STATESBORO, GEORGIA – Sixty.
As of midnight, August 16th, 2015, that’s how many E-mails on Hillary Clinton’s private server have been determined to be “suspicious.” Yesterday that number was an even two, and both of those were considered Top-Secret level of clearance or above. After handing over her servers, which she maintained as Secretary of State, to the Department of Justice this week, Clinton has had to wait and weather the gathering political storm surrounding her bid to become the first female President of the United States. If national security experts are to be believed, there’s a very real chance this situation gets worse before it gets better.
Prognosticators are divided as to whether this will lead to HRC’s demise. Some think it’s another Benghazi, one in a long line of pseudo-scandals that Hillary and her machine at Clinton World will shirk off like so many drops of rain. Some see it as the proverbial writing on the wall, the Beginning of The End for one of the most ballyhooed and oft-troubled dynasties of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
All the same, it’s interesting to note the rumors gaining momentum. The airwaves and underchannels have been buzzing over the past week that former Vermont governor Howard Dean was days away from throwing his hat into the race. Two days ago Al Gore was said to be weighing his options. If John Kerry hadn’t broken his leg bicycling in France there’d be whispers surrounding a possible candidacy on his end. But the main attraction in this August flirtation is Vice-President Joseph Biden, a man who was once considered a lock to vie for the nomination. Following his beloved son Beau’s death in late May, however, that certainty was rocked and Biden has remained on the sidelines ever since.
Clinton’s inability so far to unite the party behind her bid has left her flank exposed, and recent scandals have only broadened that vulnerability. Everyone knows she’s susceptible now, a prohibitive frontrunner who’s tasted unexpected defeat before and is ripe to be cut down before a single vote is cast. The smart money’s on Biden being the one to do it, and there’s a very real, and very distinctive, path to victory.
Back in Iowa, as Bernie Sanders gained in the polls, I told anybody who’d listen that the great reckoner of the 2016 Election would be Joe Biden.
“He’s a gaffe machine,” they said.
“He’s seventy-two years old,” they said.
“Obama’s coattails aren’t that long,” they said.
In every single regard, they were right. But weathered veterans of the political game can tell you firsthand that even when you’re right in politics you’re not necessarily in The Right.
It was in Des Moines that I told a caucus precinct-captain that the best strategy for a Biden run would be to promise a one-term presidency. An “All-In For Joe” approach, I called it, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to press the issue of the presidency balls-to-the-wall in an effort to effect change in a way a candidate has never been able to do before.
Such a strategy would be beneficial in innumerable ways and would effectively neutralize all of the negatives of a Biden candidacy. It would free him up to the do The Business of the People and without the specter of an executive growing infirm in the Oval Office. It would counteract the most awful and corrosive elements of the United States Government As We Know It.
Apparently, somebody was listening.
Though Hillary is vulnerable, one of the oldest mistakes in the book is to underestimate a Clinton. The entire structure learned as much in ’92 when Bill’s obituary saturated the morning papers following his fourth place finish in the Iowa Caucuses to Tom Harkin, Paul Tsongas, and the runner-up, with 11% support, the dreaded Uncommitted Voter.
On surface level, Hillary is nearly unbeatable right now. If the E-mail Scandal and Benghazi don’t drive her out of the race in shame, she’s going to be a formidable opponent moving forward. Her power base is going to remain and chalk every outrage up to Right-Wing tricks, but Biden can, over time, leech away precious numbers from her fold, all the while borrowing Bernie Sanders’ considerable support.
The plan of attack should be, going forward, a change in the conversation, or rather asking the American Public to view the presidency from an angle it hasn’t since 1980 and, before that, 1963.
Know this: Barack Obama’s Presidency is fighting and scrapping its way toward legendary status. The momentum it’s been gaining in the late-stages of its second term are guaranteeing that history will view this presidency as being one of the largest, most unlikely successful helmings in the history of the Union.
We don’t necessarily need sixteen more years of that.
We do, however, have a need for Obama’s key achievements, particularly the Affordable Care Act, continuing the march of rights for women, immigrants, the LGBT and black communities, and action on global climate change, to be solidified and furthered.
Think of it as Lyndon B. Johnson pledging to continue the works of John F. Kennedy following his death at the hands of an assassin in November ’63.
Think of it as one more go-round on the Obama/Biden train, for old time’s sake.
Quite frankly, the successes of the Obama presidency are tenuous at best and the claims from the Right that they’ll level them the first day in office aren’t always red meat for their bases. If the GOP claim victory next November, there’s a very real possibility the progress of the last eight years will be wiped clean.
Biden can claim a lion’s share of those triumphs, and rightly so. By promising to make the Hope and Change permanent institutions in America, he can buy four years from the public in an effort to solidify, and even further, Obama’s reforms.
By the same token, a one-term presidency would free up Biden to tackle some of the more dangerous issues facing our country, including campaign finance reform, global warming, and even foreign crises like ISIL and the continuing conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians. With no political retribution, everything’s on the table.
If you think those goals sound lofty, you wouldn’t be wrong.
But Uncle Joe has an ace up his sleeve.
When Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 it wasn’t because he needed help on the stump or because he lacked foreign affair bonafides. It was an experience gap that made the decision an easy one. Obama, at the time, was a one-term senator from Illinois, and no Democrat, or arguably Republican for that matter, held more seniority or power in Congress than Biden, who was Delaware’s senator for thirty-six years. And, it didn’t hurt, that nobody was more liked or respected than Biden.
Instead of basing his candidacy on the economy or foreign policy, both of which he could hang his hat on Obama’s achievements, Biden could bet his entire candidacy on his unique position to heal the divide between the Left and the Right once and for all. He could call on his aging colleagues in both houses to join together for one last crusade to make things right, to forever put the stamp of the Baby Boom Generation on a country it had scarred and endangered for decades. Perhaps, and this would be a real gamble, he could offer the vice-presidency to a trustworthy Republican in a final show of bipartisanship and an act of good faith. He could rise above the bickering punditry and carry the public along for the ride.
But to do so, he’d have to promise a different kind of presidency. A new executive office that operated less under the rules of Reagan and Bush and Obama and more under the auspices of limited power. He could scale back the reach of the branch and return power to equal levels, a decision constitutional scholars have been begging for since Reagan thumped Carter and took the wheel for himself.
However, if Biden enters the race and challenges Hillary head on, and she still hasn’t succumbed to the litany of offenses, there’s no telling if he’d even defeat Sanders.
The biggest lie we’re told every four is that the Presidency of the United States is as we have known it. The truth is much more complicated and layered. Not every president is a dynamist, not every president is an iconoclast. Some are caretakers of legacies and some are simply caretakers. Joe Biden will never win the presidency if he isn’t ready to be the safeguard of another man’s dream. And Joe Biden will never have his chance at a dynamic presidency unless he first humbles himself.
Joe Biden Caricature by DonkeyHotey