Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clinton-Obama '08

In his latest column on the website of The Century Foundation, my friend Peter Osnos makes an observation that we've seen others make about the potential global impact of an Obama presidency:
Americans will not make their election choice based on what the rest of the world thinks. But here's a prediction: if Barack Obama prevails, one of the earliest and potentially most positive effects of his presidency will be in the way he and the United States, generally, are welcomed in all those places where the John Fitzgerald Kennedy photos were hanging so many years ago.
I strongly suspect that this is true, based not only on Obama's personal history, tone, and style, but also on the kinds of internationalist policies he would probably follow. (And Peter's connections with journalists and thought leaders around the world confirm this impression.)

Now it so happens that earlier today I caught a few minutes of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the Brian Lehrer Show on New York's NPR outlet. She was talking about the enormously positive effect on America's world image that President Hillary Clinton could have. (Albright is a Clinton supporter.)

She spoke about how, during the Bill Clinton administration, Hillary not only traveled the world with Bill but made a point of visiting local communities, meeting with humanitarian organizations, women's groups, labor organizations, etc., as a result of which she is known and admired by ordinary people around the world. (As I've written, Mary-Jo and I certainly found that to be the case when we visited Bangladesh.) And Brian Lehrer noted that, when he interviews heads of immigrant organizations in the US and asks their opinions about the presidential race, most say they support Hillary because of the favorable impression of her shared by their countrymen and -women back home in Asia, Africa, or Latin America.

Here, then, are strong, positive, uplifting reasons to support both Obama and Clinton. And the longer the Democratic race goes on, the more reasons like these I find myself encountering--on both sides of the contest.

And so the longer the race goes on, the more I find myself drawn to the logic of a Clinton-Obama ticket.

I can actually see a case for such a ticket with either partner on top, although I suppose the conventional assumption is that Hillary would not accept a vice-presidential slot. And I further suppose that, in reality, neither of these two candidates is likely to pick the other as a running mate. The pressure to "balance" the ground-breaking presidential candidate with a familiar white male will be enormous.

But of course our last successful candidate, Bill Clinton, defied convention by choosing a running mate who did not "balance" the ticket but seemingly replicated himself, picking another youthful moderate white male from a border state. Maybe 2008 is another moment when the conventional wisdom ought to be defied.

Why do we have to choose between the brainy policy wonk and the inspiring orator--between the respected Senatorial operative and the idealistic community organizer--between the ceiling-breaking woman and the unifying multiracial champion? Why not have both?

P.S. I see that Doris Kearns Goodwin has said that the idea of such a "team of rivals" would be "a bold move but a great one." I agree. Let's do it.

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