Vetting Bill Clinton

There are many reasons why Hillary Clinton should not, and probably will not, be offered the vice presidential spot by Barack Obama. I discussed some of these here and here. The Wall Street Journal points out another reason–Bill Clinton’s business dealings since leaving office.

A hurdle for an Obama-Clinton ticket, Clinton associates say, might well be Mr. Clinton’s refusal to release records of his financial dealings and details of his presidential library’s major donors — which have included Mideast governments and businessmen — during the traditional vice-presidential vetting process.

But even if Mr. Clinton did open his records — something he refused to do during his wife’s 17-month presidential campaign — the unprecedented complications he would pose for an Obama White House as the vice president’s spouse go deeper and broader than his personal records, Democrats on both sides say.

A former president’s global travels for his humanitarian foundation, speeches here and abroad for which he has received up to a quarter-million dollars, financial deals and everyday utterances could pose “a whole host” of conflicts with the policies of an Obama administration, Democrats say.

Sen. Clinton would present problems of her own for Sen. Obama, advisers in both camps say: As half of the couple that has dominated in the Democratic Party and Washington for 16 years, she would “completely undermine the Obama message” of change and new direction in politics, as one Clinton confidant put it…

Some Democrats say Bill Clinton is privately pressing her case to be on an Obama ticket, even as he is encouraging her to hang tough and not concede the presidential race, to increase her leverage. But one insider countered, “His importance in this is completely exaggerated. She’s going to figure it out for herself.”

For Sen. Clinton to be considered, she would have to undergo an invasive vetting of both Clintons’ private and public affairs, just like other recent vice-presidential aspirants, say veterans of the process. They said it would likely require Mr. Clinton to reveal donors to his library in Little Rock, Ark., which have included the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Middle Eastern businessmen, as well as details of his confidential business dealings.

In April, he did end a relationship with Yucaipa Cos., an investment firm run by billionaire friend Ron Burkle that has had a partnership with the ruler of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The Obama vetters “are going to say, ‘You have to give us the list of library donors, and that’s a deal-breaker if you don’t,'” said one longtime Clinton confidant. “I don’t think the former president will agree to it.”

Obama Receiving Jewish Support, Along With “Unendorsement” From Hamas

Sometimes an unendorsement helps more than an endorsement. In April, Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to Hamas, made some favorable comments about Obama in an interview. This was spun by conservatives as meaning that Hamas had endorsed Obama. If so, today he received the unendorsement after speaking before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Reuters reports:

Hamas promply unendorsed Obama, a Christian who has had difficulty dispelling a rumor campaign suggesting he is a Muslim and that his advisers have a pro-Arab bent.

“Obama’s comments have confirmed that there will be no change in the U.S. administration’s foreign policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters in Gaza.

“The Democratic and Republican parties support totally the Israeli occupation at the expense of the interests and rights of Arabs and Palestinians,” he said.

“Hamas does not differentiate between the two presidential candidates, Obama and Mccain, because their policies regarding the Arab-Israel conflict are the same and are hostile to us, therefore we do have no preference and are not wishing for either of them to win,” Zuhri said.

Besides demonstrating strong support for Israel, Obama made fun of the attacks on him, warning listeners not to believe the provacative emails being sent about him:

They’re filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President. And all I want to say is – let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening. But if anyone has been confused by these emails, I want you to know that today I’ll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel.

In a couple of related items, the National Jewish Democratic Council has released a guide to the candidates entitled Obama vs. McCain: The Facts for Jewish Voters (pdf file). Adam Hanft has written a post on Obama calling him The First Jewish Presidential Nominee:

Among my many reactions to Senator Obama’s securing the Democratic nomination is that this should be a moment of great and cumulative joy for American Jews, who have for so long been at the fraught, ragged and dangerous edge of social justice in America.

We should feel a great sense of pride in this triumph. And, yes, ownership, too — in the best possible way, something created by participation and instrumentality. After all, Jews have been the great American catalysts for change. Not just in the way we have fought for it, but in the way that our own successes here birthed the narrative imagination that led in no small way to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Senator Obama spoke last night…

As the Democratic nominee he stands on the shoulders of activist Jews who have struggled for social change, who were at the vanguard of the labor movement, the minimum wage movement, the Civil Rights movement, the environmental movement, every single wave of progressivity that took this burdened but boundless country forward, away from its wounds.

His journey has been the ultimate Jewish one, the child of an immigrant father who loved learning, who struggled with his heritage and then came to embrace it. And, of course, he went to law school and achieved one of the Jewish mother’s iconic (if a Jewish mother can be described with a Christian metaphor) kvells of nachas: “My son the lawyer.” Not only that, he did it at Harvard, and went on to teach Constitutional law, making him the closest America offers to the Talmudic scholars who devoted themselves to wresting (and wrestling) the truth out of the midrash. Text and context matter desperately to him, like they do to us.

This is the framework, theatrical, political, social, in which I see the nomination of Barack Obama — as a secular epiphany that every Jew should look at with a rush of satisfaction. He is truly the first Jewish presidential nominee we’ve ever had. (And let me qualify that by saying “of a major party” before the Legion of Historical Accuracy gets on my case).


Multiple news sources, including ABC News, CNN, and The New York Times are sending out alerts reporting that Hillary Clinton will drop out of the race on Friday. While details remain sketchy, it appears she will announce this at a meeting of supporters, most likely to be held in New York City. Reportedly she will suspend her campaign and endorse Barack Obama.

Hopefully this will finally mean we will no longer have Hillary to kick around any more.

Update: Later reports say that Hillary Clinton will drop out on Saturday.

Friday, the previously announced date, will be the fortieth anniversary of the death of Bobby Kennedy, leading to speculation in the blogosphere that this is the reason for moving the date back. Clinton couldn’t even manage to drop out without a gaffe. For a campaign which appeared to be ready to roll over all competition at the start, it certainly turned out to be poorly run.

Speaking of Bobby Kennedy, I wonder what effect having Caroline Kennedy involved in the selection of the vice presidential nominee will have. She just might not like someone who tried to use the death of her uncle for political gain.

“Fair and Balanced” Teaching on Evolution

We’ve already seen the religious right turn to intelligent design when their attempts to teach creationism in the schools was shot down. With this tactic not working, The New York Times reports they have come up with a new strategy:

Starting this summer, the state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.

Already, legislators in a half-dozen states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina — have tried to require that classrooms be open to “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according to a petition from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based strategic center of the intelligent design movement.

“Very often over the last 10 years, we’ve seen antievolution policies in sheep’s clothing,” said Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, a group based in Oakland, Calif., that is against teaching creationism.

While the words might sound good, “strengths and weaknesses” is to science what “fair and balanced” is to news. Both are just attempts at passing off conservative opinion as fact. Evolution remains established science, while the claims of groups such as the Discovery Institute remain attempts at substituting religious thought for science.

It’s Obama’s Party Now

As nominee, Barack Obama is now leader of the Democratic Party. We can expect to see him quickly take control of the party mechanism, which will be directed towards the election of Barack Obama and other Democrats running down ticket. There’s one early sign of this at the Democratic National Committee’s web site. There is no doubt there as to who the nominee is. (Hat tip to Talking Points Memo).

The Top Ten Things Heard At Hillary Clinton Campaign Headquarters


David Letterman presents a list of The Top Ten Things Heard At Hillary Clinton Campaign Headquarters (video above).

Why Obama Should Not Negotiate With Terrorists (Like the Clintonistas)

There are signs that Hillary Clinton really is seeking the vice presidential nomination, although this is far from certain. Earlier I argued against Obama choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Jimmy Carter agrees:

“I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made,” said Carter. “That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates.”

Dick Morris also has some warnings for Obama:

Putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket for vice president creates a ménage-à-trois. Bill will be the unexpected roommate. Even if a President Obama can discipline Hillary and get her to play second fiddle, there is not the remotest chance that he can get the former president to accept such rules. Even if Bill Clinton wanted to rein in his newly prolific public expressions of rage and frustration, there is doubt that he is any longer capable of doing so.

Hillary, who likely desperately wants to be tapped for vice president, is going about it in exactly the wrong way. She seems to be demanding a kind of coalition government between herself and Obama, a definition of the vice presidency not likely to appeal to the president. It reminds me of 1980 when there were discussions of a ticket with Reagan as the presidential nominee and former President Gerald Ford as the vice president in a coalition government where the VP would have extraordinary powers…

Adding Hillary to the ticket would not bring Obama a single vote (except possibly for Bill’s). Her supporters are divided into two distinct categories. The original Clintonistas were strong Democrats, party faithful, pro-choice, middle-aged and up, largely female and all white. But Hillary’s recent backers have been downscale whites of both genders who were turned off by Obama’s pastor, wife and other associates and were afraid he might be a Muslim in disguise. Unhappy about voting for a woman, they never really liked Hillary but turned to her when the alternative was Obama.

If Hillary had won the Democratic nomination, these latent backers of Hillary in the primaries might still have voted for McCain in the general. Their support of Hillary is purely linked to her opposition to Obama. Were she to join the ticket, they would vote for McCain anyway. After all, Obama will still be black and the Rev. Wright will still be nuts.

But adding Hillary to the ticket brings, along with her, Bill.

The public Bill Clinton has morphed over the past few months from a statesman and philanthropist to a petulant, angry, cursing, spoiled narcissist, accusing everyone of being sleazy and biased and in so doing fashioning himself as a foil for Obama. This unattractive image is not the right one for the bottom of a ticket in a presidential race. And make no mistake, Bill comes along with Hillary.

A coalition government might be the way to look at it. Despite all the claims that there is not much difference between the two, Obama and Clinton represent two distinct philosophies of government. To new Democratic voters, whether those brought in this year specifically in support of Obama or in the relatively recent past in protest over the direction the Republicans were going, Hillary Clinton represents what is rotten in Washington almost as much as George Bush does. Choosing Clinton would be seen as a betrayal of principles by many of Obama’s supporters. This would dilute his message for change, and weaken his campaign in the real battle with John McCain for independents.

Much has been discussed of how Obama envisions a Team of Rivals as Lincoln had in his administration. Unfortunately Hillary Clinton is not a team player. The video Young Hillary Clinton really hits it. Hillary Clinton has nothing positive to add to an Obama administration, without, and especially with, Bill coming along for the ride.

Barack Obama and his campaign certainly cannot say this in the manner that I can as someone totally unaffiliated with the campaign. In public they must praise Clinton and woo her supporters. In private I bet they are thinking along the same lines that I am.

While CNN asks if Obama can afford to say no to Clinton, I bet team Obama realizes they cannot afford to say yes.  This is one situation where, figuratively, Obama should not negotiate with terrorists. Resisting the Clintonistas is the first big test of Obama’s strength since becoming the nominee. Fortunately Hillary Clinton is at her strongest this week. Over the next several weeks the closeness of the nomination battle will be forgotten as party members continue to rally around Obama. Every week that goes by, Clinton will have less leverage and will have to settle with less and less from Obama. Hopefully this will turn out to be a prime time spot at the convention, vague assurances of returning her calls and considering her views, and nothing further.

Hillary Clinton Should Not Be Obama’s Running Mate

Hillary Clinton appears interested in running for vice president. Hopefully Obama does not allow this to happen. There are several reasons why Clinton would be a poor choice.

From a purely electoral perspective, Clinton does not offer very much. Many of the people who voted for Clinton over Obama are traditional Democratic voters who will vote for Obama now that he is the nominee. There are at least two states, New Jersey and California, where Clinton won the primary but Obama later moved ahead of Clinton in the polls, debunking the idea that Obama cannot do well in the states which Clinton won.

In terms of states, Clinton might  be able to bring in Arkansas, but that is hardly certain. She very likely would be in a situation comparable to Gore in 2000 and Edwards in 2004 who were unable to win Tennessee and North Carolina. The benefits of having Clinton on the ticket as vice presidential candidate would be less significant than Gore running for president n 2000.

If looking at demographics instead of individual states, it is also unlikely that Clinton would help. Most of the usual Democratic voters will still vote for Obama. Part of Clinton’s support does come from social conservatives who are not interested in reform as supported by Obama and many of his supporters. It could be counterproductive to worry too much about such voters.

In recent years we have been seeing a realignment between the parties. The Democrats have been receiving new support from independents and disenchanted Republicans who oppose the war and social conservative positions of the Republicans since 2006. Placing a pro-war, anti-reform, social conservative such as Clinton on the ticket might pick up some Clinton supporters, but it risks alienating all the new voters the Democrats have been receiving. Clinton represents what Obama supporters want a change from.

Hillary Clinton also fails to help Obama with his weaknesses. A bizarre fact about this year’s Democratic race is that the three top tier candidates were the three with the least experience. Looking at real experience as opposed to proximity to power as first lady, Clinton has far less meaningful experience than Obama. This includes national security, with Clinton having exaggerated her involvement during Bill’s years in office when she did not even have security clearance. Besides limited experience, Clinton has showed poor judgment in her positions going from Hillary Care up to her support for a gas tax holiday. Obama would be better off seeking a running mate who has more experience, as long as he avoids someone who conflicts with his message of change.

While Clinton took the low road during the campaign, Obama took the high road. There were many types of attacks which Obama avoided but the Republicans will not hesitate to use should she be on the ticket. While Clinton attacked Obama based upon people he has associated with, Obama did not stoop to this level. Clinton’s old associates, not mentioned by Obama, do provide considerable ammunition for the Republicans.

Having Clinton on the ticket also means risking damage to the ticket from the antics of Bill Clinton. Actually Hillary Clinton herself might be even more dangerous to the ticket as the Republicans replay clips of her attacks on Obama.  They will do it regardless of whether she is on the ticket, but this will be more damaging if she is running for vice president.

Besides making a poor running mate, Clinton would be a poor vice president. Her lack of experience would be a problem both as a candidate and as vice president. Her lack of integrity presents an even more serious problem for someone next in line to be president. We cannot totally ignore Clinton’s warnings about the dangers Obama might face.

Obama Won First Skirmish With McCain

If we can consider tonight a view of the general election campaign, Democrats should feel very good about their presumptive nominee and Republicans should feel very bad. Comparing the speeches made it clear that Obama is setting the agenda and the election is his to lose.

Barack Obama campaigned with a slogan, “Change You Can Believe In.” He backed up this slogan both in the manner in which he campaigned and in the more detailed policy proposals he discussed. Hillary Clinton failed to understand that a slogan is meaningless unless you can back it up and thought she could compete by also using the word “change.” It did not work.

Now John McCain is making the same mistake as Clinton in thinking he could defeat Obama by taking his slogan. McCain’s version was, “A Leader You Can Believe In.” This only emphases the fact that he is reacting to Obama as opposed to setting forth a meaningful agenda of his own.

McCain tried to make the argument that he was the better candidate to bring about change, but seemed oblivious to the fact that you cannot be an agent of change when you are supporting the policies of the past. Even most of those who favor McCain over Obama understand that this is election is about generational change and, right or wrong, McCain is on the side of the old.

Obama responded to McCain’s challenge by appearing more articulate, more inspirational, and more presidential than McCain in his speech (video above and transcript under the fold). Even the commentators at Fox were critical of McCain’s speech. Obama countered McCain by saying:

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.

Obama comes off classier than McCain and sets the stage for a real debate over the issues during the campaign. While the Republicans might try to continue the politics of personal destruction and Swift Boat tactics of previous years, Obama is prepared to show that his policies are better for the country. He certainly showed he is more skillful at making his case.

I’ve never been a supporter of campaigning against McCain by making comparisons to George Bush the main argument. However tonight McCain acted like the candidate doth protest too much. By discussing George Bush he wound up reinforcing the connection between himself and Bush. Besides, his claims of differing from Bush on the war are not convincing. The error was going to war in the first place. Nit picking over strategy does not make McCain appear significantly different from George Bush. As Obama said:

Change is a foreign policy that doesn’t begin and end with a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged. I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what’s not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years—especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.


We Still Have Hillary Clinton To Kick Around

It looks like we still have Hillary Clinton to kick around. Instead of conceding after Obama clinched the nomination, it sounded more, as Ezra Klein quipped, that the message was, “I think Clinton may be willing to offer Obama the vice presidency.”

When Richard Nixon conceded defeat after running for Governor of California in 1962 many believed we would not have Nixon to kick around any more. By laying low and campaigning for others Nixon set himself up for a comeback. Clinton is doing the opposite. By refusing to concede and giving an appalling speech where she questions the legitimacy of Obama’s victory she reduces the chances of being accepted by Democrats in the future. As Andrew Sullivan wrote, “It was an assertion that she had won the nomination and a refusal to concede anything to her opponent. Classless, graceless, shameless, relentless. Pure Clinton.”

It was bad enough when Clinton raised her bogus claims of winning the popular vote, and her false characterization of her failure to abide by party rules regarding Michigan and Florida as a fight to count all the votes, during the heat of the actual campaign. At least during a campaign we expect a candidate, especially one lacking in integrity such as Hillary Clinton, to say anything to try to get votes. To repeat these erroneous claims tonight and question the legitimacy of Obama’s victory now that he has clinched the nomination was just inexcusable.

When Hillary Clinton said she would make no decisions as to her future tonight there was a moment in which I was hoping that instead she would be “the decider” and at least say something honest about her intentions. Instead she continued to play games. She invited people to go to to comment on what she should do. This is a sham, just like every other time she pretented to care about what anyone else has to say. She saves her supporters the trouble of actually commenting by presenting a form which already says, “I’m with you Hillary, and I am proud of everything we are fighting for.” Beyond that, further comments are optional.

I ignored the canned text and did submit my own message:

You should have said that after tonight you won’t have Hillary Clinton to kick around any more. Now you are going to burn in Hell with me.
–Dick Nixon

After submitting the comment I was transferred to a screen soliciting contributions.