Off Into the Sunset

The immediate buzz I’ve seen out of the Clinton speech conceding the candidacy and endorsing Obama is that if she had been this gracious toward her competitor during the contest, it might be him giving this sort of speech and not her. I don’t really even know what that means, really, but without a doubt it was the right speech for her to give at the moment, so good on her for doing so.

I personally leaned toward Obama in this contest fairly early on (I think Edwards was marginally closer to my own most perfect candidate this time around, but that was pretty much a non-starter), but as I also mentioned, as far as these leading candidates went on the Democratic side, there was no real downside for me. I would have quite happily voted for Clinton if it had gone her way, not only for her own policies and qualities, but also simply to watch conservative heads explode at the idea of the Clintons setting up shop at 1600 Pennsylvania again. There’s not enough Schadenfreude Pie in the world for that sort of event.

But in the long run I suspect it’s better this way. I do think that when the dust settles what we’re going to find is that Clinton’s stock is going to go way up. Just as being gaveled out of the presidency was the best thing to happen to Al Gore personally (if not the best thing to happen to the nation, given what the alternative turned out to be), I think Clinton’s going to find herself completely springboarded out of her husband’s political shadow, and able to write her own ticket, politically and otherwise, from here on out. She’s the Most Important Clinton now, which is not insignificant (and which must kind of burn Bill, no matter what he says publicly).

Yes, she does have the minor problem of $30 million in campaign debt ($11 million or so her being her own loans to herself), but given how the Clintons have made money in the last few years, this is one of those temporary problems. She’ll just have someone ghostwrite a memoir of her campaign and her personal debt will get zeroed out, zap, boom, done. Meanwhile Obama’s actually got to keep running, the poor bastard. Clinton will be fine.

That is, as long as she can avoid being roped in for VP. People have hinted that Obama needs to avoid having Clinton as VP to avoid being tied to the Clinton legacy, but it’s really the other way around: I’m not sure why Hillary would want to tie herself to Obama’s legacy and policies so concretely when she has so many opportunities now to stand on her own. She’s was second banana to another man for years; it’s not trading up to be the second banana to another. Let Hillary be Hillary now, on her own, in her own spotlight, and let’s see where she goes from here.

33 Comments on “Off Into the Sunset”

  1. That is, I think a pretty fair assessment.

    I could see Hillary making an excellent Senate Majority Leader, and in fact expect it to happen sooner rather than later.

  2. Some people have suggested her for Senate majority leader but she is relatively junior and that institution is a pure gerontocracy.

    Thinking laterally, the best think Obama could do is nominate her for the Supreme Court at the next opening.

  3. I agree with the SML argument. She’s junior, but respected. Nominating her for the Supreme Court would just bring the Republicans out of the woodwork, and Obama will have bigger fish to fry.

  4. Hillary on the Court would make conservative heads explode with enough energy to power the US electric grid for decades. I love the idea.

  5. “She’ll just have someone ghostwrite a memoir of her campaign and her personal debt will get zeroed out, zap, boom, done.”

    Mark the day, John: you predicted it!

  6. The main problem I have with giving Hillary (or Bill, for that matter) a SCOTUS appointment is that neither of them has any judicial experience. Sure, they’re both lawyers, but neither has been a judge. I don’t think that any SC justice (since the turn of the 20th century, anyway) has been appointed without such experience.

  7. The speech I saw indicated that she was “suspending” her campaign, not conceding. By not conceding or quitting, she maintains control of her delegates. She may (very likely) just be avoiding any more campaign costs while girding up for a nasty convention fight. I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am right.

  8. A terminated campaign might not be able to continue to solicit contributions to retire debt.

  9. You mentioned some months ago that Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson was on staff with you at the U. of Chicago student newspaper. Any chance you’d want to track him down and ask a few postmortem questions for the sake of Whatever readers’ curiosity? To put it another way: As a storyteller, wouldn’t you want to hear his story?

  10. For those who have paid attention to what kind of person Hillary Clinton is, at least based on how she ran her campaign, she’s the LAST kind of person I would want in any public office. I’m not sure what ‘qualities’ about her you admire other than tenacity. It sure doesn’t seem to be honesty or any kind of ethics. Or a firm grip on reality. It’s like Hanover Fist talking about how great a guy Captain Sternn is in Heavy Metal. Except for all the horrific things she’s done, Hillary Clinton’s just the bestest person ever! I don’t know whose grasp of reality is weaker, hers or McCain’s.

    Many people I talk to about the situation think she went way too far in attacking Obama, and that will damage her future severely. This seems to be a universal feeling amongst my friends and coworkers. Maybe it’s just a Seattle thing. Speaking engagements and books seem to be in her future, which is certainly profitable for those types, but as for real power? I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk as some people seem to think.

    And that last bit Hilarious: ‘avoid being roped in’ as VP? Like it’s something Obama *wants*. Get real.

    I say, “Good riddance.”

  11. Flippanter nailed it.

    In order to try and recoup her financial losses, she can only suspend her campaign. This is, if I remember correctly, standard operating procedure in a political campaign. We simply don’t pay attention to it, since it’s never particularly mattered before.

  12. If the Senate were actually a “pure gerontocracy,” as comment #2 claims, the Majority Leader wouldn’t be Harry Reid, but rather Robert Byrd. Obviously, this is not the case.

    That said, the many claims that HRC has a shot at becoming Majority Leader all seem to be assuming that Harry Reid is going somewhere, or that he’s unpopular with his caucus, neither of which seem obvious to me.

    I do think John makes a trenchant point in observing that Hillary is indisputably “the important Clinton now” — the one actually in office, the one with a nationwide political network, the one who commands the loyalty of thousands of present-day activists. Quite right.

  13. If the Senate were actually a “pure gerontocracy,” as comment #2 claims, the Majority Leader wouldn’t be Harry Reid, but rather Robert Byrd. Obviously, this is not the case.

    That’s because he graciously stepped down in the 80s!

    Rabid West Virginian

  14. #6, hugh57: “The main problem I have with giving Hillary (or Bill, for that matter) a SCOTUS appointment is that neither of them has any judicial experience. Sure, they’re both lawyers, but neither has been a judge. I don’t think that any SC justice (since the turn of the 20th century, anyway) has been appointed without such experience.”

    Quite the contrary. Some twentieth-century Supreme Court justices with no prior judicial experience:

    Justice Felix Frankfurter
    Justice Louis Brandeis
    Chief Justice Earl Warren
    Chief Justice William Rehnquist

    You know, minor exceptions.

  15. PNH @15: I had thought (or perhaps assumed) that Frankfurter, Brandeis and Rehnquist had at least some judicial experience. I simply forgot about Warren.

    I stand corrected.

  16. Not only does Hillary need to keep her campaign ‘suspended’ in order to fundraise to pay off her campaign debt, she has until the convention to raise enough money to get that $11 million of her own money she loaned the campaign back (bearing in mind that a lot of the other creditors may be entitled to get paid before she is). After the convention, she can only get $250,000 back, and the remainder is converted from a loan to a contribution.

    She can thank John McCain for that little wrinkle.

  17. Frankly, I’m fine with the idea of Hillary on the SCOTUS, but I even more like the idea of her as Senate Majority Leader, in large part because I think Harry Reid is an empty suit. The position of SML requires a fighter, and Hillary has proven that she is a tenacious fighter. Harry Reid, not so much.

  18. Someone, perhaps my husband or brother or it could have even been Jon Stewart, suggested Hillary would make a good US Attorney General.

  19. Do you folks really want a proven liar in any of those positions (SCOTUS/AG/SML)? Really? Yikes.

  20. When the man running your campaign is a subordinate of the man running your ultimate opponent’s (and when you let him talk you into a purely Rovian campaign at that), your judgement, if not common sense, becomes very questionable. I do not want to make that person any more powerful or influential then can be avoided.

  21. John, I’m sorry.
    But Hillary’s stand on Cluster bombs was just too hypocritical to ignore.
    I see the need for her to be veep to bury McNasty, butI don’t like it.
    My choices for president?
    Richardson (experience AND innovation), then Edwards, then Obama.
    Yeah, I’d have voted for her if she had one, but I’m glad I don’t have to (at least for the number one slot).

  22. I generally supported Clinton most of the last year. I’d like to see a woman president in my lifetime.

    That said…

    I felt she went negative in Pennsylvania and had poor control over Bill (who became more of a public jerk over the spring than he’d been before). I’d always felt Obama was a more inspiring speaker. So, a few weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, I was one of those liberal, white, middle-aged women (y’know, Hillary’s base) who voted for Barack. I’ve run into a surprising number of us in the same boat – we REALLY wanted to vote for Hillary, but when she went Republican…err, negative, we just couldn’t do it.

  23. The cluster bomb thing bothered me as well.

    I like a lot about Richardson, but he’s an undisciplined campaigner, and there are credible clues that he may have some of the same personal weaknesses as the last Democratic president.

    For AG, Obama has a deep bench to choose from. For instance, John Edwards. Or Eric Holder, former deputy Attorney General under Clinton, currently serving on Obama’s VP search team. Or Michigan governor (and former Michigan attorney general) Jennifer Granholm, who’s term-limited as governor and can’t ever run for President or VP because she was born a Canadian.

  24. Do you folks really want a proven liar in any of those positions (SCOTUS/AG/SML)? Really? Yikes.

    Have you not been paying attention for, oh, the entirety of American history?

    *All* Presidents lie about something.

  25. Hmmm… “Run For Womens’ Lives” by Hillary Clinton (with John Scalzi) or “Chelsea’s Tale” … Nah.

    I would have held my nose and voted for Hillary over McCain, but I’m much happier with Obama. I still blame her husband for being an idiot loser who blew a great chance for America because of his libido and an average looking girl in a thong.* I just did not want a third Clinton term.** Considering our recent experience with Presidential dynasties, I’m really glad Obama’s in there.

    * No major offense meant to Ms. Lewinsky. She was a bystander at a train-wreck. Sort-of.
    ** Of course, my contempt for Bill is nothing compared to that for the House wing-nuts who tried to impeach a President for not keeping his zipper zipped. That fiasco made Bush impeachment-proof for much worse incompetencies.

  26. i second EVERYTHING tumbleweed said in his or her post! and no…it ain’t just a seattle thing!

    that ‘woman’ is pathetic. i hope she goes away for a loooong time.

  27. ‘Horrific things’…Isn’t that somewhat inflated language?

    One of the many things that has to be done with and over for the next few months is Clinton-hatred. It is an obstruction and a bad mental habit which people need to cure themselves of.

    Repeat after me – the Clintons are not going away. They are a significant force with all their faults and failings.

    To spend any more time thinking about those faults and failings, or talking about them, is to do the Republican-biased media’s work for it.

    If you must, if you really must, continue to moan about the Lewinsky affair and all the rest of it, wait until January next year.

  28. I think it’s clear to most people that the only reason Hillary wants to get into the White House is so she can sleep with an intern in the oval office and then proclaim on national television “I got you back Bill, you sonofabitch!”.

    So for that reason I would’ve voted for her.

    Now, I don’t know who I’ll vote for. Probably John Scalzi.

  29. I’m pretty sure Hillary is very sincere in her beliefs, especially about children and healthcare. My beef with her (aside from the whole Democrat thing) is that she implied a great deal of experience in her campaign, when in reality she was a long-time politician’s wife and first term senator. More than Obama I think, but it hardly compares to the opposition’s life-long record of services. And before everybody flames me for A) being a conservative independent, and B) being sexist, let me just explain that Hillary’s job as First Lady of Arkansas and later the US were tremendously difficult roles. They just aren’t good prep for being President in my opinion.

  30. stbeeman@ 32 – i think it’s interesting you believe hillary has more experience as a politician’s wife and jr. senator than obama has in politics. while many others labor under this misconception, it simply isn’t true. while hillary is years older than obama (an important point), he actually has held elected office more years than she has.

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