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Why Not Hillary?

The GOP has come up with a clever yet bizarre line of attack on Barack Obama: How dare he pass over Hillary Clinton for Joe Biden as his running mate?

As WSJ’s Amy Chozick reported last night, Team McCain debuted a new spot, “Passed Over,” at 3 a.m.:

The timing is a reference to Hillary Clinton’s national security ad during the Democratic primary and the same time the Obama campaign sent out its text message announcing Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden as the vice-presidential nominee.

“She won millions of votes. But isn’t on his ticket. Why?” an announcer says in the 30-second spot.

The answer? “For speaking the truth.”

The ad, which has not yet been released [as of 6:29 yesterday evening], then ticks off a litany of criticism Clinton used against Obama in the prolonged primary, according to a transcript sent to reporters.

“You never hear the specifics,” Clinton says.

“On the Rezko scandal,” the voice says.

“We still don’t have a lot of answers about Senator Obama,” Clinton says in footage from the primaries.

“Senator Obama’s campaign has become increasingly negative,” Clinton says in another scene.

The announcer closes by saying “The truth hurt. And Obama didn’t like it.”

The ad is the latest sign that the presidential contest has grown increasingly personal. It’s also proof that the some times bitter battle between the two Democratic senators has provided useful fodder to the Republican opposition.

The campaign also quickly emailed around a CNN Political Ticker story headlined “Some in Clinton circle ‘outraged’.”

Evan as Hillary Clinton praised the newly-minted Democratic presidential ticket Saturday, some in her circle are furious Barack Obama did not appear to give the New York Democrat serious consideration for the No. 2 spot, or even ask for her consultation on the matter.

“Set aside that Obama said she’d be on anybody’s short list, set aside anybody’s feelings on whether she was deliberately snubbed and the pros and cons of whether it should be her,” a former Clinton strategist told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “Focus on the politics of it and you have about a quarter of Clinton loyalists still not joining the caravan…for God’s sake, not to even make a show of taking her seriously is flatly stupid.”

A top Clinton advisor also told CNN they were “outraged,” over how the process was conducted.  “You can’t put [Obama VP vetters] Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy on an hour plane ride to Chappaqua just to check the box? They should have done it just for the optics,” this person said. “Barack never even said to her, ‘Here’s how I envision the job’— not one discussion with her about [the position].”

“They thought her supporters were mad before? They are really mad now,” this person also said. We knew it was never going to happen but you would have thought they might at least make a show of it.”

Not to be outdone, Bill Kristol weighs in with a blog post entitled “The Democrats’ Glass Ceiling.”

So Hillary Clinton gets about 18 million votes in 2008, and isn’t even considered for–she apparently isn’t even given the courtesy of being consulted–the vice presidential pick. Joe Biden manages to persuade a few thousand (if that) Iowans to support him. And Barack Obama selects Biden? Normally, if the VP pick came from that year’s presidential field, it’s the runner-up (Kerry-Edwards in 2004, Reagan-Bush in 1980, Stevenson-Kefauver in 1956). (Lyndon Johnson in 1960 hadn’t entered the primaries.) And Biden wasn’t even the third most successful candidate this year (hi, John Edwards!), or fourth (Bill Richardson, I suppose), or fifth (Dennis Kucinich!).

What’s more, Biden and Hillary have basically comparable foreign policy “experience” (such as it is in either case). Nor is Biden clearly more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than Hillary. And they have pretty similar foreign policy views. So no advantage to Biden there. And, unlike Jack Reed, for example, Biden didn’t serve in the military. So no advantage over Hillary there. Nor does he outshine her in executive experience (unlike Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius)–neither Biden nor Hillary has any.

Stoking the lingering resentments of the Hillary camp is probably smart politics, although doing it so brazenly could backfire and cause more of them to realize that they’re playing into the Republicans’ hands.  But the idea that Clinton was somehow owed a VP offer is silly.

By Kristol’s logic, Mike Huckabee should be McCain’s running mate.  At the very least, he should be be seriously interviewed and Mitt Romney should get the nod, under the theory that Huckabee only surpassed him because he stayed in the race long after it was over.  Does anyone think McCain is seriously thinking about Huckabee?

Did Obama take “seriously” the idea of putting Hillary on the ticket?  I can’t imagine he didn’t given the delegate math.  But he and his team surely came to the conclusion that giving her the nod would be a disaster, given the hundreds  of sound bytes she gave the GOP and the complications that Bill Clinton brings to the mix.  Having decided that, pretending to interview her for the gig would have arguably been more insulting than moving on to other candidates.

And, please, let’s not pretend that Hillary Clinton has anything like Joe Biden’s foreign policy gravitas.  It’s been his bread and butter since Hillary was in law school.  She’s a junior Senate backbencher whose “experience” until eight years ago consisted of being married to a powerful man.  Did she learn a lot as a result of that partnership?  Sure.  Is it comparable to chairing the Foreign Relations Committee?  Not hardly.

Republican delegrate graphic via CNN.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Pug says:

    Let’s see . . . John McCain voted to remove Bill Clinton from office and once publicly told a disgusting joke about “why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly” when she was still just a little girl.

    Is he sincere in his affection for Hillary Clinton or is he a complete jerk? I guess the “wimmin” out there will have to be the judge of that.

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  2. Anderson says:

    Anyone got any evidence that Hillary *wanted* to be Obama’s veep?

    The assumption seems to be that if Obama selected anyone, that person was obliged to accept.

    I suspect Hillary signaled early on that she wasn’t interested in playing second fiddle to a guy who, in her view, deprived her of the nomination to which she was entitled.

    As it stands, she’s a U.S. senator w/ a good shot at being majority leader. Great platform for 2012 if Obama falters in November.

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  3. GeraldD says:

    Senator Clinton is not the only United States Senator who was willing to speak the truth concerning Senator Obama’s empty suit. Before his aspirations for Vice President conveniently got in the way, Joe Biden was more than willing to declare that the Emperor had no clothes on.

    See Joe Biden Agrees With Hillary

    Its too bad people including the media can’t simply ask the questions we as a nation of voters need in order to make a sound decision. Isn’t it IRONIC that a PREACHER rather than a REPORTER was able to expose Obama’s unhealthy support of an INFANTICIDE bill while he served in the Illinois State Senate? Thank goodness that Pastor Rick Warren has firmly cemented the position of religion as a credible venue for presidential debates. I wonder what CNN, CBS, Newsweek, and The New York Times think about their being upstages by a PREACHER?

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  4. Bobby says:

    There is no comparison between Huckabee and Clinton.

    There was a 1% margin between Hillary and Obama at the end of the primaries, AND a party severely divided.

    The feelings and beliefs of the PEOPLE, the 50% of the democratic party who decided on Hillary, is what Obama should have considered.

    And in doing so where McCain hasn’t, he would have shown how the Democrats can overcome hurdles and promote unity – a vision for change in the future.

    Instead, Obama has shown he can’t even bridge this one gap – he can’t even satisfy his own liberal base with a simple decision. He’s offered us a VP who is the icon of OLD WHITE MALE WASHINGTON.

    We’ve had FOUR YEARS of a president who would not let COMMON SENSE get in the way of his EGO, who never admitted a mistake. Do I want 4 more years of that? NO. Do I want 4 more years of BUSH-LIKE McCain? NO.

    Now I have to try to figure out who will be worse for this country, and I don’t yet know. Part of me suspects McCain is playing hard-right conservative to get the vote and will wind up being much more centrist/liberal as his record suggests.

    Obama might go the other way – as we’ve already seen him floating more and more right with every passing day.

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  5. DMan says:

    Stoking the lingering resentments of the Hillary camp is probably smart politics, although doing it so brazenly could backfire and cause more of them to realize that they’re playing into the Republicans’ hands.

    Isn’t it somewhat elitist to assume a large block of Hillary supporters are dimwitted enough to be played in this sort of fashion by the GOP? My guess is the Republicans are already overplaying their hand here and it will definitely backfire. The transparency of such an attack shows what Republicans really think of Hillary supporters. That they are easily manipulated fools who are simply waiting for someone to tell them they should be outraged. Maybe I’m giving Hillary supporters to much credit but I suspect this line of attack will fail.

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  6. Bithead says:

    Well, look; it seems fairly clear to me that what’s going on here is McCain’s people are investing some effort in reinforcing the number of people among Clinton’s supporters who will be voting for John McCain; hardly an insignificant number. Around half her Supporters were headed for McCain, the last I saw, and I’ve nothing in the way of fact to suggest that has changed.

    In this, it is a very effective ad.

    Bobby suggested this, and I’ll take it farther… the Democrats are approximately as it is party can be and still call itself a party. Obama isn’t helping that split. McCain is simply driving the truck through the hole Obama created.

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  7. clounis says:

    One thing I must say “I will not spend my energy pursuing people to vote Republican this year if Sen. McCain picks flip-flop flopper Mitt Romney for VP” definitely NOT! I am still suffering for the time he was the Governor of Massachusetts…Imagine what it would be if he gets to be VP and something happens and he end up being P.

    My opinion is that the McCain campain should take a real look at MIKE HUCKABEE… conservatives will take him seriously and the people will be able to add HOPE and NOT a calculator; 7 houses + 1 house = 8 houses. NOw that everyone know who is the VP selection on the democrats side (NOT H. CLINTON) a humble man for PA with plenty of years in WA republican’s must pick a real conservative definetly NOT old rich MITT ROMNEY! From heart of Massachusetts.

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  8. Bithead says:

    Second pass…

    James,

    I think you underestimate self-centeredness of the average Democrat, and specifically the self-centeredness of the average Hillary Clinton supporter. Remember, like Hillary herself, this is all about THEM. Frankly, McCain’s people are smart to exploit that rift.

    Did Obama take “seriously” the idea of putting Hillary on the ticket? I can’t imagine he didn’t given the delegate math. But he and his team surely came to the conclusion that giving her the nod would be a disaster, given the hundreds of sound bytes she gave the GOP and the complications that Bill Clinton brings to the mix.

    Then what shall we say about the years-long list of sound bites generated by Joe Biden, such as in the ad both you and I ran yesterday? My guess is there’s something deeper in that calulation of Obama’s in not even bothering to vet Hillary for the post. My guess to that point involves a fear of what happens once she gets one step away from the Presidency.

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  9. [...] it so brazenly could backfire and cause more of them to realize that they’re playing into the Republicans’ [...]

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  10. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    clounis, I guess you are afraid of what Romney`brings to the GOP ticket. Huckabee is a bigot. Another question for you. clounis, is it your opinion Obama or Biden are not rich?

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  11. Who knew Kristol was such a feminist?…

    WHO KNEW KRISTOL WAS SUCH A FEMINIST?…. Throughout much of the presidential campaign, Bill Kristol spent a considerable amount of time trashing Hillary Clinton and explaining to Fox News viewers, “White women are a problem, that’s, you know — we…..

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  12. triumph says:

    But the idea that Clinton was somehow owed a VP offer is silly.

    Dude, you are misconstruing the argument. This is a portent that McCain is likely to cede the Republican nomination to Hillary at the Minneapolis convention.

    Since mcCain only got 9.5 million votes during primary season and Hillary earned 18 million, he is morally bound to drop out of the race and let Hillary run against B. Hussein in the general.

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  13. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    triumph, speaking of silly. Did you read your own post? Just in case you truely do not understand, McCain is a Republican, Clinton seems to be a democrat. The chances Hillary could get the Republican nomination are infinitely small. But just for the sake of stupidity. Hillary would destroy Obama in the general.

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  14. sam says:

    triumph, speaking of silly. Did you read your own post? Just in case you truely do not understand, McCain is a Republican, Clinton seems to be a democrat. The chances Hillary could get the Republican nomination are infinitely small. But just for the sake of stupidity. Hillary would destroy Obama in the general.

    Pwnnnnnnnnnned!

    But then it’s Zelsdorf Ragshaft III, of the ClubbedBabySeals Ragshafts.

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  15. skills says:

    What a joke- Biden. Clinton was the best choice for President or vice President. I don’t think Obama has good Judgment (friends, Church, his votes in
    Senate) or experience needed to run the county. America needs a true leader not a rock star. This is why democrats keep losing can’t find a true leader.But good Luck!!

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  16. [...] I have to wonder whether an ad like this is really going to do any good, and, I agree with James Joyner’s point about the McCain’s apparent attempt to appear to the PUMA’s a… Stoking the lingering resentments of the Hillary camp is probably smart politics, although doing it [...]

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  17. [...] James Joyner scoffs at Kristol’s claim that Clinton’s and Biden’s foreign policy experience are “comparable”: And, please, let’s not pretend that Hillary Clinton has anything like Joe Biden’s foreign policy gravitas. It’s been his bread and butter since Hillary was in law school. She’s a junior Senate backbencher whose “experience” until eight years ago consisted of being married to a powerful man. Did she learn a lot as a result of that partnership? Sure. Is it comparable to chairing the Foreign Relations Committee? Not hardly. [...]

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  18. anjin-san says:

    Yawn.

    If Obama had selected Hillary, McCain would be attacking him for that right now. The McCain campaign’s big challenge is to keep the focus off of McCain by any means necessary…

    BTW… Did you hear? He was a POW…

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  19. Bithead says:

    So, Anjin; are you implying you won’t attack whoever McCain picks to be VP? Or are you, as I suppose, simply trying on your new cheerleaders outfit?

    Fascinating.

    The McCain campaign’s big challenge is to keep the focus off of McCain by any means necessary…

    With Obama and Biden trying to out-gaffe each other that doesn’t seem much of a challenge. Add to that the amount of tape we have on Biden, and this one’s going to be …ummm … amusing.

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  20. anjin-san says:

    With Obama and Biden trying to out-gaffe each other

    Umm, yea. And how are we doing with those Al Qaeda who are training in Iran?

    Or are you, as I suppose, simply trying on your new cheerleaders outfit?

    Once upon a time, I was pretty good at taking those off. Have not, as yet, tried one on.

    BTW… Did you hear? He was a POW…

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  21. Michael says:

    Well, look; it seems fairly clear to me that what’s going on here is McCain’s people are investing some effort in reinforcing the number of people among Clinton’s supporters who will be voting for John McCain;

    The question is whether this particular investment will pay off. I’m with those who think it won’t, that it’s too blatant, and will cause more backlash than support. Like you said, the die-hard Clinton supporter are very self-focused, and this ad didn’t focus attention on them at all, but rather on Obama. If McCain had given them even the appearance of actual attention, it would have gotten him more of their support than this will.

    McCain is simply driving the truck through the hole Obama created.

    Given the ability of McCain’s campaign so far, the hole is probably a pretty safe place to stand. He’ll aim for it, sure, but I have no confidence that he and his campaign can actually hit it.

    With Obama and Biden trying to out-gaffe each other that doesn’t seem much of a challenge. Add to that the amount of tape we have on Biden, and this one’s going to be …ummm … amusing.

    I doubt it. The American public forgets very quickly, even if you have tape to remind them, they stop caring about it. McCain was at least smart enough to get that ad out as fast as he can, because next week nobody is going to care what Biden said about Obama last week.

    That said, McCain’s campaign does need to try and preempt the predictable “noun, a verb, and POW” line, since Biden is the only one who could have used it effectively. If it’s not a part of his convention speech, I’ll be surprised.

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  22. Poll out showing that Biden is producing no bounce (and actually down from pre-Biden). And that there is a sizable number of disaffected Clinton voters out there interested in McCain. So maybe this ad has more fertile ground than is being credited to it.

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  23. Anderson says:

    Okay, one more time:

    Who says Hillary *wanted* to be the VP?

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  24. Rick Almeida says:

    Is there any actual, empirical evidence that shows Obama significantly lags today in the demographic groups in which Clinton did well?

    By the same token, are there any serious estimates or analyses of the numbers & demographics of Clinton voters who claim not to be voting for Obama?

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