Out of Control Policy Blog

Can Clinton be "just" a vice president?

Now, just about everyone concedes that Sen. Barack Obama has secured the Democratic Party's nomination for president. What may be more interesting in Sen. Hillary Clinton's extensive overtures to "consider an invitation" by Sen. Obama to be his vice presidential running mate.

Many believe this simply doesn't make sense. Even in her overtures, she displayed more of a desire to stay in center stage than graciously concede defeat and begin uniting the party.

Yet, a Clinton VP might make a lot of sense, and it may, in fact, be a pairing that could only be accomplished with someone like Sen. Obama at the top of the ticket.

Ponder the following:

*Sen. Clinton has a reputaton for being a team player in the US Senate, working with disparate individuals includings Sen. Obama to achieve policy change;
*Vice Presidential nominees often serve as campaign trail pit pulls, allowing the top of the ticket to focus on broader leadership issues and strategic policy positions;
*First Lady Hillary Clinton was content to stay at least one notch below President Bill Clinton, even though she had a much stronger and foreceful personality;
*The criticism of Hillary Clinton's attempt to effectively nationalize health care in the mid-1990s was her behind the scenes shenanigans, not her "in your face" politics.

In other words, despite her aggressive campaign tactics, Sen. Clinton has shown she can work outside the limelight and on a team. She can be an effective role player. But, it will take a unique type of political leadership to embrace that with confidence and ensure she sticks to that role.

Moreover, Obama will need Clinton's skills to effectively implement policy if they win in November.

That said, Obama doesn't need Clinton on the ticket (although I think it would make a much stronger one in November). While it's unclear whether Clinton would have been able to bring all of Obama's supporters into the fold, Clinton's supporters have no where else to go, and they are rapid politicos. I don't see many Clinton supporters sitting on the sidelines in November, or bolting to Ralph Nadar or another leftwing candidate, especially since the political agendas of Obama and Clinton are so close.

So, we'll see. If Obama extends an invitation to Clinton, and she accepts, a win in November would likely complete the transition of the Vice President's role into a truly executive position at the federal level. This result would be more than ironic since the transformation began in earnest with Al Gore under President Bill Clinton.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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