Politics is a strange and mysterious game.
In the hours after Barack Obama’s pick of Joe Biden to be his running mate, the McCain campaign released an attack ad that criticized Obama for not choosing his primary campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, as his running mate.
I’ve also seen speculation in the past forty-eight hours that Obama should make a public offer to Clinton of a cabinet post or other major position within his government, emulating Abraham Lincoln who famously assembled his cabinet, the “Team of Rivals,” from his political rivals, partly to show Clinton’s primary voters, all eighteen million of them, that she isn’t being ignored or snubbed.
Were it up to me, I would look at Clinton for the Supreme Court, not a Cabinet post.
Despite the rabid anti-Clintonism that pervades the land — and has since the 1990’s — Clinton would actually receive a great deal of deference from her Senate colleagues in her confirmation hearings for either a Cabinet post or the Supreme Court. Talk radio would be inflamed, but in the end, Clinton would be confirmed.
And, I tend to think that Clinton would have an easier time being confirmed for the Supreme Court than for the Cabinet — some Republicans would be uncomfortable with having Clinton in an Executive department where she could use its levers to “snoop” into Bush administration malfeasance.
The Supreme Court, though?
The Republicans in the Senate would quickly realize that this gets the Clintons out of politics once and for all. It puts a muzzle on Bill Clinton, because of the appearance of impropriety on his part could hurt Justice Clinton and her judicial independence. At the same time, Justice Clinton would only occasionally be heard and not seen. And finally, Justice Clinton helps fire up the Republican base when election time rolls around again “Elect a batshit Republican, otherwise President Obama will appoint more justices like Justice Clinton who will take away your guns.”
Putting Hillary Clinton on the Supreme Court would be a poison pill for Republicans, but it’s one they would swallow, because it’s going to pay them dividends down the road.
To say nothing of the fact that she would do a good job on the Supreme Court.
Now, can Obama make a public pronouncement like that? Clinton, on the Supreme Court?
There’s no reason he couldn’t. However, he shouldn’t. Because sending the public message that Clinton is being looked at and groomed for a Supreme Court position would almost certainly help turn out the Republican base to vote for McCain, for the very reason I noted above — ads would be run by the hundreds claiming that Clinton would use the Supreme Court to strengthen gun control regulations, relax standards on abortion, permit flag burning, ban prayer in schools, etc. Every paranoid rightwing fantasy would come out, and it would hurt Obama over someone who, technically, wasn’t even on the ticket. Yes, any sane person knows the Supreme Court doesn’t work that way, but perception often matters more than reality.
And, frankly, the same reasoning holds true, even if Obama is looking at Clinton for a Cabinet post. Why advertise the fact? It would only be a lightning rod, perhaps not as dangerous as the Supreme Court lightning rod, but a lightning rod all the same.
Thus, I’m not sure that Obama can or will make any public promises about Clinton’s role in future government, either within or without his administration. But I’ve no doubt that Clinton does have a bright political future ahead of her.
Obviously, my track record as a political prognosticator is not that good, but that’s what I would do. Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Justice.