Defining her 2012 campaign – or her place in history – starts now
By M. Dylan Mathieu
The buzzards are circling Senator Hillary Clinton. Calling them pundits or diminishing them as vicariously in-the-know won’t chase them away either. If money is her chosen garlic to keep her doomsayers away, she’s out of it. She must carry herself now and presumably through President Obama’s inauguration ceremonies and balls with the grace, charm and detachment – and maybe even aloofness – of an heir in waiting.
Starting tomorrow would be too late. I’m reminded of a passage in The Long Gray Line, a book about West Point’s class of 1966 toughing it out in and after Vietnam. After that war, when one graduate died overseas, his wife held a wake for friends and family at their stateside home. As the wife grieved in her room, her mother reminded her that although things seem awful and hopeless right now, she had better lose some weight and start wearing make up again because she was “back on the market, Honey.” Neon, flaring-collared, pant-suits aside, Senator Clinton could use some of these advisors in rows 2 and 3 of her campaign plane as it makes its last flight back to the airport in White Plains.
Senator Clinton’s crossing of the desert might invoke a reference to the “Desert Fox,” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the respected, but ultimately doomed, military strategist. Rather, let’s recall the fates of France’s General Charles De Gaulle and later President Francois Mitterand. They both were cast aside at what could have been the pinnacle of their political careers Diminished, it was during their “bedouin” years that they found the right set of “rites of passage” required to make their way back eventually to the top of their game. These French statesmen were not complete masters of the destiny. Historical events in France also caught up and aligned with their aspirations. Senator Clinton may find the same luck coming her way if she stays in the fight, but where is her oasis?
I’m sticking with the desert genre a little more, because Senator Clinton will find it dry, dusty and lonely as far as future political contributions are considered. Paying off her debts makes it a sand dune of a climb. So, what best lies ahead?
It is the years 2008-2011 that will define the efficacy of Senator Clinton’s next presidential ambitions. Would the safe bet be to ride things out as New York’s junior senator? Bumping Senator Reid of Nevada as the Senate’s majority leader may take her on path to the presidency well-worn by LBJ in 1960. There are some Dole-esque merits that may get her back to the big dance leading up to 2012. But consider that in an Obama administration, she’d be a cheerleader, an echo, a staunch, loyal supporter to the president’s policies and a partisan fighter during his battles with Congress. No defining moments will come from that.
And how could Senator Clinton shed the baggage from her 2008 run for the White House? Not in the U.S. Senate. A prominent role for her in that chamber would amplify the shrillness, shrewdness and other old-style political tactics that were the three-, five- and 10-pound ankle-weights of her most recent campaign, besides keeping new young voters away en masse.
Should she sell the house in D.C.? Will she hold out for a top cabinet position? The cabinet room would prove month by month as being too professionally gnawing, if not humiliating for Senator Clinton. It’ll probably never happen anyway as long as Mrs. Obama is granted line-item veto authority on more than the state dinner guestlists. Imagine the senator’s rapid-fire thumbs in a cabinet meeting Blackberrying her husband in New York. “OMG, guess who is talking now on healthcare? Tipper. LOL!!!”, then “Everyone HATES me!!!” A cabinet position even with a portfolio she could influence and use to enhance her stature as a leader? No, she’d be too restless by half. With no desert oases or fruitful way-stations for Senator Clinton in the Senate chamber or the White House, where to then?
A governorship? Well, what else remains? And don’t be naïve enough to worry about where. Like the Empire State, when she went shopping for a senate seat in 2000, any state’ll do (even a U.S. territory, they have governors). And there are so many governor’s mansions to choose from. Which states or territories would make a top five list?
Forget Arkansas, more like bottom five material. New York has to be somewhere in there, but although pushing aside a legally-blind governor from your own party may play well in a Mel Brooks movie, it’s so unseemly. New York is a still a top five contender, because if anyone could pull it off, the Clintons could, so let’s keep New York. West Virginia’s 67 percent of a primary mandate for Senator Clinton makes it a great state for her to think about. West Virginians like Senator Obama less than they liked her although they really like their governor, who has led mightily and with a soft touch during the recent coalmining disasters. New Jersey is ideal, as it would on weekends be a short commute to Sen. Clinton’s home in New York. Could President Obama offer Governor Corzine a cabinet position at the Treasury Department if he’d vacate his mansion in Trenton for Senator Clinton? Florida has to be considered because it’s where millions of New Yorkers migrate like lemmings. Florida’s governor has good approval ratings, though, and how embarrassing was the “time out” Democrats were given for moving their primary date. I’d stay away from the Sunshine State. The fifth governorship for Senator Clinton to consider ahead of a 2012 run for the White House is a wild card. Guam has a Republican governor, and Senator Obama beat her there. The U.S. Virgin Islands? Probably not where she’d want to leave her husband with too much time on his hands. Could Senator Clinton play well in Puerto Rico? Si, claro! Uh, yes, especially if absentee ballots from New York City count.
M. Dylan Mathieu, is a psuedonym for a media and communications strategist who, in a career spanning seventeen years across more than forty countries in six continents, has advised Fortune 300 CEOs, congressional candidates and both U.S. and foreign military generals and ambassadors. His current government employment prevents him from disclosing his identity.