a very loaded statement that I’m not going to level at anyone willy -nilly.  I also think that calling these people hostage takers gives them too much power. I’m calling them children because that’s exactly how they behaved – like spoiled, undisciplined children throwing a tantrum until they get something that shuts them up for a little while. Is that how America is led nowadays? Really!? By grandstanding and ranting and putzing around instead of getting things done they are screwing over places that they couldn’t identify on a map if they wanted to. A note to these congress people – think before you act, don’t act before you think!

Then again, they may find the suggestion that they think to be too elitist. Fear not for I have other suggestions for what they can go do.





The Debt Ceiling Debate Summed Up in One Photo

21 07 2011

In case you and no idea, I’m a geek – specifically, a political geek. And not just a Daily Show/Colbert Report fan political geek either, but a Politico-reading, Rachel Maddow Show-watching one. Did I mention my job is covering town meetings for Government Access TV? Yeah that much of a geek. The results of my geekiness is that I’ve learned a lot about the debate going on in DC about whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. I could get into the issue, but I’m not sure anyone would be interested in the opinion of someone who gets no say in the matter. Honestly, I really think this about sums it up.

Nancy Pelosi looks appalled, John Boehner seems on the verge of tears, and the President is pouting. We do not have a deal, folks! Back to the drawing board!