Stop laughing. I’m not predicting this, but it is within the realm of possibility.
President Barack Obama is a man whose political fortunes have imploded. The national political rock star of 2008 has become the Democratic political albatross of 2010. Democratic candidates in the 2010 gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and House of Representatives elections are running away from him, not with him.
Obama’s approval rating reaches new lows every day, due to worsening economic conditions and a foreign policy of appeasement of hostile nations and downgrading of alliances with loyal friends. On the two leading 2010 “values” controversies, to wit, the Arizona immigration law and the Cordoba Ground Zero mosque initiative, the President is definitely on the losing side of public opinion.
That is not the worst news for Barack Obama. In August, 2011, his political fortunes and prospects may be far worse.
There are two looming political nightmares for the President. First, a growing number of mainstream economists are predicting a severe recession in 2011. Second, unless the tax reductions enacted during the administration of former President George W. Bush are extended beyond December 31, 2010, the American public will be subjected to the largest income tax hike in American history in 2011.
If either one of these two situations occur, Obama will be in far worse political shape than he is in today. If in 2011 the American public experiences both a severe recession and a huge income tax hike, there is no way that the President will be reelected, regardless of who wins the Republican presidential nomination. Any of the prospective GOP presidential nominees – Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, or John Thune – would easily defeat Barack Obama under such a scenario.
The key political question would then be whether Hillary Clinton would challenge Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. If Obama looks like a sure reelection loser, I suspect that many Democrats would actually favor Hillary mounting such a challenge. She is the one Democrat who could possibly defeat any of the above mentioned GOP candidates if Obama’s reelection prospects become moribund.
The question then would be how could Hillary Clinton step down from her present position as Secretary of State and then seek the Democratic Presidential nomination against the incumbent President who appointed her. A Clinton resignation from the position of Secretary of State would have to be based upon a fundamental disagreement with President Obama on a major foreign policy issue.
Such an issue might arise if Israel launches air strikes against Iran’s developing nuclear weapon facilities.
Obama is less supportive of Israel than any other President since the Declaration of Independence of the Jewish State in 1948. If Israel launches such an attack, Obama will certainly condemn Israel’s actions and maybe even seek sanctions against the Jewish State.
By contrast, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have been far more supportive of Israel than Barack Obama. Although they both have had disagreements with Likud Party leaders, they remain on very friendly terms with the major players in Israel’s Labor Party. Obama is viewed negatively by an overwhelming majority of Israelis, right and left.
Furthermore, Hillary Clinton has been far more hawkish than Obama against the Iranian Ahmadinejad government. If Obama were to repudiate an Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, there is a significant chance that this would lead to a Hillary Clinton resignation as Secretary of State.
If Hillary then defeated Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, she would have at least an even money chance of defeating any of the above mentioned GOP Presidential candidates in the general election. The failures of Barack Obama have not adversely affected the standing of Bill and Hillary Clinton with the American public.
As a long time New Jersey GOP stalwart, I have a shameful confession to make. I had a surprisingly good working relationship with the then Senator Hillary Clinton and her staff while I served as Region 2 EPA Regional Administrator during the second term of President George W. Bush. I certainly would never support her for President, but if I had to have a Democratic President, I would far rather have her than a Barack Obama.
Hillary’s concern for the environment was genuine, and unlike Obama, she was willing to work closely with Republican members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to achieve bipartisan goals. This was confirmed for me in a conversation I had with my closest friend in the New York State Republican Congressional delegation, the then Congressman Jim Walsh, who represented the Syracuse area.
Jim Walsh and I had similar experiences of bipartisan cooperation with Hillary Clinton. This was in sharp contrast to our working experiences with the disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer, a political Sonny Liston, who was a vulgar, offensive and profane cowardly partisan bully, without ethical scruples. Both of us had experienced ugly confrontations with the then New York governor – from which neither Jim nor I backed down. Unlike Hillary, who was gracious and dignified, Eliot Spitzer gave new meaning to the term “political thug”.
Another distinguishing feature of the then Senator Hillary Clinton was her Senate staff. On the Democratic side of the aisle, she had the most competent staff of any Senator, with the exception of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Labor Committee staff. Her record of Senate accomplishment stood in sharp contrast to that of the Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who established a record of substantial nonachievement.
So in late 2007, I was certain that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2008. I had no doubt that she would have a campaign staff as competent as her Senatorial staff. I felt that with the supreme political skills of both her husband Bill and herself, she would easily defeat Barack Obama.
I was therefore shocked by the incompetency of both her campaign and campaign staff. I was even further surprised when she accepted Obama’s appointment of her as Secretary of State.
Had Hillary Clinton remained in the U.S. Senate, I am convinced that she could have eventually achieved the stature of the late Senator Ted Kennedy or an Orrin Hatch, senators respected on both sides of the political aisle for their ability to achieve bipartisan cooperation in pursuit of the public good. Instead, she became the spokesperson for a failed foreign policy with which, I believe, she often disagrees.
If the opportunity to wrest the nomination from Barack Obama arises and the Clintons decide to take the political plunge, I am convinced that they would not make the same mistakes they made in the 2008 campaign. The Clintons never make the same mistakes twice.
All the above is a matter of sheer speculation, I admit. Perhaps Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid will find some way to extend the Bush tax cuts in a way to at least hold harmless middle class families. Perhaps the economy will not deteriorate further in 2011.
If my above described possible scenario develops, however, and if Hillary runs against Barack in 2012, remember you read about the possibility of it here first.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations.