The night of the living dead
Here's Hillary's latest speech. After starting off by thanking Barack Obama for his contribution to raising an interest in politics, in a slow beginning that sounded like a concession, Clinton suddenly and sharply shifted to asking "who will be the strongest candidate?".
Hillary argued that most of the 18 million "record-breaking" votes cast during the primary were for her. "Even when the pundits and nay-sayers" declared her dead, the small people kept her candidacy alive. You can see why the Nashville Post commented, "that ain’t any kind of concession speech I ever heard of".
If it wasn't a concession then what the heck was it? A declaration of war? Here are some thoughts. It's in Obama's interest to stay within the framework of Democratic Party rules, but it's in Hillary's interest to change the frame altogether. The Nashville Post highlights these lines:
“I understand that a lot of people are asking, what does Hillary want? What does she want? I want what I have always fought for in this whole campaign. I want to end the war in Iraq. I want to turn this economy around. I want health care for every American. I want … the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard, and to no longer be invisible.”
This paragraph is interesting in what it anchors and in what it turns loose. With his official nomination nearly in the bag, Obama will be tempted to run towards the center and accept the gains of the Surge. But Hillary is under no such obligation to appeal to the general electorate. She is free to continue playing the partisan game. And if the paragraph above has any strategic political meaning, one of its purposes is to nail Obama to his Left.
But it is the last line which is most loaded with menace. "I want … the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard, and to no longer be invisible." This is not a declaration of war. It's a proclamation of rebellion. Hillary is not going to win within the party frame so she will threaten to win outside of it.
The Nashville Post parses Hillary's speech as an invitation to make a deal.
Was Clinton essentially saying to Obama, “Listen Hoss, we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. You can either pick me as your Vice President and we can hold hands together as a ticket and I can become your defacto co-president or I can continue this campaign as “a listening tour” on how to best serve the interests of my popular vote-winning 18 million voters all the way to the convention.”
Maybe. Hillary has done some dumb things and nothing prevents her from doing more dumb things. But if she has this move properly gamed out and is raising the stakes, then why settle for second place? Rebellion is an all-or-nothing business as Jefferson Davis well knew.
The rational interpretation is that Hillary is angling for the Vice-Presidency. But to win it -- and more -- she has to play as if she wants to be the Big Kahuna. If nothing else, Hillary can threaten to become Ross Perot in a pantsuit. Obama's optimal strategy, however distasteful it may be, is to make the deal. His alternative is to be prepared to crush the threatened rebellion.
The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.