02.08.10

Justice Clinton?

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Mark McKinnon and Myra Adams on how Supreme Court retirements could persuade the secretary of State to take a high-court seat.

The political bombshell of the year could turn out to be Supreme Court Justice Hillary Clinton.
 
Don’t laugh. It’s politics. Stuff happens. And a lot stranger stuff has happened in recent years. Two words. Sarah Palin.

Last week, ABC News reported: “Lawyers for President Obama have been working behind the scenes to prepare for the possibility of one, and maybe two Supreme Court vacancies this spring. Court watchers believe two of the more liberal members of the court, Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, could decide to step aside for reasons of age and health. That would give the president his second and third chance to shape his legacy on the Supreme Court.”

In one stroke, Obama would eliminate any remaining bad feelings—and become a Hillaryland hero.

Given the Clintons ambition for power, most would agree that Hillary doesn’t see secretary of State as the final chapter in her career. Certainly she’d like to be president. But increasingly, she has to view that prospect as a declining one. As tough as the Clintons are, the book Game Change provides a pretty good insight into just how much that campaign took out of her. The prospect of going through that kind of microwave experience again can’t be terribly attractive.  Although, one thing we do know about the Clintons when it comes to the presidency: they never quit.
 
Some have suggested Hillary play musical chairs with Joe Biden in a second term. Biden actually wanted to be secretary of State more than he wanted to be vice president. So, he’d probably be game. The problem with this scenario is that in terms of power and influence, the veep slot would be a step down for Hillary. And Team Obama never liked the idea of giving Bill Clinton entrée to meddle around the familiar old 18 acres. On the other hand, the surest route to a party nomination is to launch your candidacy from the cat bird’s seat of the vice presidency. 

But if in the end if it’s about what is realistic, and how Hillary could have the greatest impact on society, most would agree she could have the greatest political influence by hanging around for a couple of decades casting votes and writing opinions on the Supreme Court.
 
Given the political physics of the country these days, Hillary has probably concluded that things are unlikely to get much better for Democrats anytime soon. So Obama is either a one-term president, or limps through a second term only to see Republicans recapture the presidency in 2016. Either way, it doesn’t realistically look like Clinton would have a shot until 2020 at the earliest. 
 
So, we understand why Hillary might want the supreme gig. But, why would Obama consider her?
 
One possibility: legacy. As popular as Obama is, and as many votes as he received in 2008, he still stepped over Clinton to get to the throne. And a lot of woman haven’t forgotten or forgiven. In one stroke, he would eliminate any remaining bad feelings and would become a Hillaryland hero.
 
Stripping away the drama, the politics and psychobabble, she’d be a great choice for Obama and the Democrats. She’s as smart and as qualified as any prospect her party could nominate.
 
But, would any Republicans support her?
 
There would be fireworks, for sure. Partisan hell would break loose. Imagine Rush, Hannity, Coulter et al. What a field day.
 
But, I’m guessing there would be enough Republicans who would support her because: (a) they actually like and respect her having served with her and seen how hard she works and how smart she is; and (b) they have some ambition to run for president themselves and they’d just as soon see her out of the picture.
 
This is not a conventional prediction. But the fun thing about politics is how often the conventional wisdom gets tossed on its head. And when you sort through all the angles on this one, Madame Justice Clinton is not really so far-fetched.

As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-chair of Arts & Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities that have embraced today's rich Internet environment to deliver innovative and creative digital products to consumers.

Myra Adams is a media producer, writer and political observer. Her media clients have included national associations, political interest groups and corporations. She was on the creative team with Mark McKinnon that created the now infamous John Kerry "Windsurfing" ad for the Bush 2004 presidential campaign and served on the McCain Ad Council during the 2008 McCain campaign. Myra's web site www.TheJesusStore.com contributes all profits to Christian charity.