As Senator Barack Obama wrapped up the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, Senator Hillary Clinton and her surrogates signaled that she would like to be Obama's vice president. But the question is not whether the offer should be made. The real question is why anyone in his or her right mind would even consider Hillary as a vice presidential pick.
While Hillary is certainly qualified to be president, she is grossly unqualified to be Obama's vice president. The most important role of the VP is like that of a physician -- 'first, do no harm.' Hillary fails this test on several fronts.
First, as the Democrat that Republicans most love to hate, she would bring a tremendous amount of baggage to the ticket. While Senator John McCain has not yet successfully brought the different facets of the GOP base enthusiastically aboard his campaign train, the inclusion of Clinton as VP would galvanize a now dispirited Republican Party. And Hillary's presence on the ticket would jeopardize the tremendous advantage Obama has among Independent voters and disaffected Republicans.
Second, former President Bill Clinton has been a loose cannon for the entire Democratic primary season, showing little self control nor the ability to subvert his need to be the center of attention for the benefit of Hillary's campaign. The Clintons fully expected to win this nomination, believed it was owed to them, had already measured the drapes at the White House in anticipation of returning to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and are still having difficulty accepting the fact that the race has come to a close. To paraphrase GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, 'the idea of Bill Clinton [anywhere near] the White House with nothing to do is something I just can't imagine.'
Further, the Clintons have no track record of supporting the presidential aspirations of anyone but themselves. They were missing in action during Al Gore's campaign in 2000 and in John Kerry's campaign in 2004, when enthusiastic support from the Clintons could have made a real difference. And Hillary's failure to even acknowledge that Obama had won the nomination during her speech Tuesday night revealed her lack of respect and disdain for her Democratic rival.
Even more galling is the apparent notion that the Clintons would like Obama to find a role for both of them in his administration. The Clintons just don't get it. Former presidents, as a point of presidential courtesy and respect, do not interfere with or expect to be included in another president's administration. Former President Carter did not intrude during the Clinton years. Even President George H.W. Bush did not meddle with his own son's presidency, although the opportunity was certainly there. Again, the Clintons appear to have only one non-negotiable principle: Victory for a Clinton at all costs.
Eerily, Hillary and some of her surrogates hinted that she stayed in the race because 'anything could happen' to Obama, as if they are either hoping or planning that something tragic would occur. In a Freudian slip a couple of weeks ago, Hillary alluded to Robert Kennedy's assassination in 1968 as an example of one of the misfortunes that could befall Obama. After this statement, it would be prudent for Obama to double up on his Secret Service detail and make sure his security forces are on alert at all times.
Hillary has demonstrated the skills of a chameleon during the campaign and has morphed into several distinct personalities: the inevitable nominee, the victim, the fighter, the military hawk, the gun-toting, whiskey-drinking good 'ole girl, the shrew. But it is hard to imagine that, after saying point blank she believes Obama is not qualified to be president, that she could mutate into yet another life form: an enthusiastic cheerleader for her political rival.
Of course, there is the issue of Hillary's supporters and whether or not a substantial portion will be so angry about Hillary not getting the nomination that they will stay home in November or vote for McCain. Obama certainly has his work cut out for him in terms of bringing these voters into the Democratic fold for the fall. But since they believe Hillary -- and only she -- can fulfill their dreams of the first woman president, there is no evidence that putting her on the ticket as the VP will satisfy the most fervent among them. In fact, it could anger them more.
As the first African American to win the presidential nomination of either major party, Obama may personify as much change as the American electorate can digest at one time. Thus, his VP should be a safe bet ' a white male from the South, West or Midwest who can relate to 'white working class voters' and allay fears that Obama may move our nation too far, too fast. Former presidential candidate John Edwards, former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia come to mind as safe, attractive picks who would understand their role during the campaign and in the White House.
No vice presidential pick should suffer from the disease of over ambition, and Hillary has loads of it, as do others who have been mentioned as VP possibilities, like Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Leaders with number-two people in place who are not willing to wait their turns at succession have a tendency to experience short tenures in office. Ask Julius Caesar.
Gwen Richardson is an entrepreneur and author based in Houston, Texas. Her new book is titled: Why African Americans Can't Get Ahead: And How We Can Solve It With Group Economics. Richardson is currently writing a book about the 2008 presidential election.
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Why African-Americans Can't Get Ahead: And How We Can
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