Obama's Dilemma (Update)

Adam Nagourney in todays' New York Times speculates on the role of Senator Clinton in Senator Obama's agenda:

There would be obvious advantages to an Obama-Clinton ticket. For one, it would go far toward healing wounded feelings among Mrs. Clintons supporters, especially women. Some of those supporters have suggested that they would either stay home or vote for Mr. McCain, who made an explicit appeal for their support Tuesday night as he tried to increase pressure on Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton would provide Mr. Obama with some of the foreign policy credentials he needs, bring her own bank of contributors and probably help put more states in play.I think the world of both of them, said Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware. I want to see them run as a team.Yet there is clear, if not publicly expressed, apprehension in Mr. Obamas circle about the wisdom of asking her to join the ticket. After gaining so much attention by campaigning on a promise of bringing fresh faces to Washington, Mr. Obama would be asking voters to put another Clinton in the White House, though in the No. 2 spot.Mrs. Clinton does not come alone; beyond her own history and the legions of voters who do not like her she would bring along former President Bill Clinton, whose baggage might well be judged by Mr. Obama to outweigh his political skills, especially after a primary season that left Mr. Clintons reputation dented.And running for president is very much about presenting command and authority. A crucial rule in the vice-presidential selection process is to avoid the perception of being pressured into a decision by a potential running mate.Its backward looking to pick a Clinton at this point and hes all about forward looking, to being about change, said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic organization. Hes all about a fundamentally new kind of politics. Picking a Clinton is by definition backward looking, and I just dont think he wants that.

And for a transoceanic view, here is Vittorio Zucconi in today's La Repubblica:

Dunque Hillary Rodham Clinton ha vinto nel giorno in cui ha perso. Ha fatto capire che se lei non potra essere regina, neppure lui potra diventare re senza di lei.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won on the day she lost. She made clear that if she couldn't be the queen [Obama] could not be king without her.

Update:The Wall Street Journal editorial for today (Thursday) reads, in part:

[H]aving Mrs. Clinton on the ticket wouldn't exactly reinforce Mr. Obama's message of change and national unity. The Senator and her husband are polarizing political figures, popular with Democrats but not with Republicans or most independents. Judging by Tuesday night, the Clintons would want to share the campaign spotlight, which runs the risk of making Mr. Obama look weak.Some partisans argue that Mrs. Clinton can help the nominee carry the white, working-class precincts that he failed to win in the primaries. But in the end Mr. Obama has to make that sale to working-class voters himself, because Americans vote for the top of the ticket, not for Vice Presidents. We also doubt that many Democrats would stay home in November if Mrs. Clinton is not on the ticket, given how eager they are to retake the White House.The real trouble would begin if Mr. Obama wins. He'd then have to cope with both Clintons inside his own Administration. The former President is the definition of an unguided missile, whose every public word would be picked up and amplified by the media. Would Mrs. Clinton settle for a traditional veep role, having already been co-President for eight years? We doubt it. Mr. Obama could consign her to such a role, as other Presidents have done to other veeps. But he'd then be inviting an internal guerrilla war if not from her, then from her many loyalists. Or from Bill. And she couldn't be fired.There are many experienced Democrats who would make suitable running mates, and for the purposes of governing Mr. Obama needs to pick someone he can work with. Above all, he can't appear to bend to ultimatums from the House of Clinton. This is a test of Mr. Obama's political judgment and toughness. If he can't stand up to Hillary and Bill Clinton, forget about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And last evening on the "Lehrer News Hour" both David Brooks and Mark Shields predicted that Obama could not pick Clinton.Is this rare punditorial agreement prescient?

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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