Jacob Heilbrunn

Hillary Clinton for Vice President?

 Earlier this year, Leslie H. Gelb suggested it would be a good idea, one that could substantially beef up President Obama's foreign policy credentials as a hawk. Now Bob Woodward is saying it could be a real possibility. The "it" in question is a new ticket for the Democrats in 2012--Hillary Clinton replacing Joe Biden as vice-president.

According to CNN,

"It's on the table," veteran Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward told CNN's John King in an interview Tuesday on John King, USA. "Some of Hillary Clinton's advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012. "President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the [2008] primaries and, so they switch jobs, not out of the question, and the other interesting question is, Hillary Clinton could run in her own right in 2016 and be younger than Ronald Reagan when he was elected president."

Would it display boldness on Obama's part? Or would it testify to weak nerves to dump Biden?

Dwight Eisenhower toyed with the idea of dumping Richard Nixon in 1956, mostly for personal reasons. He never cottoned to Nixon, treated him poorly. Nixon resented it--with good reason. Ford threw Nelson Rockefeller overboard, but it didn't help his presidential fortunes. Since then, presidents have remained loyal to their subordinates. Neither Reagan nor Clinton contemplated extruding George H.W. Bush or Al Gore from the presidency.

The real question may be whether both Biden and Clinton are contemplating a run for the presidency in 2016, assuming that Obama wins in 2012. In that case, Clinton would have every reason to hope that she gets the nod to become vice-president. As vice-president, she would be the presumptive favorite for the nomination. Bill would be at an age where, presumably, the memories of his sexual frolics will have receded into the mists of history. By then, he may have fully succeeded in converting himself into a sober, elder statesman.

Clinton, of course, is dismissing it all as the usual Washington chatter:

I don't believe what I read," Clinton said laughing during an appearance at the 12th Annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, adding: "I have absolutely no interest and no reason for doing anything other than just dismissing these stories and moving on."

"I think the vice president is doing a wonderful job. He is a great friend of mine," she continued. "We work together closely. He's an expert on foreign policy, chaired the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate. We have a great relationship."

She may not believe what she reads. But what counts is Obama's own thinking on the matter. He would be foolish to dismiss the idea, and doubtless isn't. The cunning of history may ensure that Hillary Clinton, who almost torpedoed his chances at becoming president, is the only person who can ensure that he remains commander-in-chief in 2012.