One Ring To Bring Them All

I haven’t commented lately on the presidential race, but I’m certainly pleased that Mrs. Clinton, who gives me the shuddering fantods, appears finally to have been knocked out. Short of some gruesome work with an oaken stake and a wooden mallet we can’t be sure, however, and yesterday Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, who has a clearheaded appreciation of what sort of politicians the Clintons really are, gave us his thoughts in his Best of the Web newsletter about what sort of calculations the former First Couple might be making as they retreat to their Westchester lair to lick their wounds and plot their next sally.

The key, of course, is to understand what the priorities are, and in this case, we should have no doubt that Mrs. Clinton still has her glittering eye on the Presidency. To be sure, she will make the necessary salaams and obeisances to the Will of the People, and to their newly crowned champion, and will utter polite sounds about lending her support to her slender and youthful nemesis; but we can also be certain that on the inside, the Prize summons her always, burning in her mind like a great, flame-rimmed Eye. Like the doomed and miserable wretch Gollum, the Clintons have possessed the Precious, and they want it back. They may help to guide the nice hobbitses for a while, but Mr. Obama would do well to sleep with one eye open.

Mr. Taranto makes the case very clearly: he asks what, given the circumstances, will best serve the Clintons’ immeasurable ambitions?

If Obama is the nominee, Mrs. Clinton’s prospects of becoming president would be greatly diminished if he won the general election. If Obama loses, then in 2012 Mrs. Clinton will be able to compete in a wide-open field to challenge President McCain: the oldest major-party presidential nominee in history, seeking his party’s fourth term.

If Obama wins, things look much worse for Mrs. Clinton. In 2012 President Obama would be sure to seek re-election: The last incumbent president to pass up a run for a second term was Chester Arthur in 1884. Mrs. Clinton could mount an intraparty challenge to Obama, but even unpopular incumbents (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter) generally win such fights.

If Obama wins re-election, the field would again be open in 2016. But if past is prologue, Obama’s vice president would be the favorite for the Democratic nomination. Thus if Obama does win this November, Mrs. Clinton is more likely to become president if she is on the ticket with him.

What’s more, Mrs. Clinton’s open quest for the No. 2 spot is harmful to Obama whether it succeeds or not. Whatever he decides, someone is going to be unhappy about it.

To summarize, Mrs. Clinton maximizes her chances of becoming president if she (1) does enough damage to Obama to snatch the nomination away from him, (2) failing that, does enough damage to him to bring about his defeat in November, and (3) gets herself on the ticket, whether he wins in November or not.

Some will say Mrs. Clinton is being disloyal to her party if she undermines Obama’s chances of winning in November. But maybe she just practices a different kind of party loyalty. After all, if you can be a patriot while hoping your country loses a war, why can’t you be a loyal Democrat while hoping your party loses an election?

You can read Taranto’s piece here.

Related content from Sphere


  1. the one eyed man says

    James Taranto hates Hillary. We got that. However, if he wanted to challenge her on the issues, or on her record as Senator, then he might have had something interesting to say. Instead, he indulges himself with the caricature of Hillary as Lady MacBeth, Cruella de Vil, and Ma Barker rolled into one.

    Given that she was reelected by her constituents in a landslide and has been praised by people as unlikely as Jesse Helms and Richard Scaife — not to mention the eighteen million voters who picked her in the primaries — a clear-headed observer might ask whether there is something to her beyond the Wicked Witch of the West image promoted so faithfully on the Right. Instead, we get Taranto’s fevered speculation on her intentions, without a shred of evidence to support it. Whatever.

    However, the truly offensive part of the excerpt is in the last sentence. Needless to say, he doesn’t identify a single Democrat who “hopes your country loses a war” –i.e., treason — and is content to slur the entire party, again without a shred of evidence. A Senate committee yesterday issued a report that the Administration used deceit to lead a nation into war: if this isn’t treason, I’m not sure what is. The fact is that the war in Iraq has caused immense and irreparable damange both to Iraq and to ourselves, and is the greatest foreign policy disaster in modern history. The blame for this catastrophe lies squarely on the Bush administration and the rubber stamp Republican Congress. To suggest that this mess is somehow the result of Democrats wishing for an American defeat is a typical effort by Journal editorialists to comb over the bald spots in their argument with insult and calumny in the absence of facts or logic.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 8:17 am | Permalink
  2. bob koepp says

    My disklike of both Clintons is visceral, but our cylcopian friend is right that Taranto is merely speculating about HRC’s intentions.

    There’s nothing speculative, though, about Bush and company leading us into Iraq on the basis of bogus evidence, and it’s not speculation to say they knew the evidence was bogus — in short, they lied us into a war. Now, technically, that’s not treason. It’s one notch down in the hierarchy of crimes against the state. But it’s certainly a high crime (not just a misdemeanor). Somebody belongs in the slammer.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Hi Bob and Peter,

    Yes, Taranto is speculating about Hillary’s intention. That’s what opinion columnists are paid for, I believe. He makes valid points about where what would benefit her the most tactically if her primary goal, so to speak, is to win the presidency.

    Yes, Peter hates George Bush. We got that. I make no defense of the man here, and I agree that in supposedly free and open societies such as this, propagandizing in order to whip up war sentiment is to be dispproved of (though it is nothing new in either Democratic or Republican administrations). In my own case, it wasn’t necessary; as I have often said, I think the world had a moral responsibility to take Iraq away from Saddam, just as I think it does in Zimbabwe and Burma. So no trumping-up about WMDs was called for, as far as my own support was concerned.

    Finally, it is disingenuous to pretend that no Democrats wanted us to fail in Iraq. I am personally aqcuainted with more than a few. Many see success as bolstering the despised neoconservative political philosophy, which is worth discrediting at any cost.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    1) Taranto is doing more than speculating about her intentions. He is accusing her of being willing to subvert the interests of her party – and even cause their loss in November – in order to advance her career. This is a serious allegation, yet he offers no evidence to support it.

    2) I don’t hate George Bush, and I have never attacked him personally. I have attacked his policies and actions numerous times. The difference between me and Taranto is that – at least in this excerpt – Taranto shows no interest in engaging Hillary on her acts or her policies, and just throws mud at the wall to see what sticks.

    3) There is an enormous difference between propagandizing to whip up war sentiment and giving false and misleading information to the public in an effort to build up support for the war.

    4) I have never met a Democrat who wanted us to lose. More importantly, I’m unaware of any prominent Democrat – Kennedy, Pelosi, Obama, Reid, the New York Times, pick anyone you want — who wanted us to lose. If Taranto wants to accuse a party of treason, it would be helpful if he had some facts to back it up. He doesn’t.

    5) Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but she has gone further than any other woman in the history of American politics. This is a remarkable achievement, and Taranto’s refusal to acknowledge it is more evidence of his churlish and unbalanced perspective.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says


    1) All I see here is speculation, and reasonable speculation at that. A great many people, lots of loyal democrats and former Clinton supporters among them, have said that Mrs. Clinton has conspicuously put personal ambition before the best interests of the party in prolonging her bare-knuckle fisticuffs with Obama as she has.

    2) I imagine James Taranto doesn’t personally “hate” Hillary Clinton any more than you “hate” George Bush, but you were the one to throw the word around. The most conspicuous and politically signicifant “act” Hillary has engaged in lately has been that referred to in 1). She’s fair game.

    3) There is? You’re mincing words. What Wilson did in WWI, for example, goes far beyond anything that has happened lately.

    4) If you really believe that no Democrats are rooting for chaos and failure in Iraq in order to validate their own declared opposition, and to discredit interventionist neoconservatism, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. I have personally met plenty who feel this way.

    5) Yes, Hillary Clinton has gone further than any woman in American political history, I guess, but not by much. We’ve had female Senators before, and I think it’s arguable that her success has been in large part due to her association with and sponsorship by, another successful politician.

    5a) I’ve never said that Taranto isn’t churlish sometimes. He is. All I said was that I thought he made an insightful listing the factors that might figure into Mrs. Clinton’s planning.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  6. bob koepp says

    I just want to second Peter’s remarking the difference between propagandizing and lying. Sometimes they overlap, but they are still distinct. Unlilke certain guilty parties in the current administration, Wilson is beyond our reach. That’s not a reason to allow the current crop of criminals off the hook.

    We were lied to about the quality of the “evidence” that Saddam posed an imminent threat. Bush knew the evidence was inadequate. Tenent’s infamous “slam dunk” statement provided Bush with that most valuable of political commodities, plausible deniabillity (plausible, that is, if you ignore the transcript of the meeting in question).

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    I’m not defending either propagandizing or lying (although government transparency can at times be one of the principal liabilities of democratic governments, particularly in times of war or impending war). I also think it is extremely naive to think that any government will never engage in such things, which is very much not to say we should give them a free pass when they are caught at it.

    As so often happens (almost unavoidably, it sometimes seems) this discussion, which began as a look at the Clintons’ political minds, has once again devolved into an indictment of the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq. One cannot say anything critical of a Democrat in public discourse without arousing this response, it appears.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  8. the one eyed man says

    1) When Hillary was a candidate, she was entitled to go after Obama with everything she has. No worse than when Romney and McCain went after each other, and not nearly as bad as in 2000, when Bush’s surrogates tried to paint McCain as having an illegitimate black child and in need of psychiatric care. It was also closely fought, and she had a right to pursue her candidacy to the end. The election is over, and she will work to support the ticket, just as Romney will work to support McCain. That’s the way things work. If Hillary were perceived to be a sore loser who subverted her party to eliminate a rival, she would have the same place in the pantheon of shame as Ralph Nader. Taranto doesn’t even acknowledge that basic fact, and instead posits the most shameful scenario and suggests that Hillary would go for it eagerly.

    2) See 1).

    3) FDR didn’t have to invent Nazi or Japanese atrocities to justify entering World War II. Once we engaged in war, a propaganda machine arose to paint the Axis powers as demons. Not quite the same as inventing a threat, calling it imminent, and using it as casus belli.

    4) Neoconservatism already discredited itself, and does not need any help from the left. It will be a long time before we invade another country because we think we know what is best for them. There may be nutcases who root for American failure in Iraq, but there are also people who think the Earth if flat. There are no prominent Democrats who do so.

    5) OK.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    1) He suggests that this is what Hillary might do. What she actually does remains to be seen.

    3) Beyond the scope of this modest post. Time does not permit me to engage it as it deserves. You should take a good look at what went on in the US under Wilson.

    4) We’ve been over this before. We’ll just have to disagree. I know people who have hoped for failure in Iraq who do not otherwise seem to be nutcases, and to imagine that Congress harbors none of them is, I think, mistaken. Often political, national, and ideological interests conflict in complex ways.

    Why do we always end up arguing about the justification for Iraq? It seems the actual topic of the post hardly matters.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  10. the one eyed man says

    It was Taranto who brought up the subject of Iraq in his last sentence. If you want to quote approvingly from an op-ed which insinuates that Democrats want us to lose in Iraq, then surely you don’t expect it to pass unchallenged.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Ok, fair enough. But see 4) above.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  12. the one eyed man says

    I have no problem agreeing to disagree about Iraq. If your beautiful and charming wife can live with your eccentric political beliefs, then so can I. Nor do I suggest that Congress is devoid of nutcases. Certainly the Internet is full of them. However, there are certainly many reasons to be opposed to our invasion of Iraq, and suggesting that those who oppose the war actively cheer for us to “lose” in Iraq is nothing more than an attempt to divert attention and culpability from those who got us into this mess. If a Democrat of note actually said this, we would all take notice. Since those who supported the war – and slimed those who questioned it as Defeatocrats – are unable to defend it with facts and logic, they resort to questioning the motives of those who turned out to be right.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Well, eccentricity is in the eye of the beholder. If the reasonableness and moral clarity of my political views isn’t apparent to you, I suppose that can’t be helped.

    Agreeing to disagree will have to do for now, as the demands of the workplace press heavily today.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  14. Well, the Marxists insist that the personal is political, so my totally uninformed opinion is that one of the first decisions Hillary will make if Obama wins in November and looks set for 8 years in the White House, is to divorce that ratbag husband of hers. He’s worth a few bob these days, what with all those mysterious deals he’s been involved in, so her share should be substantial.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    That should make for good TV, in the best American style…

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  16. JK says

    This really has nothing to do with Hillary but Malcolm makes a point worth noting. In very early 2003 I wrote an “opinion piece” which didn’t have much effect unfortunately (at least as I hoped it would) but simply let me submit a few lines from how I viewed the prospects for democracy building.

    “…unfortunately the Haitians did not see the invasion of 1891 as reason enough to adopt the proffered Democracy and so President Wilson was obliged to undertake a nineteen year occupation of the island nation on July 28th, 1915…”

    At the time I wrote that I went on to say that the US had 89 years worth of experience in “Democracy Building” in a bit less challenging place. I didn’t look into whether Wilson was a precursor to Hillary. The “89 years” by the way went from the original invasion date thru that Aristide fellow. A bit more democracy building followed however, in Haiti I mean.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  17. Malcolm says

    Quite so, JK, and what happened here at home during that administration would make the Patriot Act seem like the Declaration of Independence.

    Posted June 6, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  18. Good points made by all.

    Thanks be to our system that we can rant as we do in seemingly safe havens warmed by a homey hearth…or maybe central heating… & AC this week!

    In any case I hope that there will always be room to argue our variously vantaged points of view. How we see things seems to stem from many factors; some are pretty emotional, some pretty cold and detached… But they devide us none the less.

    I for one hold most politicians in dispairing regard… where is a leader worth following? I can hope Mr. Obama rises to the task as many before him have done…

    That Mac still holds to the idea that attacking Iraq was a smart move alludes me. I never thought it a good move. Taking on the muslamic nut-jobs was needed. This is a truth for me as well, but I do not see the use of invasion with our awesome might as a good initial attempt at social change. Invading Iraq could have been a good thing to attempt in some cases but not when, as we knew, the real backers of the Wahabiists were the Saudis !

    But the Saudi’s are the Bush’s old friends- their best friends one could say…So, Were our intentions really to build democracy?

    And if it is so, than why not in Burma as well? – Because Unical has the situation well in hand already. U S Oil interests are being served quite well by Myanmar’s leaders, there is no need to rock that boat. Not even when an opportunity such as was just offered to us to “inflict aid” upon the people and perhaps liberate them has just gone by…

    There is no will to offer Democracy – only a will to impose US Oil interest’s game plan. Anything else is a “cover story” to aid Cheney’s & Rove’s sale of this misadventure…

    Posted June 7, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  19. the one eyed man says

    Clinton’s endorsement of Obama yesterday was gracious, emphatic, and unequivocal.

    If Taranto writes an op-ed admitting that his speculation was groundless, I will happily kiss your posterior in Macy’s window as the Thanksgiving Day parade goes by. Needless to say, I don’t expect to do so. Contrition and the admission of error are not common traits of WSJ columnists.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  20. JK says


    What you’ve written is as it turns out of course. “Democracy Building” was not ever intended. Of course you know that it was merely subterfuge. The purpose of my original writing resulted from my being, “asked for my analysis of the prospects.” I went on to include that “strategically speaking, opening a second front on the immediate western side when the US has forces currently engaged on the immediate eastern border of a very formidable potential foe will likely be a very risky endeavor…”

    At the time (2003) I unfortunately had personal crises and was unable to do anything other than express-not that it would have mattered. Fortunately insofar as Burma is concerned there is alot of stuff on the situation there readily available prior to this most recent tragedy.

    There’s been alot of press coverage reporting that the USN had four “relief ships” stationed off the coast ready to assist. I’m uncertain just how the paranoid leaders of Myanmar thought patterns were firing, however those relief ships in other contexts are known as “amphibious assault ships” each carrying oh, maybe 500 sailors and maybe 4500 US Marines. Each one of those ships would have had a fair number of what are known euphemistically as “auxiliaries.” Mind I am not in the loop in any contexts but I think I could hazard a guess as to why Myanmars’ ruling junta may’ve been a bit less than enthusiastic (given our current Administrations’ recent behaviour) in accepting our offers of assistance.

    Plus, that would of course make Unicals’ plans a bit messy. As you note.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  21. Malcolm says

    Hi Pat,

    Going into Burma would have been fine with me; indeed I think the world had a moral obligation to, and dropped the ball once again. What animates my foreign-policy attitude is a dislike for tyranny, not any fondness for George Bush or the oil companies. If there were any backbone or moral rectitude in our international bodies, that junta would have been gone long ago.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says


    I quite agree that she made all the expected gestures. One thing stands out like a neon sign: she did not “end” her campaign, she “suspended” it. I am curious to see what skeletons might mysteriously find themselves dancing out of Obama’s closet, and into various media outlets, in the weeks leading up to the convention. Hillary may find that, weary though she is, she reluctantly has to carry the flame if something were to “happen” to Obama’s viability against McCain between now and the convention, or even now and November.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Permalink
  23. the one eyed man says

    I think that possibility is about as likely as the sight of me winning the Masters Tournament, but you never know. After all, who’da thought that Eliot Spitzer would self-destruct from a prostitution scandal. However, unless Obama shows up at the convention wearing a dress and holding hands with Micheal Jackson, I think it’s a done deal.

    There is a fine lead editorial in this week’s Economist (“America at its best”) which ends thusly:

    “Both candidates (McCain and Obama) have their flaws and their admirable points; the doughty but sometimes cranky old warrior makes a fine contrast with the inspirational but sometimes vaporous young visionary. Voters now have … five months to study them before making up their minds (and The Economist will be doing the same). But, on the face of it, this is the most impressive choice America has had for a very long time.”

    I think we can all agree to that.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  24. Malcolm says

    Yes, I’ll agree with that too. Bush v. Gore was bad enough, but Bush v. Kerry was the most depressing presidential menu in living memory. We ought to be better off here no matter what.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Permalink
  25. JK says

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
  26. JK says

    Well the short version is probably better than the government link. More to the point.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Permalink
  27. Malcolm says

    Thanks for those, JK. The human race has a long way to go.

    Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink
  28. JK says

    Malcolm, my words might not strike you as resembling yours but I consider that US Forces are extremely stretched. I “think” the US has the capability to strike very, very hard at and on a very, very short term emergency. However any “emergency” would necessarily and absolutely require it to be in the direct national interest and long-term strategic goal concerning the US population directly. We can do (in the short term) some heavy duty stuff. Just now however we’re a bit over the limits.

    Anything we might’ve done in Myanmar has been squandered by previous “inked thumbs.” The luxury of doing Santa Claus stuff just ain’t in our kit bag for the foreseeable future.

    Posted June 9, 2008 at 12:33 am | Permalink
  29. Malcolm says

    Which is why the fecklessness and moral apathy of the UN is such a pity.

    Posted June 9, 2008 at 12:51 am | Permalink
  30. JK says


    Posted June 9, 2008 at 1:10 am | Permalink