Is Clinton trying to have it both ways on Obama's experience?
Obama decries VP speculation as Clinton attempt to 'hoodwink' voters
Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign advisers have engaged in a concerted attempt over the last few weeks to convince voters that Barack Obama has not passed the "commander in chief test" and is unfit to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January. At the same time, Clinton and her team have been floating the idea of making the young Illinois senator her running mate if she manages to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
So which is it? Is Clinton the only one ready to be president "from day one," or would Obama be the best person for Clinton to pick to secure that role should anything happen to her? The dueling lines of argument coming from the Clinton camp seem to create an intractable paradox, and skeptical reporters quizzed Clinton's teams as to how both contentions could exist simultaneously during a campaign conference call Monday.
"It's not something she would rule out at this point," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters during the call. He reiterated the campaign's argument that Obama still has not convinced voters he's qualified to be Commander in Chief, but he noted "there's a long way between now and Denver."
Wolfson hedged when he was asked what could change between now and the Democratic National Convention at the end of August; he simply reiterated that the idea of an Obama VP nod was still on the table.
Obama himself responded to the vice presidential speculation during a speech in Mississippi Monday. He accused Clinton of trying to "hoodwink" voters by floating the idea that he could be her running mate while he continues to lead in delegates, votes and states won.
"I don't know how somebody who's in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who's in first place," Obama told the cheering crowd.
He went on to note the apparent double standard created by Clinton's "commander in chief" attacks and her musing on sharing a Democratic ticket with the first-term senator. He noted that former President Bill Clinton said in 1992 his only criteria for picking a running mate was selecting someone who would be immediately ready to take over in the Oval Office.
"If I'm not ready, how is it that you think I would be such a great vice president. Do you understand that? ... They are trying to hoodwink you," he said. "You can't say he's not ready on day one, unless he'd be your vice president, then he's ready on day one."
Clinton revived her White House campaign after scoring wins last week in primaries in Ohio and Texas, but analysts still see virtually no way she could overtake Obama's lead in pledged delegates. Voters selected those delegates during primaries and caucuses in the 30-odd states that already have voted. Pretty much every path to the nomination for Clinton requires her to convince enough super-delegates -- mostly elected and party officials -- to overturn Obama's pledged delegate lead and hand her the 2,025-delegate majority necessary to snag the nomination.
As Clinton and her husband have stoked speculation about a Clinton-Obama ticket, observers say it is an attempt to broker a compromise that would allow those superdelegates to overturn the pledged delegate or popular vote advantages if Obama holds on to them.
"That's her game. Get it close in delegates and maybe win the popular vote, then turn to the supers for a majority," writes Michael Goodwin in the New York Daily News. "Meanwhile, she wants to get the party faithful salivating about a happy ending where they can have both Obama and her, as long as she's on top."
Obama address that speculation too, telling supporters Monday that they could not have it both ways.
"I don't want anybody here thinking that somehow, 'Well, I can get both,'" he said. "Don't think that way. You have to make a choice in this election: Are you going to go along with the past, or are you going to go toward the future?"
This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast March 10, 2008.