Hillary Clinton Returns to the Senate
Apparently, during Hillary Clinton’s months-long absence from the Senate, her office has been taken over by young, ping-pong playing staffers in hats and sunglasses. She returned yesterday to a warm reception, Dana Milbank informs us. And got rid of the recreational equipment.
Among the well-wishers was Sen. John F. Kerry, the failed Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, who had some hard-won advice for Clinton. “Compartmentalize,” he recommended. Still, Kerry predicted, “she’ll be extraordinarily received.”
Clinton delivered a version of the party-unity theme she had voiced behind closed doors. “I come back with an even greater depth of awareness about what we have to do here in Washington,” she said. She spoke with vagueness about her new role (“to be the very best senator I can be”), her plans (“I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting back to work”) and her vice presidential ambitions (“I am not seeking any other position”). And she repeated the requisite promise to “work very hard to elect Senator Obama our president.”
Returning home in defeat is never fun. Many, though, have grown from the experienced and emerged as better public servants. Clinton was a household name before she ever ran for office in her own right, but her stature has nonetheless almost certainly grown. Ditto Kerry and before them Al Gore, Joe Biden, Gary Hart, and others.
Presumably, the campaign process itself is part of that, as it forces people to get out of their comfort zones and appeal to a broader array of people and interests than is true for the relatively parochial life of a Senator. I would imagine, too, that the experience of being taken seriously as a candidate for president seems to be a positive one.
It’s highly unlikely that Clinton will ever get to be president. This was her last, best hope. But she could well emerge as a very important player in the Senate. Which isn’t such a bad job, really.