I CONFESS I WAS actually surprised when Clinton refused to congratulate Obama on winning the Democratic nomination.
(AND I'M EQUALLY SURPRISED by the NY Times's headline, which echoes her toxic contention that Barack Obama has merely "claimed" the nomination, when the fact is: he earned it).
IT IS NOT THAT I DIDN'T expect her to be tenacious. But I think anyone who gives it real and measured thought must conclude that she overplayed her hand.
TO VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE and even undermine your Democratic opponent in the heat of a hard fought primary contest is one thing.
HOWEVER: Barack Obama is the nominee of the party they both supposedly support. It was a close race, but he played by the rules they all agreed to, and he won.
TO WITHHOLD her support, as she did last night, and indeed to actually undermine his legitimacy in public is pretty poor form in itself.
BUT IF SHE REALLY IS SEEKING TO LEVERAGE HER VOTERS against a VP slot, or some other prize, how is openly blackmailing her own party's nominee going to help her?
AFTER ALL, whether or not you agree that Obama NEEDS Clinton's voters in order to win, you must accept that the argument itself has a flaw:
CLINTON DOES NOT OWN HER VOTERS.
(as Hilary Rosen points out ELSEWHERE)
YES: the latest polls suggest that 53% of those who voted for her will not vote for Obama. But that means that almost half will indeed naturally gravitate to the nominee without Clinton's express permission to do so.
BUT HOW MANY of those hardcore 53% will follow Clinton into political exile? Into a legacy-scorching feud with the nominee of her party? Or into a doomed Independent bid for President that would almost assure McCain the White House?
ANSWER=SOME, but not all.
AND I WOULD ARGUE that each day that she attempts to horde her supporters at the expense of the party's nominee, the more her reputation and influence within the party will suffer, and the fewer supporters she will actually have to bargain with.
IRONICALLY, (actually ironically), if she had held her cards a bit longer--if she had conceded and congratulated and endorsed Obama last night, she would have looked great. She could have easily conducted the same negotiations behind the scenes in private, and arguably from a much stronger position.
AS SUSANNAH MEADOWS knows all too well from my rantings yesterday in the park, as of 24 hours ago, I was even feeling that, should Clinton make a graceful exit, adding her to the ticket would be unavoidable, appropriate, and smart.
NOW, HOWEVER, I think caving to her open bullying would be disastrous to an Obama campaign and presidency. And I can't imagine I'm the only person to feel this way (just, perhaps, THE LEAST INFLUENTIAL).
BUT IT'S OK. If Obama wants to neutralize Clinton as a serious VP candidate, all he needs to do is wait. So long as she openly opposes her own party's nominee, her cards get worse by the hour.
That is all.