The Plank

Clinton As Veep--maybe Not So Ridiculous?

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The prospect of making Hillary Clinton the vice presidential nominee remains politically problematic for several reasons, not least among them the distractions her husband might create both during and after the campaign. But "problematic" isn't the same as "unthinkable." And longtime Democratic operative Bob Beckel has a new article over at RealClearPolitics making some several arguments for why, on pure political grounds, Barack Obama should give her serious consideration. Among the more persuasive ones:

A few other benefits of Clinton on the ticket; no one will be a more effective attack dog against McCain and the Right than Hillary. She can take the heat and defend you (something you are increasingly forced to do yourself). Every attack on McCain by Clinton will get wide coverage. No one has had more experience than Hillary on taking the Right to the wood shed and beating them to a pulp. She becomes the lightening rod, you go back to change and hope. Can any other VP choice do that? Not even close. 

For what it's worth, I think Obama has actually proven himself quite adept as a campaign combatant. He stays cool, yes, but he can make pretty devastating criticisms of his opponent when necessary. If he couldn't, he wouldn't have survived that grueling primary. 

Still, it's unquestionably helpful to have a running mate who is also a deft attacker. Think back to the last few presidential campaigns--and the moments for which the running mates are most memorable. Many of them involve the debates. We remember John Edwards and Joe Lieberman failing to deliver punches against Dick Cheney; going back a little further, we remember Lloyd Bensten absolutely devastating Dan Quayle with his famous line about Jack Kennedy.

I don't have such a specific memory of Al Gore in either 1992 or 1996. But he was always a sharp debater and I do recall him making effective rhetorical attacks on Bush/Quayle in 1992, starting with his surprisingly good convention speech. Plus he had a memorable, and politically pivotal, role as Ross Perot's sparring partner in a debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement that ran on Larry King Live.

Hillary Clinton, of course, excelled at the debates. And while I've said repeatedly I think political considerations should be secondary to a candidate's ability to serve as president, I think she meets that standard too--more clearly, in fact, than most of the names now in circulation.

None of which is to say she should definitely be the candidate; there are plenty of other arguments against naming her. But the arguments in the other direction may be stronger than a lot of people--myself included--have acknowledged.  

--Jonathan Cohn 

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