Let me emphasize that I am not predicting that either Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren will enter the 2016 Democratic presidential sweepstakes. I am not, however, willing to discount the possibility.
There are two eventualities that would significantly increase the likelihood of one or both of these individuals entering the race. The first would be a Bernie Sanders victory in both the forthcoming Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. The second would be an indictment of Hillary Clinton by the U.S. Justice Department arising out of the pending FBI investigation. I am not predicting that either of these hypotheticals will – or will not – become a reality.
The possibility of a Bernie Sanders victory over Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire is not a mere pipe dream. Polls show a tightening race in both states. I attribute this to one factor: the anti-Wall Street/banking industry fervor that is spreading among the Democratic grass roots.
This could be the year of the anti-establishment in both political parties. The Wall Street issue is fueling the antiestablishment brushfire among the Democrats in the same fashion that the immigration issue has ignited the antiestablishment inferno among Republicans.
Bernie Sanders has tapped into this anti-Wall Street mood brilliantly. He is now raising money at an even pace with Hillary Clinton and is now within single digits of her in polls in both states. In Hillary Clinton, he has a perfect opponent, given the absolute marriage of Bill Clinton to Wall Street and the banking industry.
It was Bill Clinton who succeeded in enacting repeal of two critical provisions of Glass-Steagall. It was Bill Clinton who took the advice of Treasury Secretaries Bob Rubin and Larry Summers and Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan and refrained from regulating or even requiring disclosure of credit default swaps, despite the advice of Brooksley Born, his director of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It was Bill Clinton who implemented the policy of reckless lending by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
These policies remained in effect during the administration of George W. Bush, despite Bush’s attempts to legislate Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae reforms. They set the stage for the market meltdown of September, 2008.
Hillary Clinton is now promising that she will take on the abuses of Wall Street and banking interests. Given her relationship with Bill Clinton, her pledges in this regard have all the credibility of the late Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton giving seminars on marital fidelity and abstinence from alcohol.
Hillary’s Wall Street problem is worsened by the involvement of Bill Clinton in her campaign. He is the ultimate symbol of the Wall Street – Democratic Party establishment nexus. Her campaign is one of the worst strategized I have ever seen. The Hillary campaign plan could have been devised by the recently fired Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly or Fred Flintstone.
I could not fail to notice Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s praise of the proposals of Bernie Sanders to more stringently regulate the banking industry. Warren is to Sanders on the Wall Street/banking issues what Bobby Kennedy was to Gene McCarthy on the Vietnam War issue in 1968.
McCarthy exposed the vulnerability of the Democratic establishment on the Vietnam War issue in 1968 in the same manner as Sanders is presently doing to the Democratic establishment on the Wall Street/banking issues. After his narrow second place finish to incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, Gene was still not viewed as likely to win the Democratic presidential nomination. This provided a basis for Bobby Kennedy to enter the race as a more viable alternative for the liberal anti-Vietnam war wing of the Democratic Party.
Similarly, if Sanders wins in both Iowa and New Hampshire, we may expect increased discussion of the possibility of Elizabeth Warren entering the Democratic presidential sweepstakes on the basis of her being a more viable nomination and general election candidate for the antiestablishment Democratic wing than the Bern.
The possibility of a Hillary indictment arising out of the current FBI investigation is one as to which I have absolutely no insight. I am not a legal scholar; nor do I have inside knowledge.
I could not help but take seriously, however, the statement of former District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova that Hillary may face indictment within the next sixty days. While DiGenova is a Republican Reagan appointee, he is a person of unquestioned probity and competency.
I also know from my years of service in the Bush 43 administration that FBI Director James Comey is a superbly gifted attorney and public servant and totally uninfluenced by partisan considerations. If he were to recommend indictment of Hillary to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and she would refuse, it is altogether possible that he would resign under protest.
Such a resignation would create a firestorm that would consume the Clinton candidacy. For the U.S. Justice Department, it would be the 2016 version of the 1973 Watergate Saturday Night Massacre involving the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.
Last night, in an interview with NBC Connecticut, Vice President Joe Biden said he regrets every day not running for the presidency in Campaign 2016. Is Joe Biden contemplating a run for the presidency as the candidate of the Democratic establishment if Hillary’s candidacy becomes nonviable?
In his series of books, The Making of the President, Theodore H. White refers to 1968 as the year in which American politics became unhinged. In many ways, Campaign 2016 is starting to resemble Campaign 1968. That is why I cannot rule out the possibility of the race for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination becoming a contest between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.