Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bill Clinton for Senate?

At The Washington Post Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac present an intriguing proposal:
Amid the blizzard of résumés blanketing Washington as the Obama era dawns, there is a superbly qualified candidate for full employment whose name has been overlooked. We refer, of course, to William Jefferson Clinton, America's 42nd chief executive and commander in chief. Yet now, by a wonderful combination of circumstances, comes an opportunity to harness his unquestioned political talents to benefit his country, the Democratic Party, New York state and his spouse. If, as is expected, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes secretary of state, New York Gov. David Paterson could send her husband to the U.S. Senate.

It strikes me, however, that getting Hillary to State is a brilliant coup for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it will be more difficult for her to pursue an independent political agenda or undermine the Obama administration from Foggy Bottom than from the Senate. Bill Clinton in the Senate might prove to be the sot of sideshow the Democrats would as soon avoid. Then again, the Clintons are still a powerful political force, and it seems possible that Bill Clinton in the Senate would mark the sort of changing of the guard that keeps the Clintons heavily involved in politics while maximizing their utility to an Obama administration.

7 comments:

montana urban legend said...

Bill Clinton can't grandstand as much as he'd like to in the Senate or make as much money as he does on the public lecture circuit.

dcat said...

MUL --
I agree about the lecture service but: There would be no room to grandstand in the United States Senate? You're joking, right?

dcat

dcat said...

Er, lecture "circuit".

dcat

montana urban legend said...

It depends. One can grandstand in the Senate, but we must first suppose that following Roberts Rules of Order, the inability to be situated directly in front of an attractive or well-respected interviewer, or speaking to a live audience of no more than 99 (excluding staff and visitors) wouldn't be even greater disincentives to the guy. But stranger things have happened.

I think Bill Clinton knows that the bulk of his political and rhetorical talents lie in persuading and emoting to large audiences of average voters and media types, and not in speaking at length in a deliberative body to other politicians who recognize a need for attention and the desire to be taken seriously when they see it in one of their own. Perhaps you might think I'm being uncharitable to Clinton. But I think if this weren't the case he'd have sought legislative office rather than the career path he chose.

Of course, if Clinton were to make an arrangement with C-SPAN whereby all his speeches from the well of the Senate could be broadcast in prime time and in partnership with the networks, then this calculus changes dramatically.

dcat said...

MUL --
You make many good points. But I also think Clinton craves not only publicity, but something a little more meaty -- he craves access and importance, and given Constitutional prohibitions and Obama's victory, the senate might be the best way to get that. Clinton is a world-class egotist, but he also craves to be relevant.
In any case, whatever whispering there may have been about Bill as Senator seems not to have picked up steam. My guess is that many democrats would as soon avoid bringing that particular white whale onto the boat.

dcat

montana urban legend said...

"My guess is that many democrats would as soon avoid bringing that particular white whale onto the boat."

Obama likely being chief among them.

Bringing his greatest potential headaches in the House (Emanuel) and Senate (Hillary Clinton) closer to him within the administration is the coup de grace. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. The guy makes some pretty shrewd moves for someone who projects such a magnanimous and selfless persona, even if I still believe that those latter qualities are at least as real as the former.

Bill Clinton wants to be relevant but all the extraordinary skills that make him so Obama has in spades, and then some.

This'll be a good four years. Hopefully eight.

dcat said...

MUL --
Good points all. I do think the "friends close, enemies closer" model is one that appeals to Obama, both for its Machiavellian utility but also because of his consensus-oriented persona. Obama's win ended the stranglehold Clinton had on the party, largely because Clinton no longer holds the puppet strings of power and access within the party.

dcat