BARACK OBAMA HAS DEFEATED Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential
nomination--but with a new and unwelcome twist. He hasn't succeeded in ridding
himself of Clinton
(or her husband Bill). She refuses to go away, much less concede.
The effect was to inject a sharply negative and divisive element in the
already bitter race at the very moment that Obama was making history by becoming
the first African-American to win a major party's presidential nomination. Her
goal, from all indications, is to force him to choose her as his vice
presidential running mate. And her tactic is political hardball.
So rather than concede or even acknowledge that Obama had captured a
majority of the delegates who will decide the nomination at the party s
convention in Denver in August, Clinton sent him an unmistakable message.
It was this: The primaries are over, but I can still drag this contest all
the way to the convention, denying you the opportunity to concentrate on your
Republican opponent, John McCain. I can try to flip delegates who’ve lined up
with you by persuading them I would have a better chance of beating McCain in
the general election. And there's only one way you can stop me and that's by
making me your running mate.
In her speech after winning the South
Dakota primary by a surprisingly comfortable margin,
he focused on how well she--and not Obama--had done. She mentioned four times
that she d won 18 million votes, the most ever by a candidate for a
The assumption in the political community was she'd take a conciliatory
posture, figuring that would be the best tactic in seeking the vice
presidential nod. Indeed, leaks from the Clinton
campaign had indicated that would be her approach. It turned out not to be--far
Now Obama is left in an awkward position. From all accounts, he s not eager
to bring her on the ticket, particularly because of the presence of her
husband, former president Bill Clinton. The fear is he'd be a disruptive force
in the campaign and, if Obama wins this fall, in his White House.
But Hillary Clinton can cause trouble. She has almost as many delegates as
he does, giving her the ability to keep him from uniting the party and
presiding over a harmonious Democratic convention.
So why not pick her? He may wind up doing that. But if he does, he might
look like a weak candidate unable to stand up to the Clintons. And you can imagine what
Republicans would say: If he knuckles under to the Clintons, how could he stand up to hostile
however, would bring some advantages to the ticket. She's clearly a plausible
president. And an Obama-Clinton partnership would insure party unity and a
peaceful convention. But Clinton
is disliked, polls show, by roughly half the country and thus might be a drag
on the ticket in some states. On top of that, she's someone Obama may not be
comfortable with as his running mate.
As she often boasts, Clinton
is a fighter. She has moxie. To get her way, she's willing to make life
unpleasant for Obama by forcing his hand on the vice presidency when he's
barely begun to consider running mates. Last night, she encouraged supporters
to send her their advice, no doubt expecting they'll insist she be on the
This is surely not the position Obama anticipated he'd be in after defeating
dubbed the prohibitive favorite to the win the nomination. For him, it's a
moment of peril, not joy. And the whole world is watching.