The Clinton-Obama Alliance

Scheiber’s onto something about Hillary’s new book:

[E]ven as Clinton’s book lays out a variety of dissents she will no doubt invoke when taking flak from Jeb Bush, for the moment she’s still far more interested in bucking up Obama than in distancing herself. Look no further than her emphatic comments on the release of Afghanistan POW Bowe Bergdahl. (“It doesn’t matter” how he was captured, she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, “we bring our people home.”) The stand seemed to signal her posture of choice during the forthcoming book tour, and it was certainly welcome in the White House.

As for the president, as annoying as it must be to have the most popular Democrat in the country distance herself from his foreign-policy B-sides, the broader arrangement still beats any plausible alternative. Consider: If not for the way Hillary’s proto-campaign has frozen the Democratic presidential field, there would already be half-a-dozen Democratic governors and senators trooping through Iowa, complaining to anyone who will listen that Obama still hasn’t closed Guantanamo, arrested any Wall Street bankers, or brought the NSA to heel. “Put aside that she may or may not share all his positions,” says the Obama campaign adviser. “The fact that no one is doing that is a great thing for him.”

Since this is Hillary week, here are a couple of suggestions I’d make for getting queasy Obamaites like me off the fence. The first, especially in the next year or so, is an indication that while Clinton will obviously be different than Obama, in a few key respects, she will be vital to his legacy. In other words, a Clinton campaign in 2016 would not be zero-sum, as Obama’s was in 2008. It would be both an expression of support for Clinton but also for Obama.

I see her potential victory as confirming two big Obama-era shifts: universal healthcare and a less reactionary Supreme Court. In those two areas, Clinton would entrench Obama’s achievements, the way George H.W. Bush did Reagan’s. Of course, Obama is highly unlikely to end his two terms with Reagan’s ratings, so this will not be easy. On the other hand, it makes Clinton’s task as president less of an onerous one. She will not have to grapple, as Bush did, with matching his superstar predecessor, and also being vulnerable with the base. She has a superstar mantle herself – the first woman president – and an extraordinarily wide base of support in the grass roots. She’s right, in other words, not to run against Obama. If she’s canny, she’ll use him as well as he used her in 2008.

The other word of advice to Clinton would be to emphasize the Thatcher-like aspects of being a woman leader.

That means embracing her age and maturity, not running from it. It means plenty of photo-ops with the military – there’s nothing like a woman leading a bunch of soldiers to tap deep wells of emotion in the human psyche. The general theme would be “tough old broad”. And I mean that entirely as a compliment. America is not yet fully comfortable with female leadership, especially in a commander-in-chief. The way to square that is not to minimize her feminine charms but to add a drop-shadow of steeliness and toughness. She has both already. She just needs a few, carefully chosen moments of snarl.

I guess I’m saying that I’d be best charmed by a version of Obama’s and Thatcher’s heir. First, Obama’s heir with the base. Second, Thatcher’s heir with the country at large. Yeah, I know. I’m a parish of one. But I bet you I wouldn’t be the only one susceptible to one or both of these themes in the middle of the country. And Clinton could do worse than launch her campaign in those Southern Appalachian states where she made her last stand in the primaries of 2008 and began to find a clearer and more authentic voice. We need a rough, tough Hillary. And not too polished a pol.