Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Switch in the Offing . . . Or Hillary As Paladin?
The Anti-Joementum Declaration Against Interest

Update: On 9/11, 4 pm, below.

Why did Joe Biden go out yesterday and make a big point of saying that Hillary Clinton would be a better candidate, Presidential or Vice Presidential, than he would? On the surface, it was as if Joe was saying, "Vote for me! I'm the Best Man for the job . . . just NOT the Best Person!"

A stranger year in American politics would be hard to imagine -- pun intended. That's because two relative strangers have been dominating the limelight of our national political landscape, each with rising star power -- first we had Barack Obama, and now we have Sarah Palin.

Less than one year ago, few pundits would have opined that Hillary Clinton would not end up as the Democrat nominee for President. It would have been like betting against the Yankees during Grapefruit. While Barack Obama had rising appeal within the Democrat party, who would have guessed he would snatch the nomination away from the Clinton machine? Who, other than his inside operators who recognized the inherent short-sightedness in the front-loaded Clinton plan that depended on her being "crowned" right after Super Tuesday. Hillary was simply the inevitable candidate. Oh, he might end up as a daring choice for her for the number two slot . . . but as the nominee?

Seemingly impossible. Yet he did it.

And on the side of the political coin, one year ago John McCain's political star appeared to be fading. Politics abhors a has-been, and that's what he seemed to be at the time. While others had supported the counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq, John McCain had very demonstrably and personally gone out on a limb in support of the strategy, in what had become a very unpopular war with an impatient public. Hell, he even doggedly propped the "surge" up as a centerpiece of his campaign. As for his staff, he cleaned house. His campaign began to look uncomfortably like a white elephant sale.

But John came back in spades, securing the nomination surprisingly fast. Then, having become the unlikely candidate early in the primary season, who would have seriously guessed a few weeks ago that John McCain would select a woman as his running mate, let alone the hitherto largely unknown Sarah Palin, the first-term Governor of Alaska?

Finally, to me the strangest story of all was the selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate. What -- the pundits legitimately wondered -- did Joe bring to the ticket? And in the process, Obama had also badly dissed Hillary by not even vetting her. The stars were beginning to realign.

Which brings me back to the question. Why did Joe Biden make such a big point of saying yesterday that Hillary Clinton would be a better candidate, Presidential or Vice Presidential, than he would?

The obvious political problem with the statement is that it casts serious doubt on Barack Obama's judgment, which is pretty much all he is running on. If, in making his first major decision, Barack Obama screwed up and picked a self-admitted also-ran, why should anyone want to vote for him? Or, for the also-ran? Was it an uncomfortable reminder of Admiral Stockdale's famous opening line in the 1992 Vice Presidential debates in Atlanta, "Who am I?" . . . "Why am I here?"

If the Presidential Election were a jury trial -- which it actually resembles in a very, very general sense -- and if Joe's strange comment yesterday was a proffer of evidence in that trial, it would likely be fully admissible in evidence, even if it was hearsay.

Why? Because it has ultimate credibility . . . as, lawyers say, it is an "admission against interest." Joe Biden is not the sort of fellow to volunteer that he is not quite up to par with any other living human being. Now, remember that the inherent truthfulness of the statement does not take into account why it was said. That remains the real mystery.

Are the Democrats about to try and pull a Bob Torricelli "bait and switch" with their Vice Presidential selection? Was Joe just laying the groundwork for the final big surprise of this year's strange Presidential campaign? Or was Joe busy kissing the Clinton ring because the Obama/Biden ticket needs something.

What would cause him to blurt out that comment? Two general possibilities come to mind.

Falling on his sword: Perhaps there is a bad story about Joe Biden that is about to go to print. It would have to be a real doozy, but that is certainly not out of the realm of possibility in American politics. That would in some ways explain his willingness to go out and publicly lay the groundwork for Hillary redux. He drops out, and Hillary joins the ticket.

Having been found guilty of ethics violations by his own colleagues back in September of 2002, then Senator Robert Torricelli, who was running for re-election that year, concluded that he simply could not win against Republican Doug Forrester. It was a national issue at the time because the Democrats thought they were poised to take over control of the United States Senate.

Bob had to go, so he withdrew. The problem was that the state statutory deadline for replacing a candidate on the ballot had passed. So the Democrats went to court and obtained one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the New Jersey Supreme Court, allowing the Democrats to enter a new name, a ruling interpreting the New Jersey state law. The Republicans appealed in early October, but the United States Supreme Court declined to interfere with the state court ruling. The switch having been permitted, Torricelli's name was stricken from the ballot, as the Democrats had trotted Frank Lautenberg back out of retirement to fill the slot.

A switch now, at the Vice Presidential level, would likely require similar rulings, perhaps in a number of states. That would be an enormous hurdle to overcome. Sounds too risky.

Hillary As Paladin?: "Have Gun -- Will Travel" was the card printed motto of television's most famous western gentleman regulator for hire, starring Richard Boone. Paladin was a refined and educated San Francisco gentleman, yet quick-on-the-draw traveling gunslinger when necessary. A knight dressed in black, he was hired to resolve conflicts, and had a gift of gab that included a sharp intelligence. But he could also mete out rough justice where necessary -- including relying on a concealed derringer for close in-fighting.

So, a second, and most likely explanation for this strange praise from Biden, is that right now the Democrat ticket need help from Hillary in the form of attacks on Sarah Palin. They need a prominent female to take Sarah Palin to the woodshed, so to speak. Hillary has declined the invitation thus far, perhaps waiting for the invitation. She has preferred instead to limit her election participation to positive praise for Barack Obama. These latest words of praise from Biden could be an unmistakable signal from the Presidential team that they really need Hillary to step back onto the stage, and to help pull their irons out of the fire.

Yesterday, David Paul Kuhn and Bill Nichols at Politico laid out some opinion evidence for what they term "Autumn angst" among prominent Democrats . . . that there is real concern over the current prospects for the Obama/Biden ticket. While some Democrats described the state of the race to them in candid but tactical terms, one unnamed but apparently high level Democrat fundraiser pushed the panic button:

A major Democratic fundraiser described it a good bit more starkly after digesting the polls of recent days: "I'm so depressed. It's happening again. It's a nightmare."
Today, September 11th, is bipartisan day, as the major candidates have agreed "suspend" public campaigning, and they will appear together at a 9/11 forum sponsored by Time Magazine and CNN, to be held at Columbia University this evening. Earlier in the afternoon they will jointly appear at a memorial service at "ground zero" in New York, though neither of them will speak. John McCain also visited the Shanksville, PA, memorial site earlier in the day, and he spoke briefly. Barack Obama's campaign released a general statement earlier.

Prior to the ceremonies, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were reportedly getting together for lunch . . . at Bill Clinton's invitation, at his office, with the official line that they will be discussing the "issues." Is one topic, what "price" for Hillary's active participation in drawing a bead on Sarah Palin?

If it isn't, then "pigs have wings" . . . with or without lipstick!

One might be tempted to wish to be a fly on the wall for that meeting between the Walrus & the Carpenter, but surely one would not wish to be an oyster at that picnic!

The question naturally arises, what do they want -- these Clintons? A promise from Obama not to run again in four years if he loses? A Supreme Court appointment for Bill, or perhaps more to the point, an appointment for Hillary, should Obama win?

As for Joe Biden, he may have already thrown in the towel on running himself in four years, with that opening gambit of praise for Hillary. As for the oysters, it's a little too late to call a cab!

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Update: Glenn Thrush and Martin Kady II posted a piece at Politico yeaterday, entitled, "Could Clinton have Palin-proofed Dems?" which we just noticed.

It concludes:
Clinton has said she'll hit the road for Obama, but her team says she refuses to be an anti-Palin "attack dog." Further complicating matters for Obama, Hillaryland fundraiser Susie Tompkins Buell is leading a group that will fight media sexism against the Alaska governor.

We'll see where Hillary continues to draw the line following that "issues" lunch meeting between Bill and Barack today.

Also, yesterday Ace of Spades posted the snarky view of the Torricelli switch-out scenario. (h.t., Allahpundit at HotAir, here.)

Also, Ed Morrissey at HotAir noticed something that puzzled me as well. On Greta's show at Fox, Geraldine Ferraro suddenly developed a mouth full of mush when it came to criticizing Obama's campaign for sexism. Ed has the video. That also supports the theory that Obama & Bill Clinton were getting ready to cut a deal today . . . Hillary alone can and will go after Palin.

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