Monday, May 12, 2008

The LBJing of Hillary Clinton

Now that the question is coming front and center, Barack Obama may want to turn to his backer Ted Sorensen for advice about putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket with him, as John F. Kennedy did with his chief rival for the nomination, Lyndon Johnson.

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, reports today that she "is probably going to fight to be the vice presidential nominee on an Obama-for-president ticket."

After a bitter campaign, it won't be easy. Obama supporters, notably his wife Michelle, are reportedly opposed, but as Sorensen notes in his new memoirs, so was JFK's brother Robert. Yet Kennedy offered Johnson a place on the ticket, mostly to help win Texas and other Southern states in what would turn out to be a close election.

Moreover, Sorensen could also enlighten Obama about the virtues of converting a former enemy into an ally or at least neutralizing possible opposition. If Johnson remained as Senate Majority Leader, JFK told him in 1960, he "would be just impossible...Lyndon would screw me all the time."

Unpalatable as the idea may be to Obama's most fervent supporters--ironically, even Ted Kennedy has publicly opposed it--this could be another time when the Democratic Party needs unity more than a balanced ticket.

True believers in both camps will offer fervent arguments about why it wouldn't work but, in a year when so much is at stake, neatness may not count.

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